Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Kid Rock Copyright . . . . Forever

The Sixth Circuit, in Ritchie v. Williams, recently thwarted an attempt by a purported music promoter who claimed to have an ownership interest in the rights to Kid Rock's music. The promoter claimed to have entered into the alleged agreement in 1989 (i.e., before Kid Rock had money like Fort Knox), alleging several claims in state court under state law. But when the fog lifted, the earth had shifted -- Kid Rock removed to federal court. Citing federal preemption, the Kid said the state law claims were still the same as copyright claims 'cause they ain't changed nothin. That is, they were completely preempted by the Copyright Act.

Where it applies, complete preemption doctrine permits the recharacterization of state law claims as federal claims, thus permitting removal of such a case from state to federal court. The reason Kid Rock wanted to recharacterize the promoter's claims as copyright claims was that he'd thought the claims had got rusty, thought they'd got dusty -- the Copyright Act has a 3 year statute of limitations.

Fat and ugly, broke, black and blue, the promoter came back to the Sixth for round two. The Sixth Circuit, however, used the opportunity to fall in line with the Second and Fourth Circuit's adoption of complete preemption doctrine. The promoter was told, don't test the boss, 'cause he's got this sewn like Betsy Ross. According to the court:

You take the copyright claim
And you give it the state law name
You know that trick is lame
You're in the federal domain


Sorry, I just couldn't resist.

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