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Batiste v. Lewis

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 17, 2018


         SECTION "F"



         Before the Court is the defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the motion is DENIED.


         A New Orleans jazz musician accuses an internationally famous hip-hop duo of copyright infringement of eleven original songs. This litigation followed.

         Paul Batiste is a member of The Batiste Brothers Band, a New Orleans jazz band founded in 1976. Batiste also owns Artang Publishing LLC. Beginning in 1997 through 2002, Batiste composed several original songs, entitled Hip Jazz, Kids, Starlite Pt. 1, World of Blues, Love Horizon, Tone Palette, My Bad, Salsa 4 Elise (Fur Elise), Drowning in my Blues, Sportsman's Paradise, and Move That Body. Batiste has registered each song with the United States Copyright Office.

         Ryan Lewis and Ben Haggerty form the hip-hop duo known as “Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.” The duo has achieved international stardom, and is best known for their singles “Thrift Shop” and “Can't Hold Us, ” which were both one of the most popular songs in the United States and Australia after their releases in 2012 and 2016.[1] They also received several Grammy awards, including those for best new artist, best album, and best rap performance for their single, Thrift Shop.

         On May 1, 2017, Batiste[2] sued Ryan Lewis and Ben Haggerty for infringing on his copyrights by using unauthorized samples and copying elements of the eleven original songs listed above in the composition of their songs Thrift Shop, Can't Hold Us, Need to Know, Same Love, and Neon Cathedral. Batiste also sued Andrew Joslyn and Allen Stone, who are credited with writing the hip hop songs, and the publishing companies who own rights to the compositions, including Macklemore Publishing, Ryan Lewis Publishing, Macklemore LLC, DB Joslyn Music, and Stickystones Publishing. The defendants moved to dismiss the complaint on September 11, 2017, but ultimately withdrew that motion after the plaintiff filed an amended complaint. The defendants then moved to dismiss the amended complaint on November 15, 2017, but again voluntarily dismissed it after the plaintiff was granted leave to file a second amended complaint on January 19, 2018. The defendants filed this motion to dismiss the second amended complaint on February 20, 2018.


         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a party to move for dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Such a motion is rarely granted because it is viewed with disfavor. See Lowrey v. Tex. A & M Univ. Sys., 117 F.3d 242, 247 (5th Cir. 1997)(quoting Kaiser Aluminum & Chem. Sales, Inc. v. Avondale Shipyards, Inc., 677 F.2d 1045, 1050 (5th Cir. 1982)).

         Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009)(citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court “accept[s] all well-pleaded facts as true and view[s] all facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” See Thompson v. City of Waco, Texas, 764 F.3d 500, 502 (5th Cir. 2014) (citing Doe ex rel. Magee v. Covington Cnty. Sch. Dist. ex rel. Keys, 675 F.3d 849, 854 (5th Cir. 2012)(en banc)). But, in deciding whether dismissal is warranted, the Court will not accept as true legal conclusions. Id. at 502-03 (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         To survive dismissal, “‘a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Gonzalez v. Kay, 577 F.3d 600, 603 (5th Cir. 2009)(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678)(internal quotation marks omitted). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations and footnote omitted). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (“The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”). The Court's task “is to determine whether the plaintiff stated a legally cognizable claim that is plausible, not to evaluate the plaintiff's likelihood of success.” Thompson v. City of Waco, Texas, 764 F.3d 500, 503 (5th Cir. 2014)(citation omitted). This is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. “Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.” I ...

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