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ABKCO Music Inc. et al. v. William Sagan et al.

By Barry Werbin

In a closely watched case, Judge Ramos ruled on April 9th that the concert archive's streaming of archival concert footage and music constituted copyright infringement, and that Section 115 of the Copyright Act did not include audiovisual recordings within its compulsory mechanical license provisions (the latter requiring synchronization licenses). The court also found that Wolfgang's Vault, operated by Bill Graham Archives LLC, which owned legal title to the recordings, did not produce evidence that it held valid licenses or other rights from the artists themselves to stream the live concert performances. Summary judgment of infringement was therefore granted for the plaintiffs.

The action was filed in 2015 by a group of music publishers, alleging that approximately 200 concert recordings, of which about 146 were audiovisual works, were not licensed for streaming, consisting collectively of "more than 1,175 recordings of Plaintiļ¬€s'." Injunctive relief, however, was not granted, because money damages were found to be adequate and, as Judge Ramos concluded: "Licensing issues notwithstanding, the Court finds that the public's interest in having access to these recordings counsels against the imposition of a permanent injunction."

A copy of the lengthy opinion is attached (with confidential facts blackened out). ABKCO Music Inc. et al. v. William Sagan et al., No. 1:15-cv-04025 (S.D.N.Y. April 9, 2018).ABKCO Music Inc. et al. v. William Sagan.pdf

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