Last year, the self-proclaimed “Pioneer” of wrestling music, Papa Berg sued Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) for misappropriation of songs. Responding to the suit the WWE used a stall tactic disputing jurisdiction as well as the statute of limitations and the specificity of claims asserted by Berg. Not all of the WWE’s tactics were successful however, but last Wednesday a Texas court did dismiss some of Berg’s claims, although still allowing him to press forward with his copyright infringement claim.
According to the allegations, Berg wrote the song “Badstreet USA” among others. He claims he was contacted by a video game producer wanting to use the song in the game Legends of Wrestlemania but prior to the deal closure, the gaming company came across records suggesting the Berg’s song was the property of the WWE. Upon further investigation Berg did in fact determine that the WWE has erroneously been assigned the rights to the song "resulting in the royalties being redirected to" the WWE instead of Berg.
The gaming company, THQ, decided against using the song but that didn’t stop Berg. He continued to investigate and found “a systematic pattern of errors and omissions by WWE personnel that effectively misappropriated Papa's musical works" as ringtones and on DVDs. U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle focused on the jurisdiction issue in her ruling on Wednesday. The WWE wished for the lawsuit to be tried in Connecticut, their company’s home base, however the issue was whether selling its content in Texas if the WWE was able to be dragged to that jurisdiction instead. The judge found that because "WWE knowingly benefited from Texas’ market for WWE’s products and therefore it is only fitting that WWE be amenable to suit in Texas." The lawsuit will move forward as planned.
Though many claims were dismissed such as tortious interference and civil conspiracy, the main portion of the lawsuit to move forward will be the direct copyright infringement claim. The next step in this suit is discovery which may proceed to trial thereafter if it is to survive a motion for summary judgment.
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