A U.S. District Court in Houston has denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment in a suit involving copyright infringement and breach of contract claims. The issue for the court was whether defendants, a recording studio and the individuals who owned it, had a valid license to use plaintiff’s allegedly composed song in recordings and musical compositions, which it later sold. Adan Sanchez is a Tejano musician who claims he composed La Prieta Casada in the 1970s. Hacienda, an independent music-recording studio in Corpus Christi, Texas, recorded several versions of the tune (a polka about a “Married Dark Woman”) over the years. Hacienda claimed they did so pursuant to a license for the composition, obtained from Jedasa Publishing Co. Hacienda moved for summary judgment on the copyright infringement and breach of contract claims (a fraud claim was dismissed pretrial), claiming they had relied on an umbrella “negotiated implied license” from Jedasa. U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal determined that the record did not show, as a matter of law, an implied license between Hacienda and Jedasa of the scope Hacienda described. First, Sanchez’s testimony that Jedasa defrauded him in the initial copyright registration was sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment. Second, Sanchez’s multiple efforts to correct the registration (applying as copyright owner in 1994 for the second time, though the work was registered in 1976 with Jedasa as copyright owner; renewing copyright in 2004), coupled with credibility judgments of Jedasa’s ownership and legitimate attainment of copyright from Sanchez, reinforced the judge’s decision. Hacienda produced written licenses for recordings of La Prieta Casada but the judge disputed whether Jedasa even had the right to grant such licenses. Finally, the court found defendants’ estoppel and waiver defenses inappropriate based on the same grounds applied in the implied license analysis.
And because we all love Tejano music so much, here’s Sanchez performing the song: