In reaction to the lawsuit, MediaNet maintained it had a valid license. On Friday, however, a California federal judge punched a big hole in this defense.
MediaNet's argument to support a valid license was premised upon a provision of its agreement with Mann purportedly granted it an ongoing statutory license even after the agreement's termination. The company maintained that the provision of the contract allowed it to exploit Section 115 of the Copyright Act without having to serve notice.
But Mann's attorneys responded by saying the provision applied to works "first made available" during the license term, and U.S. District Judge George King accepts the plaintiff's argument.
"This is a reasonable interpretation of the License Agreement, and MediaNet has failed to argue otherwise," writes the judge. "Accordingly, Mann has adequately alleged that MediaNet does not have a Section 115 compulsory license to use her pre-December 5, 2003 and post December 4, 2006 songs."
Mann's three-year license also had a provision for automatic two-year extensions. The songwriter said her reps had sent a termination notice, and while MediaNet doubted the validity of her termination, Mann's lawyers also argued that the auto-renewal provision was unenforceable under a bit of New York law that frowned upon such a thing without proper notice.
Judge King shrugs off MediaNet's contentions that the law couldn't apply to an intellectual property license and was intended to be a consumer protection statute, saying "the services rendered by MediaNet in connection with Mann's property place it squarely within the scope" of the New York law.
MediaNet fares no better in escaping a charge of secondary infringement for allegedly causing others to infringe her works. The judge writes, "Because MediaNet's service functions (and MediaNet profits) by distributing music to its business partners and end users, Mann has done enough to set forth plausible claims for secondary infringement."
Only MediaNet's motion to dismiss a rescission claim is granted. The judge has given 21 days to Mann to amend the lawsuit, expressing doubt that whether Mann would be entitled to rescission of her contract if monetary damages could suffice. But the judge suggests a breach of contract claim might adequately be pled as an alternative
This article originally appeared at THR.com.