A federal judge in Chicago handed Hawthorne Heights a partial victory over Victory Records March 1. Judge James Moran held that Victory Records does not hold exclusive rights for the band's recording services. Simply put, it means the band could record for any label.

Band members Eron Bucciarelli-Tieger, Casey Calvert, Micah Carli, Matt Ridenour and JT Woodruff sued Victory and label head Tony Brummel last August. They claimed that Brummel's "tactics" and "scheming" severely damaged the band's reputation and its relationship with fans.

Among other things, the band asked the court to declare that their recording contract with Victory was non-exclusive so they could record for any label, and to declare that the band members -- not Victory -- own the copyrights in their first two albums.

Victory fought back, suing Virgin Records and EMI Music North America, which allegedly signed the band. Victory claimed that the major label wrongfully interfered with its contractual relationship with the Heights. The indie label alleged that the major label "poached" the band from Victory even though the group still had two more records to deliver under their contract.

Then Victory filed a motion in the suit brought by the band members, trying to dismiss their complaint. Victory argued that the recording contract was still binding and required the band to record exclusively for Victory.

In the March 1 ruling, the court held that the contract does not give Victory the right to the band's exclusive recording services. "The agreement contains no exclusivity provision, nor does any of its language appear to prevent [the band] from recording elsewhere during the life of the agreement," the judge wrote.

Although the contract was written clearly enough for the court to rule on it, other claims required additional evidence, the court said. So the court refused to dismiss or rule on claims about copyright ownership of the recordings, trademark infringement and invasion of privacy.

However, the court dismissed the band's claim for fraud, among others.