Bucciarelli-Tieger v. Victory Records, Inc., No. 06 C 4258, 2007 WL 684047 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 1, 2007) (Moran, Sen. J.).
Judge Moran held that the parties’ contract was not exclusive and, therefore, granted in part and denied in part defendants’ Rule 12(c) motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs are members of an Ohio-based band called Hawthorne Heights (collectively "HH"). HH entered into a contract (the "Agreement") with defendants to produce and promote four albums. The first album was created and promoted seemingly without incident, but just before release of the second album the relationship soured. HH sent defendants a letter which purported to terminate the Agreement and listed several ways that defendants had allegedly harmed HH. This suit arose from that dispute. Plaintiffs allege breach of contract, as well as copyright and trademark infringement for promotions and sales after the date of HH’s letter allegedly terminating the Agreement and related state law claims. The Court held that the Agreement was not exclusive because it did not contain any exclusivity provisions, which meant that HH was free to record other songs or records with another company during the life of the Agreement. The Court also held that the only way HH’s songs can be considered a work-for-hire owned by defendants is if HH were defendants’ employees. But the Court was unable to decide that issue on the pleadings. As a result, the Court also could not decide HH’s copyright and trademark infringement claims on the pleadings because whether defendants could have infringe requires a determination of whether HH or defendants own the marks. The opinion also contains a very detailed analysis of Illinois choice of law issues for the related state law claims.