Johnson v. Wright, No. 05 C 3943, 2007 WL 1079063 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 5, 2007) (Grady, J.).
Judge Grady denied defendants’ Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss plaintiff’s amended complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Defendants, record companies and related individuals, were accused of infringing plaintiff Syl Johnson’s copyright in his song "Is It Because I’m Black," as well as related state law claims. Defendants argued that there was not federal jurisdiction because the co-owners of Johnson’s copyright had transferred their rights to one of the defendants. The transfer, defendants argued, destroyed Johnson’s federal copyright claim, leaving only state claims over which the Court lacked independent jurisdiction. But defendants conceded that Johnson stated a claim for federal copyright infringement. The Court held that Johnson’s and defendants’ alleged co-ownership of the copyright was an affirmative defense, not a jurisdictional matter. Because Johnson had a well-pled claim of federal copyright infringement, the Court denied defendants’ Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss. The Court also noted that defendants’ motion was "essentially" a copyright infringement summary judgment motion, but because it was styled as a Rule 12(b)(1) motion on the pleadings, Johnson was not given adequate opportunity to present his response. Additionally, the Court identified several questions of fact that would have prevented a grant of summary judgment based upon the exhibits attached to the parties’ briefs.