Bucciarelli-Tieger v. Victory Records, Inc., No. 06 C 4258, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. May 17, 2007) (Moran, Sen. J.).
Judge Moran granted plaintiffs a preliminary injunction preventing defendants from interfering with plaintiffs’ right to record new music with producers or record labels of plaintiffs’ choice. The Court also denied defendants an opposing preliminary injunction that would have prevented plaintiffs from recording new music with anyone other than defendants. Plaintiffs are members of an Ohio-based band called Hawthorne Heights (collectively "HH") — in addition to clicking on "Hawthorne Heights" to go to the band’s website, you can also read about them on Wikipedia, listen to them online or see them live June 12th in Urbana, Illinois’s Canopy Club. 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. In a prior opinion (discussed in the Blog’s archives), the Court held that the Agreement was not exclusive because it did not contain any exclusivity provisions, which left HH free to record other songs or records with another company during the life of the Agreement. Based upon the Court’s ruling, HH moved the Court for a preliminary injunction confirming that defendants could not interfere with any of HH’s efforts to record new music with a third party. Defendants cross-moved to prevent HH from working with anyone but defendants. The Court held that HH showed a likelihood of success on the merits based upon the Court’s prior ruling that the Agreement was not exclusive. Similarly, the Court held that defendants did not show a likelihood of success in light of the same ruling. Because defendants had no likelihood of success, their motion for a PI was denied. Defendants argued that HH could not base a motion for preliminary injunction upon claims for declaratory relief, but the Court held that numerous courts had granted preliminary injunctive relief based upon claims for declaratory judgment.
The Court found that HH would suffer irreparable harm without an injunction. The parties agreed that bands have a short shelf-life and because without an injunction HH would not be allowed to record new music with parties of its choice in the immediate future, HH would be irreparably harmed without an injunction. The Court also held that despite the non-exclusivity of the Agreement, HH was obligated to produce records with defendants in a timely fashion. HH would be required to record the agreed-upon number of albums with defendants "within a reasonable time."