Johnson v. Barrier, No. 15 C 3928, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jun. 28, 2016) (St. Eve, J.).

Judge St. Eve granted defendant UMG Recordings’ (“UMG”) Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction in this copyright dispute involving plaintiff’s song “I Feel an Urge.” The Court also granted plaintiff leave to seek limited jurisdictional discovery and leave to replead, if possible, based upon that discovery.

Plaintiff alleges that defendants used various portions of a 3.094 second portion from the bridge of “I Feel an Urge” in their song “Juice.” UMG is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in California. UMG is not registered to do business in Illinois, nor does it own, rent, or control, property in Illinois. It does not have an Illinois telephone number, address or bank account. Five of UMG’s 1,000 employees work from home in Illinois, reporting to supervisors outside Illinois.

UMG’s consent to personal jurisdiction in two prior Illinois cases did not waive a personal jurisdiction challenge in this case or create general jurisdiction. The Court also noted that both of UMG’s prior consents to personal jurisdiction were before the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction decision in Daimler v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746 (2014).

Regarding specific jurisdiction the Court held as follows:

  • Plaintiff’s allegations that defendants performed Juice live in Illinois in 1992 and 2015 did not create specific jurisdiction over UMG because plaintiff did not time UMG to the live performances.
  • While plaintiff alleges that a related entity distributes Juice in Illinois, plaintiff has not shown the UMG itself acts in Illinois.
  • Similarly, UMG’s acquisition of RCA Records which allegedly distributes in Illinois does not sufficiently tie UMG to Illinois activities.
  • Allegations of UMG’s online sales into Illinois also were not enough without quantifying the sales or otherwise show the sales were substantial.

While the Court dismissed plaintiff’s claims against UMG, the Court allowed limited jurisdictional discovery as follows:

  • UMG’s retail sales, if any, of Juice products within Illinois from 1991-2015;
  • Retail sales by UMG’s distribution affiliates pursuant to any agreement with UMG from 1991-2015;
  • UMG’s online sales of Juice products between 1991-2015 because of Illinois-focused or targeted efforts; and
  • Other Illinois-focused marketing or targeting activity related to Juice products.