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Positive Black Talk, Inc. v. Cash Money Records, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
394 F.3d 357 (2004)


Facts

Jerome Temple (plaintiff), known professionally as D.J. Jubilee, recorded the song “Back That Ass Up” (Jubilee’s song) in November 1997. Jubilee’s song was included on an album produced by Positive Black Talk, Incorporated (PBT), which was released in the spring of 1998. Terius Gray (defendant), known professionally as Juvenile, recorded a song called “Back That Azz Up” (Juvenile’s song) in the fall of 1997. Juvenile’s song was included on an album entitled 400 Degreez, which was produced by Cash Money Records, Incorporated (CMR) (defendant) and released in November 1998. The 400 Degreez album sold over 4 million copies and grossed over $40 million. PBT sued CMR and Gray for copyright infringement based on similarities between Jubilee’s song and Juvenile’s song. The jury determined that PBT had failed to prove that CMR or Gray had actually copied Jubilee’s song or that the two songs were substantially similar. Additionally, the jury found that Gray and CMR had proven that Juvenile’s song was independently created. Therefore, the jury found that Gray and CMR had not infringed PBT’s copyright interest. Gray and CMR filed counterclaims alleging negligent misrepresentation, copyright infringement, and state-law claims. The jury found in favor of CMR and Gray on the negligent-misrepresentation and state-law claims. CMR and Gray therefore filed a motion for attorney's fees. However, the court granted the motion only as to the prevailing counterclaims; it denied the motion in relation to PBT’s copyright-infringement claims. The court stated that it denied the attorney's fees, because PBT’s claim was non-frivolous and had been brought with the proper motive. Additionally, the court found that granting the attorney's fees would not serve to discourage future plaintiffs from filing frivolous lawsuits. CMR and Grey appealed.

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (King, J.)

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