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Songbyrd, Inc. v. Bearsville Records, Inc.

104 F.3d 773 (1997)

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Songbyrd, Inc. v. Bearsville Records, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

104 F.3d 773 (1997)

Facts

Henry Roeland Byrd, also known as Professor Longhair, was a well-known New Orleans pianist. Byrd’s manager, Quint Davis, and attorney, Parker Dinkins, arranged for Byrd to make several master recordings of his music in the early 1970s. Davis and Dinkins sent the tapes of these recordings to Bearsville Records, Inc. (defendant) to enable Bearsville to listen to them and play them for others in the music industry. In 1975, Dinkins sent two letters to Bearsville requesting the return of those master tapes. Bearsville did not reply or return the tapes. In 1987, after Byrd’s death, Bearsville licensed songs from the master recordings to two other record companies, who each released albums of Byrd’s music pulled from those tapes. In 1993, Songbyrd, Inc. (plaintiff) was incorporated as a successor in interest to Byrd’s estate. Songbyrd sued Bearsville in state court in Louisiana seeking to assert ownership of the master recordings, the return of the tapes, and damages. Bearsville removed the suit to federal court due to diversity jurisdiction and filed a motion for summary judgment. The district court granted the motion, and Songbyrd appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wiener, J.)

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