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Songbyrd, Inc. v. Estate of Grossman

United States District Court for the Northern District of New York
23 F.Supp. 2d 219 (1998)


Facts

In the early 1970s, musician Henry Roeland Byrd created several master recordings of his performances. The recordings were produced in a Louisiana studio. In 1972, the recordings were transferred to a predecessor in interest to Bearsville Records, Inc. (Bearsville) in New York. In 1986, Bearsville licensed the recordings to Rounder Records Corporation (Rounder), which released an album in 1987 and a subsequent album in 1991 under a licensing agreement with Bearsville. Byrd’s representatives made several requests for the return of the recordings. In 1995, Songbyrd, Inc. (plaintiff) sued Albert B. Grossman’s estate doing business as Bearsville (defendant) in Louisiana state court, seeking damages and a declaration of rights to the recordings. Bearsville removed the action to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, then moved to dismiss on the basis of a time bar and lack of personal jurisdiction. The Louisiana district court granted the motion to dismiss due to the time bar. Songbyrd appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which reversed, finding that the claim was not time barred. On remand, the district court found a lack of personal jurisdiction and transferred the case to the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York. The New York district court considered the issue of whether the statute of limitations for conversion ran at the time of conversion, as provided in Sporn v. MCA Records, Inc., 448 N.E.2d 1324 (N.Y. 1983). Songbyrd claimed that the statute of limitations began to run when the demand for the return of the property was refused, as provided in Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation v. Lubell, 569 N.E.2d 426 (N.Y. 1991). Bearsville moved to dismiss.

Rule of Law

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Holding and Reasoning (Homer, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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