California district court dismisses music copyright infringement claims against BBC for lack of personal jurisdiction, holding that broadcaster’s subsidiary’s presence in Los Angeles, and broadcaster’s hiring of a Los Angeles-based attorney, did not give rise to personal jurisdiction.
Plaintiff Hit Bound Music Ltd. is a Canadian music publisher. Defendant BBC Films, a British corporation, is “the main public service provider of broadcast television, radio news, and other entertainment content” in the United Kingdom. Hit Bound sued a number of defendants, including BBC, alleging that they infringed Hit Bound’s copyrights in three musical compositions by using them without permission in the soundtrack to the film “My Old Lady.”
BBC moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction in California. The court held that because BBC’s principal place of business is in the United Kingdom, BBC has no business operations or property in California, and BBC is not incorporated in California, BBC was not subject to general jurisdiction in California. The court rejected Hit Bound’s argument that BBC should be subject to general jurisdiction because its subsidiary, BBC Worldwide, maintains an office in Los Angeles, noting that the mere existence of a parent-subsidiary relationship is insufficient to establish personal jurisdiction after the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman.
The court then explained that a defendant will be subject to specific jurisdiction in a jurisdiction only where (1) the defendant “purposefully directed its activities” toward, or completed a transaction with, the forum or a forum resident, or performed some act to purposefully avail itself of the forum, (2) the claim arises out of or relates to the defendant’s forum-related activities, and (3) the court’s exercise of jurisdiction “comports with fair play and substantial justice.” Noting that the “purposeful direction” analysis was more appropriate because it typically applied in cases involving tort (and, by extension, copyright) claims, while the “personal availment” test applied to contract claims, the court concluded that Hit Bound had provided no evidence that BBC’s conduct was “expressly aimed” at California. “My Old Lady” was not shot in California, post-production work on the film did not take place in California, and the fact that the film was distributed (by a third party) in California was not enough to show that BBC’s conduct was expressly aimed at California. While BBC negotiated for rights and financing for the film, the resulting agreements contained venue clauses designating exclusive jurisdiction in the English and Welsh courts, and the fact that a Los Angeles attorney was involved in those negotiations was insufficient, standing alone, to confer personal jurisdiction.
Because Hit Bound failed to meet the purposeful direction prong of the specific jurisdiction analysis, the court granted the motion to dismiss without considering the other two prongs of the test.