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Morrill v. Stefani

United States District Court for the Central District of California

October 2, 2018, Decided; October 2, 2018, Filed

Case No.: CV 17-7301-DMG (SKx)



 [*1055]  This copyright infringement action is before the Court on Defendants Gwen Steffani, Pharrell Williams, Break Out My Cocoon, LLC, and Interscope Records' motion for summary judgment ("MSJ") [Doc. # 112]. The Court held a hearing on the MSJ on September 28, 2018. Having duly considered the parties' written submissions, the Court GRANTS Defendants' MSJ.1


In November 2017, Morrill filed his First Amended Complaint—the operative pleading here. [Doc. # 77]. In that pleading, Morrill alleged four claims for: (1) direct copyright infringement; (2) contributory copyright infringement; (3) vicarious copyright infringement against Williams and Interscope Records only; and (4) a conversion [**2]  claim under California state law against Steffani only. Id. Morrill also sought declaratory relief and attorneys' fees, id., although he soon stipulated to dismissing his request for declaratory relief. [Docs. ## 78-79].

On November 22, 2017, Defendants collectively moved to dismiss this action in its entirety through two separate motions. [Docs. ## 81-82]. Soon after, the Court dismissed with prejudice Morrill's conversion claim against Steffani and his request for attorneys' fees. Order Motion to Dismiss ("MTD Order") at 5, 13 [Doc. # 95]. The Court also dismissed Morrill's claim for copyright infringement of the Protected Songs' lyrics with prejudice and his infringement claim as to the Protected Songs' sound recordings without prejudice. Id. at 13. The Court denied, however, Defendants' motion to dismiss Morrill's claim of infringement of the Protected Song's musical compositions. Id. at 11-12. Morrill did not amend his infringement claim as to the Protected Songs' sound recordings.

On July 20, 2018, Defendants filed their MSJ, arguing that the rest of Morrill's infringement claim should be dismissed because the Protected Songs' and Spark the Fire's musical compositions are not substantially similar. [**3]  [Doc. # 112.] And because Morrill's direct infringement claim fails, Defendants contend that they are also entitled to summary judgment on his remaining claims. Id. The MSJ is now fully briefed. [Doc. ## 113, 114.]

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338 F. Supp. 3d 1051 *; 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 170343 **; Copy. L. Rep. (CCH) P31,348

RICHARD MORRILL, Plaintiff, v. GWEN STEFANI, et al., Defendants.


songs, Spark, substantially similar, Lightah, Lighter, Features, rhythm, hook, similarity, tritones, musical, triplets, extrinsic, copyright infringement, unprotectable, rhythmic, lyrics, phrases, fi-ah, copying, beat, rhyming, pitch, words, summary judgment, pronunciation, infringement, chorus, summary judgment motion, evidentiary objection