An action "arises under" the Copyright Act if and only if the complaint is for a remedy expressly granted by the Act, e.g., a suit for infringement or for the statutory royalties for record reproduction, 17 U.S.C.S. § 101, or asserts a claim requiring construction of the Act, or, at the very least and perhaps more doubtfully, presents a case where a distinctive policy of the Act requires that federal principles control the disposition of the claim. The general interest that copyrights, like all other forms of property, should be enjoyed by their true owner is not enough to meet this last test.
Plaintiff, who acquired publication and performing rights to copyrighted songs, brought an action for equitable and declaratory relief against defendant for copyright infringement. Plaintiff alleged its own New York incorporation and did not allege the citizenship of defendants. Defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint was granted for failure to state a claim and for lack of federal jurisdiction. On appeal, the court affirmed the ruling of the district court.
Was the district court, in a complaint for copyright infringement, correct to treat the jurisdictional issue as turning solely on whether the complaint alleged any act or threat of copyright infringement?
The district court was correct when it treated jurisdictional issue as turning solely on whether the complaint alleged any act or threat of copyright infringement. Plaintiff did not do so in its complaint and, therefore, plaintiff did not have a proper action. Infringement, as used in copyright law, did not include everything that might impair the value of the copyright; it was doing one or more of those things which § 1 of the Act, 17 U.S.C. § 1, reserved exclusively to the copyright owner.