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Paisley Park Enterprises, Inc. v. Ziani

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

December 13, 2018

Paisley Park Enterprises, Inc. and Comerica Bank & Trust, N.A. as Personal Representatives of the Estate of Prince Rogers Nelson, Plaintiffs,
v.
Eric Ziani; Marcel Peters; Piet Van Ryckeghem; Frederic Bianco; DOE 1 d/b/a Eye Records; DOE 2 d/b/a Lovesigne; DOE 3 d/b/a House Quake; and DOEs 4-20, Defendants.

          Grant D. Fairbairn, (for Plaintiffs); and

          No appearance made by or on behalf of Defendants.

          ORDER

          Tony N. Leung United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for Expedited Discovery. (ECF No. 6). Because, with one exception, Plaintiffs have established that good cause exists for early discovery, the Court will grant Plaintiffs' motion in part and deny it in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On August 31, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a complaint asserting violations of state and federal deceptive trade practice, trademark, and copyright laws. Compl. ¶¶ 118-69. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiffs allege that Defendants conspired to violate intellectual property rights related to the musician Prince Rogers Nelson (“Prince”). Compl. ¶¶ 21-35. Plaintiffs are the personal representatives of Prince's estate (“Prince Estate”). Compl. ¶ 2.

         The Prince Estate owns copyrights to musical works written by Prince, as well as the trademark PRINCE® for use with entertainment services and musical performances. Compl. ¶¶ 24-27. The Prince Estate also owns the trademark for the Prince Symbol. Compl. ¶ 30. Plaintiffs also assert that the right of publicity protects Prince's name, image, and likeness. Compl. ¶ 23. Plaintiffs spend considerable time and resources monitoring and enforcing their rights to the intellectual property owned by the Prince Estate. Compl. ¶ 34. Through their efforts, they determined that Defendants had repeatedly infringed upon the Prince Estate's intellectual property. Compl. ¶ 40.

         Defendant DOE 1, d/b/a Eye Records, has been identified by Plaintiffs as a music label that sells bootleg copies of Prince Music. Compl. ¶. 41. Eye Records advertises itself as a “Bootleg label dedicated to Prince” on Discogs.com, an online music database and marketplace. Compl. ¶ 42. Eye Records claims to have released 18 compilations of Prince music since 2016. Comp. ¶ 45.

         For purposes of their complaint, Plaintiffs identified several compilations of unreleased Prince Music that Eye Records released without permission. Compl. ¶ 46. Three of those compilations, entitled Blast From The Past 4.0, Blast From The Past 5.0, and Blast From The Past 6.0, contain at least 100 songs of unreleased studio recordings. Compl. ¶¶ 47-55. Through their investigation, Plaintiffs obtained album covers for each compilation. Compl. ¶¶ 47, 50, 53. Each cover contains images of Prince, the PRINCE® trademark, or the Prince Symbol. Compl. ¶¶ 47, 49, 50, 52, 53, 55. Each of these compilations bears the logo for the Eye Records label. Compl. ¶¶ 47, 50, 53.

         Eye Records has also released multiple compilations of live Prince performances without permission. Compl. ¶ 57, 59, 61, 62, 65, 66, 67, 68, 70. Each of those compilations also contains images of Prince, the PRINCE® trademark, or the Prince Symbol. Compl. ¶ 57, 60, 61, 63, 64, 66, 67, 69, 70, 72. Each compilation also bears the logo for the Eye Records Label. Compl. ¶¶ 57, 61, 64, 66, 67, and 70.

         Bootleg compilations of Prince music released under the Eye Records label are available for sale through the website newlovesigne.com. Compl. ¶ 74. To purchase music from newlovesigne.com, a person must request a user name and password by sending an e-mail to mutiny8@gmail.com. Compl. ¶ 80. Once the user is able to log-in, he or she can access the website, which contains a number of images of Prince, the PRINCE® trademark, or the Prince Symbol. Compl. ¶ 81.

         Plaintiffs used a DNS WHOIS lookup to obtain the information that the owner of the domain name newlovesigne.com entered when registering it. Compl. ¶ 75. Through their research, Plaintiffs determined that newlovesigne.com was registered to Eric Ziani, that it had a registered street address of 112 quai Pierre Scize, Lyon, France, and that it had a registered e-mail address of mutiny8@gmail.com. Compl. ¶ 75.

         Plaintiffs' buyers ordered a number of different Prince bootleg compilations from newlovesigne.com and downloaded Prince music directly from the website. Compl. ¶¶ 79, 83, 86. Payment for those orders was processed through a PayPal account registered to the e-mail address of mutiny8@gmail.com and sent to Ziani. Compl. ¶ 84, 86. When the bootleg compilations arrived in Minnesota, the return address indicated that the package came from Ziani. Compl. ¶ 85.

         Defendants Marcel Peters and Piet Van Rychekhem promote the sale of Eye Records' bootlegged Prince music through their respective e-mails purplepartyman@hotmail.com and brother.pete@skynet.be. Compl. ¶ 104, 106. Promotional e-mails obtained by Plaintiffs indicate that each defendant uses Prince's name, image, works, the PRINCE® trademark, or the Prince Symbol to advertise Eye Records recordings. Compl. ¶¶ 105, 107. Plaintiffs also allege that Frederic Bianco is one of the “main conspirators” behind Eye Records. Compl. ¶ 111.

         Defendant DOE 2, d/b/a Lovesigne, promotes the Eye Records label through a Facebook page and Twitter handle. Compl. ¶¶ 91, 93. Lovesigne uses Prince's name image, and works to promote the sale of the bootlegged Prince Music. Compl. ¶ 96. Lovesigne also uses the e-mail address mutiny8@gmail.com to arrange for the sale and distribution of bootlegged Prince music through the Eye Records label. Compl. ¶ 95.

         Defendant DOE 3, d/b/a House Quake, promotes the sale of bootlegged Prince music through a Google Plus community. Compl. ¶ 99. In a July 14, 2017 post, House Quake identified itself as Lovesigne and instructed users to e-mail mutiny8@gmail.com if they wish to purchase bootlegged Prince music. Compl. ¶ 101. As with the other Defendants, House Quake uses images of Prince, the PRINCE® trademark, and the Prince Symbol to promote the sale of bootlegged Prince Music. Compl. ¶ 100. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants DOEs 4-20 are additional co-conspirators to the trafficking of Prince bootlegged music through Eye Records. Compl. ¶ 113.

         After filing suit, Plaintiffs sent copies of their complaint to two street addresses associated with Ziani and provided courtesy copies to Ziani, Peters, and Van Ryckeghem by e-mail. (ECF No. 9-1). Plaintiffs requested that each individual provide a street address so that they could formally serve them with the complaint. (ECF No. 9-1). Approximately one month later, after no response, Plaintiffs again contacted Ziani, Peters, and Van Ryckeghem by ...


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