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French Montana fails to get copyright dispute dismissed on jurisdiction grounds

By | Published on Thursday 26 March 2020

French Montana

A judge in Illinois has declined to dismiss a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against the rapper French Montana, for now at least. Jurisdiction was one of the technicalities employed by the rapper in his bid to get the case thrown out. That may as yet work, but for now the court has said the plaintiff can proceed with so called ‘jurisdictional discovery’.

French Montana – real name Karim Kharbouch – was sued through the courts in Illinois last year by a guy called Eddie Lee Richardson. He claims that Kharbouch downloaded a track he had created and uploaded to the website SoundClick and then used it in ‘Ain’t Worried About Nothin’, the third single release from Kharbouch’s 2013 album ‘Excuse My French’. Richardson’s lawsuit alleges that Kharbouch simply put lyrics on top of his backing track and then released it without getting his permission.

Kharbouch tried to get the case dismissed on various grounds including jurisdiction. He claimed that he is based in California, his collaborators on ‘Ain’t Worried About Nothin’ are based in Florida, and production on the track only took place in those two states. Therefore any allegations of copyright infringement shouldn’t be heard in any court in Illinois.

Countering that, among other things Richardson argued that he uploaded his track to SoundClick from within Illinois, that ‘Ain’t Worried About Nothin’ was made available to consumers in Illinois via digital platforms, and that Kharbouch has performed in the state.

The judge overseeing the dispute has now rejected all of Kharbouch’s technicality arguments meaning the case will not be dismissed at this point. Although the judge also outlined in his ruling some issues with each of the reasons Richardson had provided as to why the Illinois court did have jurisdiction. However, the plaintiff will be allowed to undertake jurisdictional discovery, meaning he can request documents from the defendants in a bid to prove this case should indeed be pursued through this specific court in Illinois.

The judge wrote: “The jurisdictional challenge is denied without prejudice to renewing it after Richardson has a chance at limited discovery on personal jurisdiction. To get the jurisdictional discovery going Richardson shall issue written discovery requests on the following topics: the defendants’ live performances of ‘Ain’t Worried About Nothin’ specifically in this district; the defendants’ sales of the song to consumers in this district; and the manner in which the defendants accessed Richardson’s work”.