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Jones v. West Plains Bank & Trust Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

December 28, 2015

David Lynn Jones; Skunk Deville Music, Plaintiffs - Appellants
v.
West Plains Bank & Trust Company; Roger Thompson, Defendants - Appellees

Submitted September 21, 2015.

Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas - Batesville.

For David Lynn Jones, Skunk Deville Music, Plaintiffs - Appellants: Scott Manatt, Pocahontas, AR; Gary N. Speed, Speed Law Firm, Little Rock, AR.

For West Plains Bank & Trust Company, Roger Thompson, Defendant - Appellee: Cory L. Collins, Ginger K. Gooch, Bryan O. Wade, Husch & Blackwell, Springfield, MO; Jesse Thurman Skinner, Murphy & Thompson, Batesville, AR.

Before RILEY, Chief Judge, BYE and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

BYE, Circuit Judge.

David Lynn Jones, a singer and songwriter doing business as Skunk Deville Music, sued West Plains Bank and Trust Company (West Plains Bank) and Roger Thompson for copyright infringement and conversion. The district court granted West Plains Bank's and Thompson's motion to dismiss Jones's claim for copyright infringement and denied Jones's motion for leave to file an amended complaint. The district court then entered final judgment dismissing with prejudice the copyright infringement claim under Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[1]

We conclude the district court abused its discretion by entering final judgment under Rule 54(b). We dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

I.

This case arises out of the sale of audio tapes at a public foreclosure auction. From 1993 to 2002 or 2003, Jones recorded over one hundred and fifty songs on approximately twenty reels of recording tape, using two pieces of recording equipment: an Otari MX-80 recorder and an Otari CB-120 S auto locator and stand. At least thirty-nine of the songs recorded on the recording tapes are registered to Jones and Bluewater Music Corporation as performing arts copyrights. Jones and Bluewater also executed an " Exclusive Songwriter Agreement" in April 1991, under which Jones assigned to Bluewater all copyrights to his new and prior compositions in exchange for future royalties and payments for the tracks.

In 2009, Jones gave his recording equipment and recording tapes to Bobby Roberts, a recording engineer who owned a recording studio, so Roberts could convert the recordings from analog to digital format. In 2011, Roberts defaulted on a loan from West Plains Bank that was secured by the recording studio and equipment at the studio. West Plains Bank took possession of the equipment at Roberts's studio, including Jones's recording equipment and recording tapes, even though Roberts alleges he told the bank that the equipment and tapes belonged to a customer.

West Plains Bank sold the equipment and the tapes to Roger Thompson at a public foreclosure sale in August 2011. Following the sale, Jones sent numerous demands to West Plains Bank and Thompson to return the equipment and tapes. West Plains Bank and Thompson refused. Neither West Plains Bank nor Thompson ever copied, sold, or performed any of the recordings.

On June 6, 2012, Jones filed a complaint against West Plains Bank and Thompson, asserting claims for copyright infringement and conversion. In March 2014, West Plains Bank and Thompson filed a motion to dismiss the copyright infringement claim, arguing Jones failed to state a claim for copyright infringement because he had not applied for or registered sound recording copyrights for the tapes at the time he filed the lawsuit. The district court granted the motion to dismiss the copyright infringement claim on the grounds that copyright registration is a pre-condition for filing a copyright infringement claim and Jones, by his own admission, had not registered his claimed copyrights.

Five days later, Jones received sound recording copyright registrations for a number of songs on the tapes. Jones subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration of the order granting the motion to dismiss, arguing the district court erred by dismissing the copyright infringement claim because Jones had previously held performing arts copyright registrations for the songs on the tapes, and his ...


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