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The filing of a complaint in federal court for a declaratory judgment can occur after a cease-and-desist letter is sent or other actions such as questioning emails or other communication – where someone questions the infringement and misuse of the intellectual property – such as copyrights – by another. The accused mis-user files the declaratory judgment action so the mis-user can have clarity about if a court of law considers their actions misuse.
An example of when a declaratory judgment action may be filed is: a first songwriter sends a cease-and-desist letter to another musical artistic for using some lyrics/words/sounds which the first songwriter had in their song – there is some communication back and forth – and then the accused musical artistic files a declaratory judgment action.
This situation is described in a complaint in the federal court of the Southern District of New York including musicians and music publishing companies. In the compliant, on page 11 and 12, there a description by the plaintiffs about the communication before the declaratory judgment where: a lawyer for Barry Mann sent a cease-and-desist letter to Le Tigre’s publisher; a representative of Wixen Music Publishing sent an email to a licensee of Le Tigre’s song; and further communication by counsel of Le Tigre’s publisher. The complaint states that Mr. Mann and Wixen improperly assert that the band Le Tigre wrongly used lyrics/words/sounds from Mr. Mann’s song “Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp) in the Le Tigre song “Deceptacon.” The complaint asks for a declaratory judgment and other remedies.
The law giving a right to a declaratory judgment dictated by statute, 28 U.S. Code § 2201 - Creation of remedy, states “[i]n a case of actual controversy within its jurisdiction, … any court of the United States, upon the filing of an appropriate pleading, may declare the rights and other legal relations of any interested party seeking such declaration, whether or not further relief is or could be sought. Any such declaration shall have the force and effect of a final judgment or decree and shall be reviewable as such.”
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