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Court rules against music-licensing firm suing Burbank High show choir director

Court rules against music-licensing firm suing Burbank High show choir director
Burbank High show choir director Brett Carroll conducts students during practice, in this file photo taken Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015. (Raul Roa / Burbank Leader)

A music-licensing firm plans to file an appeal upon recently losing a portion of a lawsuit against the operator of Burbank High School's show choirs and its booster association.

Arizona-based Tresona Multimedia accused Burbank High's choir director, Brett Carroll, and the Burbank High School Vocal Music Assn. of copyright infringement, according to the federal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Arizona in June.

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But it was ruled earlier this month that Tresona lacked standing to three of four songs mentioned in the complaint because three of the songs had multiple songwriters who collectively owned the copyright, so it was not 100% exclusive to Tresona, said Aaron Craig, who represented Carroll in the case.

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It was also ruled that Carroll was "immune from the lawsuit as a public employee and that his actions were reasonable," according to a statement from Craig's firm.

Reached by phone on Thursday, Craig said Tresona claimed the show choirs needed to secure grand rights, but that theory was "untested," Craig said.

"They're really a very aggressive company that came out of nowhere with untested theories," Craig said. "We're thrilled for Mr. Carroll to have defeated Tresona. Tresona's a very aggressive copyright troll."

Tresona's president, Mark Greenburg, said on Wednesday he'll file an appeal.

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"In this case, the music director used a legal technicality to avoid liability — for now — for allowing music compositions to be arranged, copied and performed without license under his watch," Greenburg said in an email. "We will see if the court of appeals agrees with this ruling."

A summary judgment on the vocal music association's use of a fourth song, "Magic," originally performed by Olivia Newton-John, will be heard in court in January, Craig said.

Meanwhile, the vocal music association is waiting for a separate judgment on a third-party lawsuit the group filed against Squareplay Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based company that allegedly provided the group with song arrangements.

The association paid Squareplay Entertainment more than $100,000 to create the arrangements, according to court records. If the association is found liable in the Tresona case in the future, the school organization wants Squareplay Entertainment to pay for any damages.

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Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com

Twitter: @kellymcorrigan

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