A federal judge in Los Angeles on Friday dismissed MCA Records' $10-million counterfeiting lawsuit against a New Jersey distributor of budget records and tapes.
U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Wilson ruled that Trenton-based Scorpio Music had not, as MCA claimed, illegally manufactured and distributed hundreds of thousands of bogus cassettes by some of the Los Angeles record label's top-selling artists.
In a strongly worded statement from the bench following closing arguments, the judge called it a "one-tape case--that's what it boils down to." He was referring to three copies of an alleged counterfeit cassette--"Odds and Sods," by the rock group The Who--that MCA attorneys claimed were provided to two retailers by Scorpio.
The judge said that in five days of testimony MCA had failed to prove the tapes were counterfeit or that they had been supplied by Scorpio. He also said that MCA had not provided adequate documentation that it actually held the copyright to the album. He derided one of MCA's key witnesses in the case as an "informant or a snitch" whose testimony "I wouldn't take to the bank."
"It appears to me that this case was a juxtaposition," Wilson said. "In most cases, you look at the facts and try to determine the culprit. But in this case, (MCA) first determined who was the culprit and then looked for a set of facts." Fred Shreyer, an outside attorney who represented MCA, said Friday that "it would be a fair statement to say we are disappointed" by the outcome of the case. "We have to evaluate the judge's ruling before making a decision as to whether or not we'll appeal," he said.
MCA presented no evidence that Scorpio had manufactured any alleged counterfeit tapes. Instead, MCA attorneys claimed that Scorpio had purchased a shipment of bogus cassettes from a Pennsylvania-based company called Out of The Past Inc. and subsequently distributed them to a record store in North Hollywood and to a flea market concessionaire in New Jersey.
However, the judge decided that MCA had not proved that Scorpio had received counterfeit cassettes. He added that testimony by Scorpio President John Gervasoni that his company had rejected a shipment of alleged counterfeits from Out of the Past was "supported in testimony by one of (MCA's) own witnesses."
The judge said he had "great doubt" about the court testimony of MCA's key witnesses, the owner and the manager of Auditory Odyssey in North Hollywood and a former record industry counterfeiting investigator who claimed to have seen counterfeit cassettes in Scorpio's warehouse.
MCA sued Scorpio last May in an apparently preemptive move. At the time of the lawsuit, MCA issued a statement saying that Scorpio had "maliciously threatened us with a frivolous lawsuit."