United States District Court, District of Columbia
KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, United States District Judge
technological world that existed at the time that Congress
enacted the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992
(“AHRA”), 17 U.S.C. §§ 1001 et
seq., the music industry faced an existential threat
brought on by Digital Audio Tape (“DAT”) machines
and similar devices that could produce copies of music
recordings serially, without any loss in quality. The AHRA
was designed to address this problem; with that legislation,
Congress amended federal copyright law to require
manufacturers, importers, and distributers of such
“digital audio recording devices”
(“DARDs”) to implement certain copying control
technology with respect to their recording machines and to
pay a per-device royalty fee to a specified non-profit
organization-the Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies
(“AARC”)-which would distribute the royalties to
recording artists and copyright owners. Notably, the AHRA
also represented a careful compromise between the music
industry and the high-tech industry, because the digital
music recordings produced in the context of then-emerging
computer technology were intentionally carved out of the
statutory scheme. See Alliance of Artists & Recording
Cos. v. Gen. Motors Co. (“AARC I”),
162 F.Supp.3d 8, 20 (D.D.C. 2016).
often happens, recording technology has evolved significantly
since the enactment of the AHRA, and in the instant lawsuit,
this Court must determine whether that statute should extend
to a more recent innovation: in-vehicle audio recording
devices that copy music from CDs onto hard drives within the
devices, allowing the music to be played back inside the
vehicle even without the CD. AARC has filed this action
against three suppliers of such devices (DENSO International
America, Clarion Corporation of America, and Mitsubishi
Electric Automotive America), along with three automobile
manufacturers that have sold vehicles containing such
recording devices (General Motors Company, Ford Motor
Company, and FCA US, respectively).AARC contends that
Defendants' automobile recording devices constitute DARDs
within the meaning of the AHRA, and that Defendants have
violated the AHRA's prescriptions by failing to pay
royalties and adopt the required copying control technology
with respect to these devices. (See GM Compl.,
¶¶ 53-70; FCA Compl., ¶¶ 52-70.) This
Court has already made two forays into the thicket of issues
that this case presents, having previously resolved two
motions to dismiss, as well as motions for reconsideration
and clarification. See AARC I, 162 F.Supp.3d 8;
Alliance of Artists & Recording Cos., Inc. v. Gen.
Motors Co. (“AARC II”), No.
14-cv-1271, 2016 WL 9963947 (D.D.C. Aug. 22, 2016).
this Court at present are the parties' cross-motions for
summary judgment, which ultimately seek to answer the same
legal question that was at the focus of the Court's prior
opinions in this case: whether, as a matter of statutory
interpretation, Defendants' in-vehicle music recording
devices are DARDs, and are thus covered by the AHRA.
Defendants argue that information produced in discovery has
indisputably demonstrated that the hard drives of their
devices contain materials that are not incidental to the
music stored on them, such that their devices do not fit
under the statutory definition of a DARD. AARC does not deny
that the hard drives in Defendants' devices contain
non-music-related materials, but argues that the devices
nevertheless satisfy the AHRA's DARD definition because
the hard drives have “partitions” that contain
only music and materials incidental to the music.
reasons explained below, this Court finds that
Defendants' devices are not DARDs for the purpose of the
AHRA. The Court agrees with Defendants that a hard drive
itself is a material object under the statute, and that
because the evidence establishes that each of the hard drives
contained in Defendants' devices has data and information
not incidental to the music recorded on them, the hard drives
at issue here do not constitute “digital audio copied
recordings” under the AHRA, which means that
Defendants' devices do not constitute DARDs. The Court
further rejects AARC's hard drive “partition”
theory, because AARC has not demonstrated that a partition is
a distinct object that is a separate component of
the hard drive on which it sits, and even if it does have a
separate physical existence, AARC has not established that
the partition, as opposed to the whole hard drive, is the
relevant material object as far as the AHRA's
definitions are concerned. Accordingly, the Court will
GRANT Defendants' Joint Motion for
Summary Judgment (ECF No. 111), and DENY the
three motions for partial summary judgment that Plaintiff has
filed in regard to its claims against GM and Denso, Ford and
Clarion, and FCA and Mitsubishi, respectively (ECF Nos. 115,
116, 117). A separate order consistent with this Memorandum
Opinion will follow.
Court has issued two previous written opinions in this
matter. See AARC I, 162 F.Supp.3d 8; AARC
II, 2016 WL 9963947. The factual basis and procedural
history of the instant dispute, as well as the AHRA's
statutory framework and legislative history, are discussed at
length in the Memorandum Opinion that the Court issued on
February 19, 2016, see AARC I, 162 F.Supp.3d at
9-15, and those facts and findings are expressly incorporated
present purposes, it suffices to reiterate that Congress
intended the AHRA to reflect a careful compromise brokered
between the music and high-tech industries. See The Audio
Home Recording Act of 1991: Hearing on S. 1623 Before the S.
Subcomm. on Patents, Copyrights & Trademarks of the S.
Comm. on the Judiciary, 102d Cong. 1 (1991) (statement
of Sen. Dennis DeConcini) (“[The AHRA] represents a
historical compromise among opposing segments of the
entertainment and electronic industries.”).
Accordingly, in drafting the statute, Congress limited its
application to only a specific type of recording device-what
it called a “digital audio recording device” or
“DARD”-and it painstakingly defined what
constitutes a DARD using a complex set of nested definitions.
See AARC I, 162 F.Supp.3d at 11 (noting that
Congress has defined a DARD in “an intricate set of
interlocking (and non-intuitive) definitions” (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted)).
under the AHRA, a DARD is any machine for private use that
has a recording function that is capable of, and has the
primary purpose of, making a “digital audio copied
recording” (“DACR”). See 17 U.S.C.
§ 1001(3). In other words, a DARD is a device that
produces a DACR. And the statute defines a DACR as “a
reproduction in a digital recording format of a digital
musical recording [(“DMR”)], whether that
reproduction is made directly from another digital musical
recording or indirectly from a transmission.”
Id. § 1001(1). Thus, a DACR is a reproduction
of a DMR in a digital recording format. See AARC I,
162 F.Supp.3d at 12 (emphasizing that a DACR is a
reproduction of a DMR).
another level, the AHRA defines a DMR is defined as follows:
(A) A “digital musical recording” is a material
(i) in which are fixed, in a digital recording format, only
sounds, and material, statements, or instructions incidental
to those fixed sounds, if any, and
(ii) from which the sounds and material can be perceived,
reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or
with the aid of a machine or device.
(B) A “digital musical recording” does not
include a material object-
(i) in which the fixed sounds consist entirely of spoken word
(ii) in which one or more computer programs are fixed, except
that a digital musical recording may contain statements or
instructions constituting the fixed sounds and incidental
material, and statements or instructions to be used directly
or indirectly in order to bring about the perception,
reproduction, or communication of the fixed sounds and
Id. § 1001(5). In essence, this means that a
DMR is a material object that contains only sounds and data
incidental to those sounds, although a material object is
not a DMR if it only contains spoken word
recordings, or if it contains one or more computer programs.
See AARC I, 162 F.Supp.3d at 12.
motion to dismiss stage, this Court addressed the threshold
legal question of whether the AHRA is applicable to
Defendants' in-vehicle devices as they are described in
Plaintiff's complaints. In that phase of the case, the
parties' primary disagreement centered on whether, under
the AHRA, a DACR must itself be a DMR, “because if [a]
device must be capable of producing a DACR that also
qualifies as a DMR in order to count as DARD under the
statute, ” and if the Defendants' devices do not
make DMRs as described in the complaint, then the devices as
Plaintiff described them were not DARDs as a matter of law.
Id. at 17. Unpacking each layer of the AHRA's
nested definitions, the Court determined that the AHRA
requires a DACR to itself be a DMR, and therefore, in order
for Defendants' devices to be DARDs, they must be
“capable of creating DACRs that satisfy the statutory
conditions of DMRs.” Id. at 22. Based on this
analysis, the Court recognized that if Defendants' hard
drives are “chock full of non-music data and computer
programs, ” as Defendants maintain, then the output of
their recording process is not, by definition, a DMR.
Id. Nevertheless, the Court declined to dismiss the
case, because it found that it was plausible on the face of
the complaint that the output of Defendants' particular
recording devices fulfilled the DMR requirements (and thereby
their devices qualified as DARDs)-i.e., the Court concluded
that “the exact nature of these devices . . . is a
question of fact that must await resolution” after
discovery. Id. at 23.
AARC filed motions for reconsideration and clarification, and
this Court issued a second opinion resolving those motions.
See AARC II, 2016 WL 9963947. The Court denied the
motion for reconsideration, explaining that AARC's
argument that the Court misunderstood aspects of the
legislative history in its prior opinion was misplaced.
Id. at *2-4. However, the Court granted the motion
for clarification, insofar as AARC had asked the Court to
clarify the previous opinion's position on whether
“a distinct hard drive partition or logical
disk on which are fixed, in a digital recording format, only
sounds, and material, statements, or instructions incidental
to those fixed sounds” could constitute a DMR.
Id. at *4 (emphasis in original) (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted). Because the prior opinion did
not address the issue of hard drive partitions, the Court
explained that the prior opinion “does not
preclude the possibility that a hard drive partition
could constitute a DACR under the statute, ” and found
that this fact-specific issue would be best resolved
following discovery in the context of the Court's
consideration of Defendants' specific devices.
Id. at *5 (emphasis in original).
sets of cross-motions currently before the Court come at the
close of Phase 1 discovery in this case-a period of limited
discovery that the Court scheduled in order to facilitate its
determination of whether Defendants' devices are capable
of making a DACR for private use. (See Revised
Scheduling Order, ECF No. 102, at 1.) Phase 1A of the discovery
process separately addresses flash drive devices, which are
not included in the instant summary judgment arguments.
(See Scheduling Order, ECF No. 101, at 2.)
this Memorandum Opinion addresses solely the four motions for
summary judgment regarding the devices that the parties
examined in Phase 1 discovery. The six Defendants have filed
a joint motion for summary judgment (see Mem. in
Supp. of Defs.' Joint Mot. for Summ. J.
(“Defs.' Mot.”), ECF No. 111-1), and AARC has
filed partial motions for summary judgment against each
automaker-supplier pair of Defendants (see Pl.'s
Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Partial Summ. J. as to GM and Denso
(“Pl.'s Mot. for GM & Denso”), ECF No.
115-1; Pl.'s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Partial Summ. J.
as to Ford and Clarion (“Pl.'s Mot. for Ford &
Clarion”), ECF No. 116-1; Pl.'s Mem. in Supp. of
Mot. for Partial Summ. J. as to FCA and Mitsubishi
(“Pl.'s Mot. for FCA & Mitsubishi”), ECF
No. 117, at 8-58).
support of their motions for summary judgment, the parties
have also filed statements of undisputed fact, as well as
responses and replies to them, which alone total
approximately 500 pages. Much of the parties' lengthy
exchanges pertaining to their respective statements of fact
is not ultimately material to the Court's ...