Judge Tosses Most of TV One's Lawsuit Over BET Music Festival Broadcast

BET allegedly aired without proper authorization a Janet Jackson concert.
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

On Monday, a California federal judge dismissed most of the claims brought by TV One in a lawsuit that alleged that other networks had stolen its exclusive right to broadcast the Essence Music Festival. The network, partly owned by Comcast, had claimed that last June, just a week before it was set to air one of the largest cultural gatherings of African Americans in the nation, BET televised performances by Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige and others from the previous year's festival.

The lawsuit, filed last fall in California federal court, said that TV One had spent millions of dollars acquiring rights and producing the 2010 and 2011 shows. The network sued BET and MTV for copyright infringement for airing a "rogue" broadcast and distributors Music World Music, Matthew Knowles (the father of Beyoncé), Northstar Media and Pat McDonald for copyright infringement, unjust enrichment, and tortiously intefering with its rights by obtaining a copy of its 2010 broadcast and giving it to the other networks.

Now, U.S. District Court Judge Margaret Morrow has granted most of the defendants' motion to dismiss.

MTV is dismissed from the case because the complaint didn't provide any factual support that it committed copyright infringement.

The judge also dismisses claims against the distributors.

Several of the defendants challenged whether TV One had standing to sue for copyright infringement since the network had the exclusive right to broadcast the festival, but not to distribute footage. TV One contended that its contract with the festival gave it distribution rights, but a judge looked at the deal and agreed that distribution was not included in the scope of the license.

As for tortious interference, the judge says the claim is preempted by copyright law. All the claims against the distributors are dismissed as well for not being sufficiently pled to survive dismissal, although the judge is allowing TV One to amend its complaint, if it so chooses.

The only claim that survives at the moment is TV One's copyright infringement allegation against BET Networks.

When BET's Centric Network aired footage from the 2010 Essence Festival, a New Orleans event which attracted hundreds of thousands of people,  it allegedly did so with a broadcast that included TV One's name and several of its employees in the credits.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com

Twitter: @eriqgardner