Plaintiff Rafael Jorge, acting pro se, accused Defendant Marie Adler of copyright infringement. He asserts that he authored a screenplay titled “En Medio Del Dolor,” and granted Alder’s company exclusive rights of distribution. He says that Alder personally infringed his copyright in the screenplay by distributing a movie titled “Heart of Pain” without paying Jorge royalties.
Adler, also proceeding without representation, moved to dismiss for improper service and lack of personal jurisdiction. In January 2023, Magistrate Judge Robertson agreed that service was not made, and converted the motion to dismiss into a motion to quash, which she granted, giving Jorge 90 days to properly effect service and to show cause why the matter should not be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. She noted that the complaint did not make any allegations that “Heart of Pain” was distributed in Massachusetts, or that it was advertised or sold within the state.
Regarding service, Jorge filed an affidavit of a sheriff who said that he left a copy of the summons and complaint with an individual residing at the mailing address set forth in the distribution agreement and also sent it to the Defendant by first class mail to the same address. This was found to be insufficient, as the individual served was not alleged to be a registered agent or otherwise authorized to receive service by Adler, and the address was not the last and usual place of abode of Adler.
Judge Robertson found that even were service properly made, Jorge had not established that the District of Massachusetts could exercise personal jurisdiction over Adler, a California resident. She noted that while the complaint alleged copyright infringement, the allegations sounded more like breach of contract. Jorge had asserted that the distribution agreement was signed and notarized in Massachusetts, which may well have supported personal jurisdiction over Adler & Associates on a contract claim in the state, but which did not support jurisdiction over a copyright claim. Because Jorge had not shown any purposeful availment by Adler individually in Massachusetts (her few interactions were in the capacity of a corporate officer of Adler & Associates, which shields Adler individually absent a piercing of the corporate veil), there was no basis for personal jurisdiction.
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