Saturday, June 22, 2013

Copyright Law - First Circuit - Christmas Carol Chaos in Puerto Rico?

Music Licensing, Copyright Infringement, Declaratory Judgments, Competing Copyright Claims, Exclusion of Evidence

Banco Popular de Puerto Rico v. Asociacion de Compositores y Editores de Musica Latinoamericana (ACEMLA), 678 F.3d 102 (1st Cir. May 11, 2012).   Banco Popular produced a series of Christmas concerts from 1993 to 1999 featuring Puerto Rican musicians.  Banco Popular decided to seek retroactive copyright licenses (performance, mechanical or synchronization) starting in 1999.  Upon reaching a settlement with one purported licensor, other purported licensors issued cease and desist letters, each claiming to have exclusive rights in songs that the first purported licensor purported to own.  In 2001, Banco Popular sued for a declaratory judgment and deposited royalties into court, seeking direction from the court on who to pay.  Various purported licensors sued for copyright infringement.  Resulting litigations took nine years.  In the middle of a jury trial, one party found new evidence that the University of Puerto Rico owned one of the copyrights, the district judge excluded the evidence because it would disrupt the trial.  The First Circuit affirmed in all respects, the byzantine opinion is noteworthy only as a cautionary tale:  get the rights and investigate the copyright holders before you throw the concerts and sell the CDs!
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