COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT – MUSIC LICENSING – STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS – COPYRIGHT OWNERSHIP
- The Second Circuit Court of Appeals considered the issue of whether a plaintiff’s copyright infringement claim based on an exclusive license was barred by the three-year statute of limitations of the Copyright Act 17 U.S.C. §507(b), even though alleged acts of infringement had occurred within three years prior to the action being filed. The Second Circuit affirmed Judge Dora Irizarry’s dismissal of the action for untimeliness. Plaintiff Tyrone Simmons sued rapper Curtis Jackson p/k/a 50 Cent and William Stanberry. Simmons claimed that he obtained an exclusive license to a hip-hop beat created by Stanberry in February 2006. In May 2007, Stanberry repudiated Simmons’ exclusive license by email informing Simmons that he no longer had the exclusive right to use the beat. Stanberry later allegedly sold the same beat to 50 Cent who then used the beat in a 2007 single “I Get Money” that was released in the summer of 2007. Simmons filed suit in December of 2010. Because Simmons was aware of the alleged dispute over the right to use the beat and of the alleged infringement of Simmons's rights, and yet waited more than three years to file suit, the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's conclusion that Simmons's suit is time-barred.A copyright owner or licensee whose ownership is repudiated should be on notice that the clock is ticking and that inaction, or electing to rely on a belated copyright infringement claim in a lawsuit as a sole remedy, may lead to a complete loss of rights. As I discuss in Copyright Litigation Handbook Registering a copyright claim with the Copyright Office may be a prudent first step.
For more on copyright ownership and licensing litigation, please see Copyright Litigation Handbook Chapter 8 Copyright Ownership and Licensing Litigation. The full table of contents of Copyright Litigation Handbook may be found here.
Copyright law, fine art and navigating the courts. All practice, no theory.Copyright Litigation Handbook (Thomson Reuters Westlaw 2014-2015) by Raymond J. Dowd