SECOND CIRCUIT - COPYRIGHT LAW - COPYRIGHT OWNERSHIP - SOUND RECORDINGS - ACCRUAL OF COPYRIGHT OWNERSHIP CLAIMS - ATTORNEYS FEES - MUSIC LAW
If you think you are a co-owner of a copyrighted work, when do you need to speak up or sue before you lose your rights?
The Second Circuit considered this question in Mahan v. Roc Nation LLC, --- Fed. Appx. --- (2d Cir. February 24, 2016). Chauncey Mahan brought an action for a declaratory judgment that he was the co-owner of copyrights in songs that he engineered for Roc-A-Fella records in 1999 and 2000, as well as claims for conspiracy, conversion and trespass to chattels. Here's the background: fourteen years after the sessions, Mahan sent a demand for $100k for storage fees for unpublished sound recordings. Roc-A-Fella responded by sending the LAPD to seize Mahan's materials. Mahan responded with the lawsuit.
Claims of co-ownership of a copyright must be brought within three years of accrual. A claim accrues when a reasonably diligent plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury upon which the claim is premised. Claims of co-ownership typically accrue upon an "express repudiation" of ownership. This may happen, for example, where a book is published without the alleged co-author's name or an alleged co-owner does not receive royalties.
Mahan lost the case. Additionally, because the Second Circuit agreed that his claims were "objectively unreasonable" it upheld the district court's grant of attorneys fees at 90% of the lodestar rate.
My book Copyright Litigation Handbook (Thomson Reuters West 2015-2016) contains information for attorneys evaluating legal claims before they go to court. As Mahan shows, legal fees may be assessed against a plaintiff under the Copyright Act. Copyright Litigation Handbook has an entire chapter on attorneys fees under the Copyright Act.
Read the full text of Mahan here.
Copyright law, fine art and navigating the courts. All practice, no theory.Copyright Litigation Handbook (Thomson Reuters Westlaw 2015-2016) by Raymond J. Dowd
Monday, May 02, 2016
Copyright Law: Sound Engineer's Claim of Music Ownership Time-Barred
Labels: Accrual of Co-Ownership Claims, attorneys fees, copyright infringement, copyright law, sound engineer, Sound Recordings
Partner in law firm Dunnington Bartholow & Miller LLP in New York City litigating in federal and state courts and arbitrations. Experienced trial and appellate practitioner. Author: Copyright Litigation Handbook (Thomson Reuters 2018-2019). The New York Law Journal called it "an indispensable guide". Board of Directors of the Fordham Law Alumni Association, former General Counsel & Director Federal Bar Association, FBA Chair of the Circuit VPs, ViP for Second Circuit. Member Board of Governors, National Arts Club. President, Network of Bar Leaders (2013-2014). Attorney advertising disclaimer - prior results do not guarantee success. The statements and opinions voiced here are my own and not of my law firm.