Mitchel v. Capitol Records, 3:15-CV-00174-JHM (W.D. Ky. Dec. 18, 2017).
Plaintiff alleges infringement of his 1977 song in the 1989 NWA rap song "Striaght Outta Compton." Defendants made two motions for partial summary judgment. First, the defendants argued that plaintiff is precluded from recovering any damages for infringements that occurred more than three years prior to his filing of the law suit, as barred by the statute of limitations. Second, defendants argued that plaintiff did not own the sound recording for his song (only the musical composition) and thus could not recover for any infringement of the sound recording. The former motion was denied, and the latter was granted.
As to the statute of limitations defense, the Court held that notwithstanding the Supreme Court's Petrella decision, Sixth Circuit precedent "defines accrual of a copyright claim as occurring when the plaintiff “knew of the potential violation or is chargeable with such knowledge.” Continuing, "When the [Petrella] opinion is read in conjunction with footnote 4, which acknowledges that most circuits will modify this rule so as to focus on the date of 'discovery' as opposed to the date of 'occurrence,' then Petrella reiterates what the Sixth Circuit already requires: that damages be limited to those claims for infringement that accrued within three years of the initiation of the suit, with accrual being determined by the rules of the 8 circuit (until the Supreme Court “passe[s] on the question')." Because Plaintiff had presented evidence that his claim did not accrue until 2014 (when it was allegedly discovered), his claim was not time-barred.
As to the sound recording, the Court held that defendant had provided proof that plaintiff did not own the sound recording. The plaintiff's evidence (e.g., a mechanical license agreement) at best established his ownership of the musical work/composition.