Copyright Case Dismissed As Time Barred

Brand v. RMM, Universal Music Group, NYLJ 1202491912221, at *1 (SDNY, Decided April 18, 2011).

Plaintiff sued alleging that defendants infringed the copyright to his rap vocals by adding them to a song by recording artist Tito Nieves. The Court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment -- the claim was time-barred.

Plaintiff alleged that defendant infringed his copyright when it "used, sold and manufactured without his permission his rap vocals." Although styled as an infringement claim, the gravamen of Plaintiff's complaint is that he is the owner of the rap lyrics on Nieves' song.

The Court cited cases that a claim involving a dispute over copyright ownership accrues when a plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury upon which the claim is premised. A defendant's express assertion of adverse ownership or a plain and express repudiation of plaintiff's ownership such as registering the copyright in defendant's own name, distributing the work with copyright notice identifying defendant as the owner, or exploiting the work for years without paying royalties to plaintiff will trigger the accrual of the statute of limitations. If a plaintiff does not sue within three years from the date his copyright claim accrues, his complaint is time-barred. 17 U.S.C. §507(b).

In this case, the song was first released in 1991. The back of the CD cover listed defendant as the copyright owner. The song was released again in 1997 on another CD, which also listed defendant as the copyright owner on the back cover. Plaintiff never received royalties from either CD. The Court held that given this history, Plaintiff reasonably should have know of the injury upon which his claim was premised by 1991 or at the latest by 1997, thirteen years before he filed the complaint. Because Plaintiff's ownership claim was time-barred, his infringement claim also failed as a matter of law.

Royalties for "Sold" CDs

U.S. Philips Corp. v. EMI Music, Inc., __AD3d__; 883 NYS2d 584; 2009 NY Slip Op 06135; NYLJ, 08/10/09, p. 31, col. 2 (2nd Dep't 2009), affirming order which granted plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability with respect to claim seeking payment of royalties for compact discs that were sold but later returned by defendant's customers.
"Contrary to the defendants' contention, the Supreme Court properly found that the language of the parties' license agreement was clear and unambiguous as to the payment by the defendants of certain royalties for compact discs that were "sold," even if the compact discs were later returned by the defendants' customers. In this regard, the subject agreement provided that the defendants would be responsible for paying royalties to the plaintiff for compact discs 'made, used, sold or otherwise disposed of" by the defendants. The agreement further provided that a product "shall be considered sold when invoiced, or if not invoiced, when delivered to a party other than the manufacturer.'"

Antitrust Claims Against Majors Dismissed

In re Digital Music Antitrust Litigation, No. 06 MDL 1780, 10/17/08 N.Y.L.J. "Decision of Interest" (S.D.N.Y. decided Oct. 9, 2008) (Preska, J.)

Plaintiffs sought to represent a nation-wide class of buyers of "digital music" on claims that defendant recording companies conspired to artificially fix prices on digital music (both CDs and Internet music). Defendants, the major record labels (EMI, SonyBMG, UMG, anmd Warner) allegedly fixed a high price for, and restrained availability of Internet music - by imposing the same price and use restrictions (i.e., DRM) on their sale thereof - which "buoyed" the price of CDs.

Plaintiffs' second consolidated amended complaint dismissed under the pleading standards of Bell Atlantic v. Twombly. Plaintiffs' first claim was for violation of section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The court concluded it was unreasonable to infer that defendants' adoption of DRM and parallel price arose from their membership in joint ventures that were created to distribute Internet Music. Other circumstantial evidence also did not justify an inference that defendants' parallel conduct resulted from an illegal agreement under the Sherman Act. For example, the court found there was no "antitrust record" based on investigation by government agencies, including the NY Attorney General. Nor would"mere participation in an industry trade association" yield an inference of improper inter-firm communication.

Similarly dismissed as predicated on the same allegations were state antitrust claims, consumer protection claims, and the unjust enrichment count.

New Music Format

SanDisk, record labels announce new music format
Backed by four major music labels, SanDisk on Monday announced a new physical
music format dubbed "SlotMusic" that's essentially an entire album on a MicroSD compact memory card. Wal-Mart and Best Buy are among the retailers that have already signed on to start selling the cards for the upcoming holiday season