Second Circuit Joins Third and Seventh Circuits in Ruling that Mere Registration of a Copyright Ownership Does Not Alone Trigger the Running of the Statute of Limitations for a Copyright Ownership Challenge

Case Name: Wilson, et. al. v. Dynatone, et. al.

Date of Opinion: November 14, 2018

Opinion By: Judge Leval

Summary:

This case concerns a dispute between John Wilson, Charles Still, and Terrance Stubbs (collectively “Plaintiffs”) and Dynatone Publishing Company, UMG Recordings, Inc., and Unichappell Music, Inc. (collectively “Defendants”) over ownership for copyright renewal terms for music compositions and sound recordings. The district court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for untimeliness (on grounds that the statute of limitations had begun running as soon as the Defendants registered their claim of ownership), but the Second Circuit vacated.  The Defendants moved for reconsideration.

In this brief opinion, the Second Circuit re-affirmed its earlier conclusion that the statute of limitations does not begin accruing on a copyright ownership claim as soon as another party has registered its arguably infringing copyright.  As the Second Circuit explained, that interpretation of Section 205(c) of the Copyright Act would mean that “after authoring a work, an author would need to constantly monitor the Copyright Office registry to be sure that no one has registered a spurious claim of authorship, on pain of losing their ownership of the copyright three years after the spurious registration.”  That is an “intolerable and unrealistic burden.”

The Second Circuit noted that both the Seventh and Third Circuits had ruled similarly, but acknowledged that the First Circuit had instead implied otherwise, albeit in a case where the plaintiff also had actual notice of the infringement.

Summary Prepared by: Rachel Thanasoulis

 

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