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US Supreme Court boosts copyright damage payments.

The US Supreme Court ruled in a case involving a Flo Rida sample to allow increased copyright damages payments.

The ruling allows copyright owners to claim damages for infringements from decades ago.

Flo Rida thought he was doing the right thing for his 2008 release In The Ayer. when he cleared a sample from a Tony Butler track, 1984’s Jam The Box, with Tony’s publisher for use.

Unfortunately, eight years later in 2016 Sherman Nealy – the owner of Tony Butler’s record label at the time – claimed that in fact he owned the copyright to Jam The Box.

The US statute of limitations says that copyright infringement claims must be made within three years of the infringement, seemingly negating Nealy’s claim.

However there is also a rule called the ‘discovery rule’ which says that copyright owners can claim for copyright infringement within three years of discovering the infringement, which may have happened long before they discovered it – as in this case.

The Supreme Court Ruling

The issue put before them was whether Nealy could claim damages going right back to Flo Rida’s 2008 release, or whether he would be limited to the past 3 years.

An appeals court had ruled that he could claim all the way back to 2008, but that turned out to conflict with how a similar case had been treated by a different appeals court.

The Supreme Court was therefore called in to make the definitive ruling, and concluded that:

  • as long as the discovery rule was ahdered to (i.e. the copyright owner filed their complaint within 3 years of their discovery of the infringement (which was true in this case, the discovery was 2016 and the complaint filed in 2018), then
  • there is no other time based limit on the damages – i.e. the copyright owner can sue for the full period over which infringement took place.
The Conclusion

Music copyright infringement that has been going on for a long time, but has only recently been discovered by the copyright owners, just got a lot more expensive for the infringers because all infrignement from day one is now ‘in play’ for damages.

Talk to us about LVS – our music License Verification System provides an easy way for choregraphed performance sports and performing arts governing bodies to ensure they are checking the music licenses used by their participants, allowing them to protect all involved against copyright infringement.

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