Sound Recording Registration No Proxy for Musical Composition Registration

The First Circuit Court of Appeals couldn’t go wrong by quoting Mark Twain at the outset:

Over a century ago, Mark Twain lamented that ‘only one thing is impossible for God: to find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.’  We fear that Twain’s deity would fare little better with the tangled skein of copyright and contractual claims presented by the plaintiffs in this case. Confining our inquiry to the arguments seasonably raised before the district court and to the factual background at the time of summary judgment, we conclude that the district court did not err in granting the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and denying the plaintiffs’ subsequent motion for reconsideration.

(Opinion pdf page 2).

Although this case involved a convoluted fact pattern, what the case essentially comes down to is this:  The plaintiffs claimed copyright ownership of musical compositions, but registered sound recordings for the songs they claimed were infringed.  Further, even though the plaintiffs recorded the songs they claimed to own the musical composition copyrights for, the sound recording deposits the plaintiffs provided to the copyright office were made by others, not the plaintiffs.  It’s not surprising that the district court granted the defendants’ summary judgment motion, which was affirmed by the First Circuit.

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Co-Author’s Copyright Registration Does Not Strip Other Co-Author’s Rights

Two issues of first impression came before the Third Circuit in Brownstein v. Lindsay.  “First impression” means that it is a new legal issue for that court.  The first issue of first impression addressed the point in time at which a joint authorship claim under the Copyright Act arises and accrues. In other words, when does the statute of limitations start running for joint authorship claims?  The second issue addressed whether courts have the authority to cancel copyright registrations.

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