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The U.S. Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §507(b), states that a civil copyright action must be filed within three years of its accrual. How this applies to copyright infringement and to copyright ownership claims, including in the same case, isn’t always clear. But two recent federal appeals courts decisions, one from the Eleventh Circuit and one from the Second Circuit, have provided guidance on the differences in accrual for each of these copyright claims. Webster v. Dean’s Guitars, 19-10013 (11th Cir. 2020), presented a case of first impression to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. In the 1980s, Buddy Webster (p/k/a Buddy Blaze) presented a Dean guitar he had rigged with a lightning storm visual to Darrell Abbott, who became a legendary guitarist for heavy metal group Pantera. In 2004, Abbott, who dubbed the guitar “The Dean from Hell” (DFH) agreed to endorse Dean guitars. When Abbott died later that year, Dean began reissuing copies of Abbott’s guitar featuring the lightning graphic — without Webster’s permission. Webster knew in December 2004 of the guitar reissue as well as Dean’s sale of subsequent editions of the guitar, but didn’t file suit until 2017 — not long after Webster federally registered the copyright in the lightning graphic. His complaint alleging copyright infringement, among other things, was litigated in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, where the district court dismissed the action as a time-barred copyright ownership claim.
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By Stan Soocher
Federal courts have long disagreed over whether the unauthorized “making available” of a plaintiff’s works to the public is sufficient to constitute copyright infringement under the U.S. Copyright Act. Two June District Court decisions demonstrated the differences between the views of the Fourth and Ninth Circuits.
By Howard B. Epstein and Theodore A. Keyes
According to news reports, and judging from the plethora of lawsuits filed seeking insurance coverage for lost income incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, insurance companies are for the most part denying claims for business interruption losses. The type of insurance claim at issue may make a difference.
By J. Alexander Lawrence
Don and Phil Everly’s flawless harmonies that resulted in a string of hits in the 1950s and '60s regrettably ended in acrimony. The Sixth Circuit recently issued a decision in a dispute between Phil’s heirs and Don over copyright ownership of the No. 1 hit “Cathy’s Clown,” in which concurring Judge Eric E. Murphy raised important questions about when the statute of limitations should begin to run in copyright cases and whether courts have been correctly applying the law.
By Dan Packel
Three-on-three basketball league Big3, co-owned by hip hop artist and actor Ice Cube, quietly abandoned a lawsuit accusing the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan of putting its lucrative relationship with the Republic of Qatar ahead of its attorney-client obligations to the fledgling sports project.