Ninth Circuit Affirms in Favor of Creators in Starz v. MGM Copyright Infringement Suit

From The Authors Guild:

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled in Starz v. MGM that the plaintiff, Starz, retained the right to sue violators of their copyrights even if more than three years had passed since the infringements occurred.

Starz filed a suit against MGM when the latter licensed rights to certain films and television shows in its library to third parties even though Starz still held those rights based on an earlier licensing agreement with MGM. MGM claimed that, for some of those infringements, more than three years had elapsed between when the infringements occurred and when Starz discovered them, and, therefore, Starz was barred from collecting damages. A federal district court in California disagreed and denied MGM’s motion to dismiss, drawing on the “discovery rule,” which “operates as an exception to the general principle that damages are only recoverable for infringing acts within three years prior to filing suit.”  

The Ninth Circuit concurred. In her decision, Judge Kim McLane Wardlow cited directly from an amicus brief filed by the Authors Guild that highlighted why creators may not always know right away that copyright infringement occurred.

This ruling impacts not only large entertainment companies but also book authors, filmmakers, screenwriters and other individual artists. These individuals rarely have the training or resources to quickly identify when someone may have infringed on their copyright and may only become aware of it when someone points it out to them or after the situation has already gotten out of hand, such as in the case of e-book piracy rings that sell illegal copies of books to legitimate book buyers, depriving the copyright holder of income.

“We’re pleased that the court recognized that creators often don’t have the time or the ability to monitor the marketplace in order to locate copyright infringements in a speedy manner, especially where, as the decision states, ‘the infringer knows of and controls the infringing acts and the copyright holder has little means of discovering those acts,’” said Cheryl L. Davis, General Counsel for the Authors Guild, 

Link to the rest at The Authors Guild

3 thoughts on “Ninth Circuit Affirms in Favor of Creators in Starz v. MGM Copyright Infringement Suit”

  1. This is precisely as self-aggrandizing and sophisticated a legal and factual analysis as I’ve come to expect from the Authors’ Guild in over a quarter of a century dealing with it, its “legal staff,” and its outside counsel. The AG has a serious NIH problem… and I don’t mean the place in Bethesda.

    What makes this more depressing is that (a) they could have quoted my brief in Ellison for the same point, but that’s two decades ago, and (b) this subordinate point is the late-discovery issue on which the Ninth Circuit was reversed in Petrella… which also involved one of these parties!

      • The Author’s [sic] Guild wouldn’t even catch the spelling error in your response, PG. It hasn’t, after all, caught the spelling error in its own name. It’s a possessive plural,† because one person can’t form a guild… and if one looks at historical antecedants (US or Europe and regardless of language, “guild” or “union”) one finds that they’re overwhelmingly plural possessives. But the AG is special that way.

        † OK, technically it’s a collective possessive, but American English treats that like the plural. The irony that British guilds — where the collective is often treated as singular — still use the plural form is a bit much. It is, after all, the Authors’ Society…

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