SHARE

August 04, 2022

Seeing Starz: No Damages Bar in Copyright Discovery Rule Case

You've Reached Your
Free Article Limit This Month
Register for free to get unlimited access to all Law.com OnPractice content.
Register Now

The US Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court's denial of a motion to dismiss copyright infringement claims as barred by the statute of limitations, affirming the copyright owner's right to sue even though more than three years had passed since the alleged infringement occurred. Starz Entertainment, LLC v. MGM Domestic Television Distribution, LLC, Case No. 21-55379 (9th Cir. July 14, 2022) (Wardlaw, Ikuta, Bade, JJ.)

Starz entered into licensing agreements for movies and television series episodes with MGM in 2013 and 2015. Under the agreements, MGM granted Starz the exclusive right to exhibit the movies and television series episodes for specified time periods. MGM agreed that it would not exhibit or license the content to any third parties during such specified time periods. From 2019 to 2020, Starz discovered that certain content it licensed from MGM was available on other streaming platforms.

Starz sued MGM in May 2020, asserting 340 claims of direct, contributory and vicarious copyright infringement, among other claims. MGM moved to dismiss, arguing that Starz's copyright infringement claims were barred by the Supreme Court's 2014 decision in Petrella v. MGM. MGM asserted that Petrella imposes a strict bar to collecting any damages for copyright infringement that occurs more than three years prior to the filing of the complaint. The district court determined that Petrella did not affect the discovery rule (i.e., that under the Copyright Act there exists a three-year damages bar) except when the plaintiff reasonably was not aware of the infringements at the time they occurred. MGM filed an interlocutory appeal.

The Copyright Act states: "No civil action shall be maintained under the provisions of this title unless it is commenced within three years after the claim accrued." The issue on appeal here was when a copyright infringement claim accrues. The Ninth Circuit noted that it, and every other circuit, has an exception to the infringement rule, known as the "discovery rule," which starts the clock when a copyright holder knows or reasonably should know that an infringement occurred. The Court disagreed with MGM that Petrella did away with the discovery rule. Instead, the discovery rule of accrual copyright claims is alive and well, and thus the Court affirmed the district court's finding that Starz was not barred by Petrella from bringing a lawsuit.

The Ninth Circuit next addressed the issue of whether Petrella imposed a damages bar separate from the statute of limitations. MGM argued that Petrella created a separate damages bar that limits damages to damages arising from acts of infringement within the three-year window. The Court found that a three-year lookback period would eviscerate the discovery rule and explained that MGM's approach is a textbook example of the absurdity of such a rule. The agreements between Starz and MGM covered hundreds of titles under separate time periods, and under MGM's approach, damages could only be recovered for a 2013 infringement if the complaint was filed by 2016. In this case, Starz did not discover any infringement until 2019 and brought the suit less than a year later. While Starz's copyright infringement claim accrued when Starz discovered the alleged infringement in 2019 and was timely, under MGM's theory the act of infringement would have been nonrecoverable since 2016. The Court rejected such an inherently self-contradictory damages bar rule, finding that neither the Copyright Act nor Petrella imposes a three-year damages bar in a discovery rule case.

ALM expressly disclaims any express or implied warranty regarding the OnPractice Content, including any implied warranty that the OnPractice Content is accurate, has been corrected or is otherwise free from errors.

More From McDermott Will & Emery

Oil License Corruption Charges Don't Stick In Milan Court Of Appeal

By McDermott Will & Emery attorneys McDermott Will & Emery January 27 , 2023

In 2011, global oil company Shell and Italian state-owned oil company ENI struck a deal with the Nigerian government to jointly acquire the license to one of the most valuable oil blocks in Nigeria, known as Oil Prospecting License 245 (OPL 245).

This Week in 340B: January 17 - 23, 2023

By Emily Jane Cook McDermott Will & Emery January 26 , 2023

This weekly series provides brief summaries to help you stay in the know on how 340B cases are developing across the country.

IRS Releases Memorandum on Deducting Cryptocurrency Losses

By Andrew M. Granek McDermott Will & Emery January 26 , 2023

On January 13, 2023, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a Chief Counsel Advice Memorandum (CCA 202302011) concluding that taxpayers cannot claim a deduction for cryptocurrency losses that have, absent a sale or other taxable disposition, substantially declined in value if such cryptocurrency continues to trade on at least one cryptocurrency exchange and has a value that is greater than zero.

More From Copyrights

Your Gang Did What!? No Matter—No Forfeiture of IP

By Kat Lynch McDermott Will & Emery January 26 , 2023

In a unique case blending intellectual property and criminal law, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed that a district court properly exercised jurisdiction over a motorcycle club and upheld the lower court’s finding that the club did not have to forfeit its collective membership marks.

Deleting Goods from Registration Subject to Cancellation During Audit May Result in Adverse Judgment

By Eleanor B. Atkins McDermott Will & Emery January 26 , 2023

The Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (Board) addressed, for the first time, whether the deletion of goods and services as a result of a post-registration audit during a cancellation proceeding triggers Trademark Rule 2.134 and found that it does.

Bursting the Bubble on Prosecution Delays

By Christopher M. Bruno McDermott Will & Emery January 26 , 2023

Addressing a case where a patent owner filed hundreds of applications as part of a strategy to maintain extraordinarily lengthy patent coverage, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court’s determination that the patent owner had engaged in a calculated and unreasonable scheme to delay patent issuance.

Featured Stories
Closeclose
Search
Menu

Working...