Second Circuit Denies LAMCO Copyright Claim

Copyright Claim
Categories: Criminal Law

Legal Battle Over Music Copyright: Second Circuit Upholds Decision in Latin American Music Organization v. Spanish Telecom Framework

On October fourth, the U.S. Court of Claims for the Second Circuit issued a synopsis arrange in Latin American Music Organization v. Spanish Telecom Framework, affirming a lower court’s judgment denying copyright infringement claims brought by music publisher Latin American Music Co. (LAMCO) against radio station proprietor Spanish Telecom Framework (SBS). The Second Circuit found that LAMCO’s arguments on appeal were without validity and upheld findings that its infringement claims were either time-barred or unprovable.

Background

LAMCO and its licensing subsidiary, Asociación de Compositores y Editores de Musica Latinoamericana (ACEMLA), initiated this suit against SBS in the Southern District of New York in March 2013. Allegations included that SBS, operating radio stations in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Puerto Rico, Chicago, and San Francisco, entered into a one-year licensing agreement in December 1994, allowing SBS’ radio stations to play music owned by LAMCO.

Court Proceedings

After a bench trial, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan issued an opinion in May 2017, stating that LAMCO and ACEMLA failed to meet the burden of proof for their infringement claims. The plaintiffs relied on testimony from a single witness, Luis Raul Bernard, president of both LAMCO and ACEMLA. However, discrepancies emerged during cross-examination, including the revelation that neither LAMCO nor ACEMLA owned the copyrights in question.

Questionable Testimony

Bernard’s affidavit claimed personal knowledge of SBS radio stations playing LAMCO-owned songs, but inconsistencies arose regarding dates and other crucial details. The court found Bernard’s testimony lacked credibility, stating, “the Court has little trouble inferring that none of Bernard’s testimony, whether in his affidavit or during questioning, is credible.”

Summary Judgment

Consequently, the court granted summary judgment for SBS, asserting that LAMCO and ACEMLA failed to prove their copyright infringement claim. In the recent summary order, the Second Circuit emphasized the Copyright Act’s three-year limitation, citing its 2011 decision in Kwan v. Schlein. This decision clarified that the statute of limitations begins accruing from the time a claim arises.

Time-Barred Claims

Seven of the thirteen songs involved in the trial were copyrighted in the 1970s by Fania Distributing or Fania Records. LAMCO and ACEMLA argued that they acquired the copyrights in the 1990s, not from Fania but from the original creators or their heirs. The Second Circuit, however, deemed these claims time-barred, as the suit was not filed until 2013.

Unpreserved Arguments

The court also noted that other arguments raised on appeal were not properly preserved, including a claim regarding the copyright renewal terms of Fania works. The failure to present this argument at the district court level led to its exclusion on appeal.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Second Circuit upheld the lower court’s decision, emphasizing the importance of timely filing copyright infringement claims. The ruling serves as a reminder to litigants to meticulously address legal requirements and maintain consistency in testimony to substantiate their claims.