May 19, 2014
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision today in Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. In a split decision (6–3), the Court held that Paula Petrella, daughter of deceased screenwriter Frank Petrella, could go a second round against movie studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) for alleged copyright infringement.
Petrella alleges that the movie studio infringed the copyright for a 1963 screenplay upon which she claims the award-winning film “Raging Bull” was based. “Raging Bull” was released in 1980; Petrella did not bring suit until 2009, some 29 years after the film’s release. Petrella acknowledged that the three-year statute of limitations precluded relief for MGM’s pre-2006 alleged infringement, and limited her damages claim to post-2006 infringement.
The Court addressed the issue of whether the doctrine of laches can bar civil copyright claims brought within the statute of limitations. The Court answered in the negative, holding that laches “cannot be invoked to preclude adjudication of a claim for damages brought within the . . . three-year window” provided by statute. The Court further held that a defendant might invoke the laches doctrine as against a claim for equitable relief, or for remedies.
Today’s decision reversed the August 2012 ruling by the Ninth Circuit that Petrella had waited too long to assert her claims.
For more information, please contact one of the attorneys in Fitch Even’s Copyrights practice.
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