Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Second Circuit copyright decision on statutory damages

The Second Circuit recently decided a case that raised the issue of how to count the number of statutory damage awards are available under section 504(c)(1) of the Copyright Act. In WB Music Corp. v. RTV Communications Group, Inc., No. 04-3890, 04-3892 & 04-3901 (2d Cir. Apr. 19, 2006), the defendant had sold seven CDs that infringed plaintiffs' copyrights in 13 songs. Section 504(c)(1) provides for one statutory damage award for each work that is infringed. The last sentence of section 504(c)(1) further provides that, for purposes of calculating statutory damages, all parts of a derivative work or compilation constitute one work.

The trial court thought that since the defendants' infringing CDs were compilations, that meant there were seven infringing works. The Second Circuit disagreed, holding that the last sentence refers to the copyrighted works, not the infringing works. Therefore, since the defendants infringed 13 different songs, they were on the hook for 13 statutory damage awards.

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