On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Warner Chappell Music, Inc. v. Nealy, an appeal of the Eleventh Circuit’s determination that a copyright plaintiff can recover damages for infringement occurring more than three years prior to filing suit. The Eleventh Circuit’s decision was based on the discovery accrual rule, which begins the limitations period at the moment a plaintiff becomes aware of or should reasonably learn of the infringement upon which a claim is based.
Sherman Nealy and Music Specialist, Inc. brought the underlying lawsuit against Warner and others based upon the alleged unauthorized licensing and use of songs owned by the plaintiffs. Much of alleged infringement occurred while Nealy was incarcerated, and he alleged that he did not become aware of the infringement until 2016. Nealy filed suit in 2018, within three years of the date he allegedly discovered the infringement. The district court held that Nealy’s claims were timely, but that he could only obtain damages for the three years prior to the filing of his lawsuit. The Eleventh Circuit overturned the finding that such a limit on damages existed, holding that Nealy could potentially recover damages outside the three-year period.Continue Reading Skeptical of the Second Circuit: U.S. Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Copyright Damages