COPYRIGHT SUIT OVER TIMBERLAKE SAMPLE REVIVED
Steven T. Lowe
On June 5, 2018, the 2nd Circuit revived a copyright infringement suit against Justin Timberlake and others in connection with the song “Suit & Tie,” and J. Cole’s song “Chaining Day,” brought by the members of “Sly Slick & Wicked”, over their song “Sho ‘Nuff.”
The songwriters 2016 lawsuit was dismissed by a New York federal judge in 2017 after he ruled that the plaintiffs had been on notice about record labels’ claimed ownership of their copyrights since 1973, thus making their 2016 lawsuit too late. However, the 2nd circuit Court of Appeals found the trial court erred in this decision.
On June 6, 2018, the appellate justices found the songwriters had properly filed copyrights for the work in question via registrations filed by UMG Recordings, Unichappell Music and Dynatone Publishing, and that “Timberlake and J. Cole’s songs were released in 2013, putting the 2016 complaint inside the three-year deadline for copyright claims.” The appellate court added “the 1974 copyright registration, in which the record labels called the song a work for hire, didn’t stop the songwriters from claiming ownership of the renewal terms for the copyright years later…nor does the lack of royalty payments during the original terms support a finding that defendants repudiated plaintiffs’ ownership of the renewal term copyrights.”
The case is John Wilson et al. v. Dynatone Publishing Co. et al., case number 17-1549, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.