Garza v. Everly

Docket Number: 21-5530
Judge: John K. Bush
Opinion Date: February 10, 2023

The Everly Brothers (Phil and Don) are known for many musical hits, including Cathy’s Clown, recorded, released, and copyrighted in 1960. The copyrights listed both brothers as authors; both were credited as co-authors and received royalties. In 1980, Phil signed notarized documents titled “Release and Assignment,” related to Cathy’s Clown and other works: “Phil Everly desires to release, and transfer, to the said Don Everly all of his rights, interests and claim in and to [‘Cathy’s Clown’], including rights to royalties and his claim as co-composer. In 2017, Don sued Phil’s estate for a declaratory judgment that Don was the sole author of Cathy’s Clown. There was contradictory evidence of Phil’s factual authorship, particularly a 1984 television interview.

The district court found that Don repudiated Phil’s authorship of Cathy’s Clown, which triggered a three-year window for Phil to make an authorship claim under the Copyright Act. Phil did not do so. The district court rejected Phil’s estate’s argument that the three-year limitations period should not apply to the defense that Phil is a co-author. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Don’s estate may rely on the statute of limitations. The district court did not clearly err in finding that Phil failed to exercise his rights after Don repudiated his authorship. View “Garza v. Everly” on Justia Law

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