Published on:

Famed singer-songwriter Roger Miller assigned original and renewal copyrights to his songs to defendant in the 1960s. Defendant filed applications to register renewal copyrights for 1964 songs with the Copyright Office in 1992 and subsequently registered these copyrights. In 2004, plaintiff, a company formed by Miller’s heirs, sued for copyright infringement. The district court held that defendant owned the renewal copyrights and held an implied, non-exclusive license to exploit the 1964 songs based on plaintiff’s actions and inactions in accepting royalty payments. Defendant moved to amend the judgment, arguing that it owned the renewal copyrights because it had applied to register them prior to Miller’s death. The district court refused to hear arguments on the issue. On remand, the district court concluded that defendant did not own the renewal copyrights because Miller had died prior to vesting of the renewal rights and assignees were not included in the list of statutory successors. The court awarded $903,349.17 in damages. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 304(a)(2)(B)(i), the renewal copyright vested with Roger Miller, and thus with defendant as his assignee. View “Roger Miller Music, Inc. v. Sony/ATV Publ’g, LLC” on Justia Law

Published on:

For about 15 years, defendant owned and operated a business that trained individuals to use the computer-aided design program CATIA, which was developed by plaintiff. Plaintiff owns the copyrights for CATIA software products and has registered the CATIA trademark with the USPTO. Plaintiff sought damages for copyright and trademark infringement, unfair competition, and Michigan Consumer Protection Act violations arising from allegedly unauthorized use of its name and software licenses to operate a for-profit training course. The district court ruled in favor of plaintiff. The Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s refusal to set aside default judgment against defendant, who was pro se, and likely confused rather than engaging in a strategy of delay and who raised a plausible defense. The court upheld the court’s grant of plaintiff’s motion for leave to subpoena the FBI, which had seized defendant’s computers; the information sought was not protected grand jury information. View “Dassault Systemes, SA v. Childress” on Justia Law

Published on:

Pleased with the results of their first collaboration, the author and musician co-authored and recorded a second song. The relationship collapsed and the musician signed as a recording artist with unrelated recording and management companies. Accusations and altercations followed, and the author filed suit, alleging a “novel” claim of copyright infringement against the musician and others for preventing the author from commercially exploiting the two songs through threats contained in cease-and-desist letters and requests to music retailers that the songs not be offered for sale. The district court dismissed for failure to state a claim of copyright infringement. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the copyright infringement claim, but reversed dismissal of a declaratory judgment claim. The author’s allegation that the musician transferred an interest in the first song, which she did not own, is not the same thing as creating an improper copy of the song and such transfer does not constitute infringement under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 106. The cease-and-desist letters on which the declaratory judgment action was based essentially challenge the authorship and ownership of the songs, implicating federal law, so its dismissal as a state law claim was improper. View “Severe Records, LLC, v. Rich” on Justia Law

Published on:

Michigan Document Services is a commercial copy shop that reproduced substantial segments of copyrighted works of scholarship, bound the copies into “coursepacks,” and sold the coursepacks to students. The copy shop acted without permission from the copyright holders, and the main question presented in the case was whether the fair use doctrine obviated the need to obtain such permission. Answering this question “no,” and finding the infringement willful, the District Court entered a summary judgment order (855 F. Supp. 905). On appeal, the Court Circuit found that the defendants’ commercial exploitation of the copyrighted materials did not constitute fair use.

Princeton University Press, Macmillan, Inc., and St.martin’s Press, Inc., Plaintiffs-appellees, v. Michigan Document Services, Inc.

MDS Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States January 30, 1997 (cert. denied, 117 S.Ct. 1336 (1997)).

Previous Decisions

Princeton University Press v. Michigan Document Services, INC., 1996 U.S. App. LEXIS 1919 (6th Cir. 1996) decision vacated
Princeton University Press v. Michigan Document Services, INC.
, 1996 U.S. App. LEXIS 7474 (6th Cir. 1996)

Analysis and Reports

  • An analysis of the MDS decision was prepared for the Association of Research Libraries by Kenneth D. Crews
  • Whom Do You Trust? Op Ed by Michigan Law’s Roberta J. Morris and Jonathan Franklin

Briefs and Documents



  • Michigan Document Services


Posted in: Cases
Published on: