Roger Miller Music, Inc. v. Sony/ATV Publishing 2007 WL 443048
In what is becoming a normative complicated and attenuated set of facts for a renewal case, this case involves whether the renewal of Roger Miller’s 1958 – 1964 music was timely.
Mary Miller, the widow of Roger, sued Sony for copyright infringement asserting that the Roger Miller estate and not Sony owned the renewal rights. Key to the complicated set of facts is that Sony filed the renewal documents on behalf of Miller personally in the twenty eighth year, before Miller died later in that same twenty eighth year.
This tee-ed up the question simply as: can a copyright renewal term vest before the renewal term begins?
The issue is further complicated because these pre-1978 musical works are now governed by the 1998 Bono Copyright Extension Act which states:
Section 304(c)(2)(A) At the expiration of the original term of copyright in a work specified in paragraph (1)(B) of this subsection, the copyright shall endure for a renewed and extended further term of 67 years, which —
(i) if an application to register a claim to such further term has been made to the Copyright Office within 1 year before the expiration of the original term of copyright, and the claim is registered, shall vest, upon the beginning of such further term, in the proprietor of the copyright who is entitled to claim the renewal of copyright at the time the application is made; or
(ii) if no such application is made or the claim pursuant to such application is not registered, shall vest, upon the beginning of such further term, in the person or entity that was the proprietor of the copyright as of the last day of the original term of copyright.
The trial court ruled that because Roger Miller was alive at the time that Sony filed the renewal, the renewal rights went to Sony.
The renewal rights of the pre-1978 works are proving to be valuable; and the courts are giving us more guidance on when and how the timing of the renewal dance works. More proof that copyrights are economically vibrant, still.