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United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
July 19, 2007, Argued; October 17, 2007, Decided; October 17, 2007, Filed
File Name: 07a0425p.06
[****1451] [*475] [***2] ROGERS, Circuit Judge. Plaintiffs, Bridgeport Music, Inc., and Westbound Records, Inc., owned the copyright to the Ohio Players' song, "Singing in the Morning." Defendant music publishers 2 released the Notorious B.I.G. album Ready to Die, the title song of which contained an unlicensed sample of "Singing in the Morning." After plaintiffs brought suit against defendants for copyright infringement, a jury found in favor of plaintiffs [**2] and awarded compensatory and punitive damages. Bridgeport elected [****1452] statutory damages under the federal Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq., and received the maximum award of $ 150,000. Westbound received its one-half share of compensatory damages, $ 366,939, and punitive damages in the amount of $ 3.5 million.
Defendants make ten arguments on appeal: (1) the jury verdict was the result of passion and prejudice; (2) the district court erroneously excluded evidence that [*476] defendants argue demonstrates that they did not infringe willfully; (3) the district court erroneously bifurcated the trial into liability and punitive damages phases after the trial had commenced; (4) UMG was released from liability; (5) the district court erred by failing to apportion compensatory damages between the infringing and non-infringing portions of the song and album; (6) the jury's award of compensatory damages improperly included compounded interest; (7) the jury's award of compensatory damages improperly [**3] included prejudgment interest; (8) the jury's selection of May 4, 1998, as the date from which prejudgment interest should be calculated was in conflict with state law; (9) the jury's $ 3.5 million punitive damage award was unconstitutionally excessive; and (10) the district court erred by entering an injunction and impoundment order.
Defendants are correct only with respect to issues six, seven, eight, and nine. The jury's compensatory damage award appears to have been the result of a mistake, which resulted in the award's including compounded, prejudgment interest. The date that the jury selected for the time from which prejudgment interest should be awarded was the beginning of the statute of limitations period, and thus conflicts with New York law (which governed Westbound's claims). The punitive damages award violates due process when measured against defendants' conduct, the harm that plaintiffs suffered, and the statutory damages that federal law permits. The other issues raised by defendants are without merit. We remand with instructions for the district court to offer plaintiffs a remittitur with respect to the compensatory and punitive damages award and to select a reasonable [**4] date from which to calculate prejudgment interest.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
507 F.3d 470 *; 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 24262 **; 2007 FED App. 0425P (6th Cir.) ***; 84 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1449 ****; Copy. L. Rep. (CCH) P29,461
BRIDGEPORT MUSIC, INC.; WESTBOUND RECORDS, INC., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. JUSTIN COMBS PUBLISHING and BAD BOY ENTERTAINMENT, individually and doing business as Bad Boy Records; UNIVERSAL RECORDS, a division of UMG Recordings, Inc.; UMG RECORDINGS, INC.; BAD BOY LLC, Defendants-Appellants.
Subsequent History: Rehearing, en banc, denied by Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Justin Combs Publ. & Bad Boy Entm't, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 3773 (6th Cir., Feb. 19, 2008)
US Supreme Court certiorari denied by Westbound Records, Inc. v. Justin Combs Publ'g, 555 U.S. 818, 129 S. Ct. 85, 172 L. Ed. 2d 29, 2008 U.S. LEXIS 6770 (Oct. 6, 2008)
On remand at, Judgment entered by Westbound Records, Inc. v. Justin Combs Publ., Inc., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29507 (M.D. Tenn., Apr. 3, 2009)
Prior History: [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee at Nashville. No. 05-00155--Todd J. Campbell, Chief District Judge.
Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Justin Combs Publ, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53956 (M.D. Tenn., Nov. 7, 2005)
Disposition: The appellate court affirmed in part and denied in part the district court's decision.
infringement, district court, defendants', plaintiffs', compensatory damages, damages, album, punitive damages, profits, award of punitive damages, prejudgment interest, song, ratio, reprehensibility, injunction, bifurcate, settlement offer, jury award, licensing, compounded, statutory damages, Records, award damages, laches, federal copyright, impoundment, calculated, settlement, willfully, lawsuit
Civil Procedure, Trials, Closing Arguments, Improper Remarks, Copyright Law, Damages, Types of Damages, Statutory Damages, Evidence, Admissibility, Statements as Evidence, Compromise & Settlement Negotiations, Appeals, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Separate Trials, Infringement Profits, Remedies, Measurement of Damages, General Overview, Civil Infringement Actions, Injunctions, Defenses, Estoppel