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Griffin v. Sheeran

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

March 24, 2020, Decided; March 24, 2020, Filed

17 Civ. 5221 (LLS)

Opinion

OPINION & ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' FIRST MOTION IN LIMINE

The issues raised by defendants' application for in limine rulings are disposed of as follows.

The Deposit Copy

On July 17, 1973, in compliance with the then - applicable 1909 Copyright Act Sections 9 and 12, 17 U.S.C. §§ 5(e), 9, 10, 12 (1964), plaintiffs' predecessor in interest Ed Townsend filed with the Copyright Office (through music publishers) the application for registration of the musical composition Let's Get It On, and deposited two copies of the sheet music he had authored. The [*2]  copyright was registered as No. EP 314589, and the sheet music deposited with the Copyright Office ("Deposit Copy") defines "precisely what was the subject of copyright." Merrell v. Tice, 104 U.S. 557, 561, 26 L. Ed. 854 (1881). "[T]he scope of the copyright is limited by the deposit copy." Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin, No. 16-56057, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 7585, March 9, 2020 p. 20 (9th Cir. 2020) (en banc). The Deposit Copy is the sole definition of the elements included in the protection of copyright, which does not include other embellishments, even if they were added by Townsend himself - because they have not undergone the copyright process. The Copyright Office cautions that "a registration for a work of authorship only covers the material that is included in the deposit copy(ies)" and "does not cover authorship that does not appear in the deposit copy(ies), even if the applicant expressly claims that authorship in the application." U.S. Copyright Office, Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices. §504.2 (3d ed. 2017).

Nor is the field of protected elements enlarged on the theory they are consistent, and harmonize with the work as articulated in the Deposit Copy, and are implied by the way the articulated elements are expressed. If what is implied is not in the Deposit [*3]  Copy, it does not have the protection of copyright.

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2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52908 *

KATHRYN TOWNSEND GRIFFIN, HELEN MCDONALD, and THE EST ATE OF CHERRIGALE TOWNSEND, Plaintiffs, - against - EDWARD CHRISTOPHER SHEERAN, p/n/a ED SHEERAN, ATLANTIC RECORDING CORPORATION, d/b/a ATLANTIC RECORDS, SONY/ATV MUSIC PUBLISHING, LLC, and WARNER MUSIC GROUP CORPORATION, d/b/a ASYLUM RECORDS, Defendants.

Prior History: Griffin v. Sheeran, 351 F. Supp. 3d 492, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1137 (S.D.N.Y., Jan. 2, 2019)

CORE TERMS

Deposit, sound recording, in limine, defendants', authorship, musical composition, sheet music, registration, articulated