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Three Boys Music Corp. v. Bolton

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

October 5, 1999, Argued and Submitted, Pasadena, California ; May 9, 2000, Filed

Nos. 97-55150, 97-55154

Opinion

 [***1722]   [*480]  D.W. NELSON, Circuit Judge:

In 1994, a jury found that Michael Bolton's 1991 pop hit, "Love Is a Wonderful Thing," infringed on the copyright of a 1964 Isley Brothers' song of the same name. The district court denied Bolton's motion for a new trial and affirmed the jury's award of $ 5.4 million.

 [**2]  Bolton, his co-author, Andrew Goldmark, and their record companies ("Sony Music") appeal, arguing that the district court erred in finding that: (1) sufficient evidence supported the jury's finding that the appellants had access to the Isley Brothers' song; (2) sufficient evidence supported the jury's finding that the songs were substantially similar; (3) subject matter jurisdiction existed based on the Isley Brothers registering a complete copy of the song; (4) sufficient evidence supported the jury's attribution of profits to the infringing elements of the song; (5) Sony Music could not deduct its tax liability; and (6) the appellants' motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence was unwarranted.

We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

The Isley Brothers, one of this country's most well-known rhythm and blues groups, have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They helped define the soul sound of the 1960s with songs such as "Shout," "Twist and Shout," and "This Old Heart of Mine," and they mastered the funky beats of the 1970s with songs such as "Who's That Lady," "Fight the Power," and "It's Your Thing." In 1964, the Isley Brothers wrote and recorded "Love [**3]  is a Wonderful Thing" for United Artists. The Isley Brothers received a copyright for "Love is a Wonderful Thing" from the Register of Copyrights on February 6, 1964. The following year, they switched to the famous Motown label and had three top-100 hits including "This Old Heart of Mine."

Hoping to benefit from the Isley Brothers' Motown success, United Artists released "Love is a Wonderful Thing" in 1966. The song was not released on an album, only on a 45-record as a single. Several industry publications predicted that "Love is a Wonderful Thing" would be a hit - "Cash Box" on August 27, 1966, "Gavin Report" on August 26, 1966, and "Billboard" on September 10, 1966. On September 17, 1966, Billboard listed "Love is a Wonderful Thing" at number 110 in a chart titled "Bubbling Under the Hot 100." The song was never listed on any other Top 100 charts. In 1991, the Isley Brothers' "Love is a Wonderful Thing" was released  [*481]  on compact disc. See Isley Brothers, The Isley Brothers - The Complete UA Sessions, (EMI 1991).

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212 F.3d 477 *; 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 9163 **; 54 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1720 ***; Copy. L. Rep. (CCH) P28,082; 2000 Cal. Daily Op. Service 3651; 2000 Daily Journal DAR 4885

THREE BOYS MUSIC CORPORATION, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. MICHAEL BOLTON, individually and d/b/a MR. BOLTON'S MUSIC, INC.; ANDREW GOLDMARK; NON-PAREIL MUSIC, INC.; WARNER-CHAPPELL MUSIC LIMITED; WARNER-TAMERLANE PUBLISHING CORP.; WB MUSIC CORP.; and SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT, INC., Defendants-Appellants.

Subsequent History:  [**1]  Certiorari Denied January 22, 2001, Reported at: 2001 U.S. LEXIS 800.

Prior History: Appeals from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. CV-92-01177 LGB. Lourdes G. Baird, District Judge, Presiding.

Disposition: AFFIRMED.

CORE TERMS

song, infringing, Music, Wonderful, profits, district court, copying, substantially similar, income tax, played, motion for a new trial, deposit, subconscious, credibility, deduct, copyright infringement, album, jury's verdict, singer, reasonable access, extrinsic, cases, radio, complete copy, jury verdict, unprotectible, disseminated, similarity, television, intrinsic

Copyright Law, Copyright Infringement Actions, Civil Infringement Actions, Burdens of Proof, General Overview, Elements, Copying by Defendants, Access, Copying by Defendants, Ownership, Subject Matter, Statutory Copyright & Fixation, Judicial Review, Evidence, Weight & Sufficiency, Civil Procedure, Trials, Jury Trials, Province of Court & Jury, Standards of Review, Substantial Evidence, Sufficiency of Evidence, Substantial Similarity, Extrinsic Tests, Appeals, Clearly Erroneous Review, Inferences & Presumptions, Presumptions, Rebuttal of Presumptions, Jurisdiction, Registration Requirement, Scope of Copyright Protection, Formalities, Deposit & Registration Requirements, Deposits, Mandatory Deposits, Noncompliance With Mandatory Deposits, Registration, Error & Misstatement Correction, Remedies, Damages, Types of Damages, Compensatory Damages, Measurement of Damages, Infringement Profits, Abuse of Discretion, Judgments, Relief From Judgments, Motions for New Trials, Validity of Copyright, Validity of Facts, Registration Certificates, Originality Requirement