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Bryant v. Media Right Productions, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
603 F.3d 135 (2010)


Facts

Anne Bryant and Ellen Bernfeld (plaintiffs) created and produced two albums called Songs for Dogs and Songs for Cats. The plaintiffs copyrighted both albums and several of the individual songs on the albums. The plaintiffs entered into an agreement with Media Right Productions, Inc. (Media Right) (defendant) to market the albums. Media Right entered into an agreement with Orchard Enterprises, Inc. (Orchard) (defendant) to sell and distribute the albums. Media Right gave Orchard physical copies of the albums. About two years later, Orchard made digital copies of the albums and began selling downloadable forms of both the complete albums and individual songs over the internet. Over the next six years, Orchard received $12 from selling the physical albums and $579 from selling the digital downloads. When the plaintiffs discovered that their albums were available online, they sued Media Right, Media Right’s president (defendant), and Orchard for copyright infringement. The district court found that the defendants had committed direct copyright infringement. However, the court also found that Orchard was an innocent infringer. The court ordered Orchard to pay the plaintiffs just the statutory minimum for innocent infringement, which was $200 per work infringed. Because two copyrighted albums had been infringed, Orchard owed $400 in total damages. The court was unable to determine whether Media Right was an innocent or willful infringer. The court ordered Media Right to pay $1000 for each work that had been infringed. Because two copyrighted albums had been infringed, this meant Media Right owed a total of $2000 in statutory damages to plaintiffs. The plaintiffs appealed. Among other things, the plaintiffs argued that the district court erred by granting separate statutory damages for only two copyrighted works, the two albums, rather than for each song on the albums.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wood, J.)

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