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Folkways Music Publishers, Inc. v. Weiss

989 F.2d 108 (1993)

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Folkways Music Publishers, Inc. v. Weiss

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

989 F.2d 108 (1993)

Facts

In 1951 Pete Seeger and the Weavers wrote “Wimoweh,” an arrangement of a South African song by Solomon Linda called “Mbube.” All rights in “Wimoweh” were assigned to Folkways Music Publishers, Inc. (Folkways) (plaintiff), which registered a copyright on the song in 1952. In 1961 George David Weiss, June Peretti, and Luigi Creatore (the songwriters) (defendants) wrote a new version, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” which Folkways claimed infringed the copyright on “Wimoweh.” The songwriters agreed to assign all rights in “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” to Folkways, which copyrighted the song in 1961. The agreement stipulated that any disputes would be submitted to arbitration. In 1979 the “Wimoweh” copyright was renewed and again assigned to Folkways. Meanwhile, Linda’s widow allegedly assigned copyright ownership of “Mbube” to Folkways. The copyright on “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” expired in 1989, after which the songwriters expressed an intention to reassert ownership of the song unless Folkways paid for rights to the renewal term. Folkways refused. The songwriters demanded arbitration. Folkways filed suit for copyright infringement and moved to stay the arbitration. The district court ordered the arbitration to proceed. The arbitration panel determined that all rights in “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” reverted to the songwriters in 1989, free of any claims from Folkways. The district court affirmed the arbitration award. Folkways appealed, arguing that it still had valid rights in “Mbube” and “Wimoweh” that provided the basis for an infringement claim. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Oakes, J.)

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