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Larry Spier, Inc. v. Bourne Co.
United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
953 F.2d 774 (1992)
Between 1925 and 1932, successful songwriter Dave Dreyer assigned to Bourne Co. (defendant) (as successor-in-interest of Irving Berlin, Inc.) the copyrights to certain musical compositions and, in 1951, assigned to Bourne the right to renew the copyrights therein. The assignment agreements further provided that royalties to be earned from the songs, including those from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), were to be distributed evenly between Dreyer (as author) and Bourne (as publisher). Bourne duly renewed the copyrights prior to their expiration. In 1965, Dreyer executed a will in which he purported to place the following music assets in a trust: (1) copyrights; (2) renewal copyrights and extensions thereof; (3) publishing contracts with respect to musical compositions written by Dreyer; and (4) the rights deriving from Dreyer’s membership in ASCAP, in accordance with its rules. Income from the trust was to be distributed evenly between Dreyer’s wife, children, and mistress. Dreyer died shortly thereafter. Later, in 1981, Dreyer’s surviving heirs attempted to terminate the assignments that Dreyer made to Bourne by serving Bourne with a notice of termination in accordance with Section 304(c) of the Copyright Act. Dreyer’s heirs then assigned the copyrights to Larry Spier, Inc. (plaintiff). Spier initiated suit after Bourne refused to recognize the termination and relinquish the copyrights. The district court concluded that Bourne was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law because Section 304(c) prohibited recognition of the assignment under which Spier claimed ownership of the copyrights in question.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Miner, J.)
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