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A Jenner & Block team led by Partner Andrew H. Bart recently won an important victory for firm client UMG Recordings when District Court Judge Milton Shadur of the Northern District of Illinois granted UMG’s motion to dismiss a complaint for copyright infringement brought by gospel music artists Clara Shepherd (Warrick) and Jimmy Lee Weary. The plaintiffs’ claims concerned the sampled use of a small portion of their song “I’m So Grateful (Keep in Touch)” as background over which Jay Z, Dr. Dre and Rick Ross performed rap lyrics in a work titled “3 Kings,” on the album God Forgives – I Don’t.
The court granted the motion to dismiss the federal copyright claim with prejudice on two grounds: (1) that UMG was a co-copyright owner of the song and, thus, could not be sued for infringement and (2) that the statute of limitations for contesting copyright ownership was a strict three-year period and had run more than 30 years before plaintiffs brought their suit.
This ruling continues a string of successes the firm's Content Media and Entertainment Practice has achieved for UMG, as both plaintiff and defendant, over the past 18 months, in a variety of cases ranging from claims of copyright infringement to disputes over the applicable royalty rate on digital downloads.