A blog about patent, copyright and trademark law in the U.S. District Court
for the Southern District of New York

Court Finds Copyright Ownership Claim Time-Barred, Allows Work-for-Hire Defense

In a June 26, 2015 ruling, Judge Kimba M. Wood ruled that the counterclaim plaintiff’s copyright ownership claim over certain photographs taken by the counterclaim defendant was barred by the three year statute of limitations. The Court wrote that the statute begins to run “‘when a reasonably diligent plaintiff would have been put on inquiry as to the existence of a right.’” Judge Wood found that the counterclaim plaintiff had been put on notice of the counterclaim defendant’s “‘express assertion of sole authorship or ownership’” more than three years before suit. Judge Wood nevertheless permitted the counterclaim plaintiff to assert its work-for-hire defense in response to the counterclaim defendant’s copyright ownership claim, noting that the statute of limitations does not bar a defense. In considering the work-for-hire defense, the Court wrote that merely because the counterclaim defendant’s job responsibilities included taking photographs at times, that does not automatically mean that every photograph the counterclaim defendant took (for example, while “off the clock”) was in the scope of his employment duties, and thus denied in part summary judgment on the defense.
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