April 7, 2009

"My Humps" Licensing Suit

Tolliver v. McCants, 05 Civ. 10840, 4/7/09 N.Y.L.J. "Decision of Interest" (S.D.N.Y. decided Mar. 25, 2009)

In 1982, plaintiff collaborated with defendant to produce a music album that included a recording of a musical composition entitled, "I Need a Freak." In 2005, defendant licensed the composition to the popular music group, The Black Eyed Peas, for use in their hit single, "My Humps." At issue in this case is whether the grant of the license by defendant infringed upon plaintiff's copyright to the composition. Both parties cross-moved for summary judgment. Plaintiff's motion was granted; defendant's denied.


Statute of Frauds: No writing assigning to defendant right to license work for derivative works, therefore no valid assignment so that the license for "My Humps" violated plaintiff's copyright.

Statute of Limitations: "conundrum" between the limitations period for an ownership claim and an infringement claim

Adding affirmative defense (laches) on summary judgment motion, 2.5 years after litigation commenced.