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TAA Joins Five Other Author Groups in Support of Respondents in Supreme Court Copyright Case

The Textbook & Academic Authors Association (TAA) joined with five other author groups to file an amicus brief in support of the respondents in a U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit arguing whether under the Copyright Act’s statute of limitations rule, and the “discovery accrual rule” plaintiffs in copyright infringement cases “can recover damages for acts that allegedly occurred more than three years before the filing of a lawsuit.”

The “discovery rule” means that the statute of limitations starts running from the date the infringement is discovered rather than from the date the infringement occurred. This means that even if a work was infringed 10 years ago, if I discovered it today, I would have the next three years to decide whether to bring a claim. The question in this case is: even if the infringement happened ten years ago and I discovered it today, could I still recover damages for the infringement that occurred ten years ago?

The petitioners in this case have taken the position that the discovery rule should not apply to copyright claims at all. In the brief in support of the respondents, filed January 12, 2024, TAA, along with The Authors Guild, The Dramatists Legal Defense Fund, The Graphic Artists Guild, The Romance Writers of America, and The Songwriters Guild of America, Inc., argue that the petitioners are focused on the wrong issue: the legitimacy of the discovery rule is not up for discussion, the only question before the Court relates to the calculation of damages under the discovery rule. In light of this fact, the amicus brief says that this case should not be before the Supreme Court at all and asks the Court to “dismiss the writ of certiorari as improvidently granted.”

Alternatively, the amicus brief argues that if the Court does want to weigh in on the legitimacy of the discovery rule, it should affirm it. The author groups assert that “the discovery rule is sound policy” and is “especially important in the digital age” when “wrongdoers can more easily infringe works and do so at scale with high-quality copies, making it harder for artists to police infringement.” Furthermore, they said, “Once an artist does find an infringement, he or she faces great difficulties in obtaining legal relief. Under Petitioners’ proposed rule, these difficulties would become insurmountable, to all of our detriment.” In other words, where it can be so hard to find or detect infringement in the first place, authors should not be hamstrung from pursuing any relief, i.e., damages that they can get once they discover it.

The brief goes on to assert that “eliminating the discovery rule here would be a disruptive reversal of decades of jurisprudence, would upend the expectations of copyright holders and users alike, and would disincentivize creation of new works. Thus, should the Court engage Petitioners’ attempt to go beyond the Question Presented, it should endorse the unanimous view of the circuit courts and hold that the Copyright Act’s statute of limitations is subject to the discovery accrual rule.”

Read the entire Writ of Certiorari