Hip-hop artist Tyrone Simmons waited too long to “get money.” His copyright infringement suit over a beat he owned and that was used in rapper 50 Cent’s 2007 hit I Get Money, has been dismissed due to untimeliness (tip of the hat to Loeb and Loeb for posting the case).
In 2006, Simmons purchased a hip-hop beat created by defendant William C. Stanberry Jr. It later was sold to defendant Curtis Jackson (aka 50 Cent) who used it in Money. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found that because Simmons waited more than three years to file suit, he is barred by the statue of limitations. Musicians off on their timing? It happens this way:
In May, 2007, Stanberry stated in an email to Simmons that he “no longer had exclusive (or any) rights to the Beat.”
The Copyright Act bars actions relating to infringing acts that are brought after its three-year statute of limitations, 17 U.S.C § 507(b). Citing Kwan v. Schlein, 634 F.3d 224 (2d Cir. 2011), the court stated that the infringement claim must fail when the ownership claim is time-barred, and, thus, because Simmons knew of Stanberry’s intention to use the work.
Money hard to miss
Further, as a fellow hip-hop artist, Simmons must have noticed Money. It spent 14 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at No. 20. It also reached No. 4 on the Billboard Rap chart. With the clear success of the song using his beat, why would Simmons wait to sue? By the time the song achieved Gold certification in 2012, time had already run out.
Simmons argued that the time limit did not apply because he was an exclusive license holder, not the copyright owner. But the court found that distinction immaterial and that the act includes exclusive licenses that can affect copyright ownership. That led the appeals judges to affirm the decision by a federal court in New York.