The Supreme Court revived a copyright suit against
The 6-3 decision is a setback for the Hollywood studios, which have relied on a legal doctrine that old copyright claims should be thrown out.
In the "Raging Bull" case, Frank Petrella was registered as the sole author of the 1963 screenplay depicting the life of boxing champion Jake LaMotta. The two had collaborated on a book and the screenplay, which led to the 1980 movie directed by
Petrella died in 1981, but his daughter, Paula, renewed the copyright on the original screenplay. And in 2009, she filed a copyright suit in Los Angeles contending she should receive some of the profits from the re-release of the movie.
The Copyright Act of 1976 says copyright holders can seek royalties going back only three years, so Petrella's claim was limited to profits only from 2006.
A federal judge and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out her claim based on the legal doctrine of "laches," a finding that her claim was stale because she had waited too long to assert her rights.
Petrella appealed to the Supreme Court and won a reversal.