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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Chapter 3. The Martha Graham saga is back before the Second Circuit. After the last appeal, the Second Circuit had remanded the case to the district circuit solely to resolve the issue of who owned certain dances created by Martha Graham from 1956 to 1965. The District Court held that Martha Graham had assigned the common law copyrights in the dances to the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance and that Graham's heir, Ronald Protas had no right to them.

To add to the confusion, before the evidentiary hearing on this issue, Protas had sought a new trial and relief from the prior judgment based on newly discovered evidence and fraud. The Court had denied that application.

On appeal, the Second Circuit held that Protas's motion for a new trial and relief from the prior judgment was untimely because it was made more than a year after the judgment was entered. Protas had argued that the one-year period should not have begun to run until after the judgment after remand. The Second Circuit held that its prior decision, because it had affirmed the District Court, did not alter the positions of the parties so as to restart the time limit. With respect to the seven dances at issue on remand, Protas had gotten a new trial. Hence, the merits of the motion were not reached.

Protas also argued that the District Court had improperly to admit certain documents into evidence, but the Second Circuit held that the documents did not relate to the ownership of the seven dances at issue.

Finally, the Second Circuit held that the District Court had not abused its discretion in ruling that Martha Graham had assinged all her rights in the seven dances to the Center.

The deciison in Martha Graham School and Dance Foundation, Inc. v. Martha Graham Center of Contemporarty Dance, Inc. can be found here.

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