Petrella v. MGM, Inc. - Oral Argument - January 21, 2014

Petrella v. MGM, Inc.

Media for Petrella v. MGM, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - May 19, 2014 in Petrella v. MGM, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 21, 2014 in Petrella v. MGM, Inc.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We will hear argument next in Case 12-1315, Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Stephen G. Breyer:

But I mean now what you're talking about is custom.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Mr. Bibas?

Stephanos Bibas:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This Court has never applied laches to constrict a Federal statute of limitations, and rejected such a claim just four years ago.

Laches cannot bar these copyright infringement claims for four reasons: First, under the separate accrual rule, these claims are timely.

Respondents committed these discrete wrongs from 2006 on, but would use Petitioner's failure to challenge earlier wrongs to foreclose these later claims before they even arose.

Second, laches is a gap filler, but Congress filled this gap with a Bright-line statute of limitations.

Third, Congress chose a clear, predictable timeliness rule.

And fourth, injunctive relief must remain available to protect Petitioner's property right against ongoing violations, less Respondents effectively get a compulsory license for free for the next four decades.

Antonin Scalia:

Let's -- Let's take your second point.

What a statute of limitations says is not that you are -- are scot-free within the statute of limitations period.

It simply is a negative.

It says you can't be sued beyond that, right?

Stephanos Bibas:

Yes.

The wording of a statute of limitations--

Antonin Scalia:

So it seems to me there is nothing -- if -- if we adopted the position of the other side, there's nothing that would cause the statute of limitations to be frustrated.

Stephanos Bibas:

--This is not purely about the text, but about the background principle of equity that laches is.

Laches domain was as a gap filler where there was no -- no timeliness rule.

Congress has occupied the field with a timeliness rule here and displaced it.

That's why laches developed in equity to compensate for the absence of limitation periods.

Antonin Scalia:

Yes, but it continued to be used in equity, even when there were limitations period, didn't it.

It may have started that way, but that was certainly not its only use.

Stephanos Bibas:

Not where there was a binding, a Federal one.

Where there was an analogous one that was borrowed loosely from a State in diversity, Federal courts understood themselves to have flexibility to vary from the State limitation period because it wasn't Federal law.

Antonin Scalia:

Well, it was Federal law.

Federal law adopted it.

It was Federal law.

Stephanos Bibas:

This was in the pre-Erie days where there was an understanding that there was a general Federal common law, an equity, that those cases were decided.

That -- this court in Holmberg v. Armbrecht understood this almost as a Chevron-type argument.