A federal appeals court rejected a claim that entertainer Stevie Wonder violated a copyright with his recordings of a song titled “For Your Love.” The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that Derrick Coles, who claimed he had prior copyright ownership of the song, and Gwendolyn Daniles, who said Coles conveyed his interest in the song to her in 1991, failed to prove their allegations.
The appeals court upheld a Cleveland federal judge’s July 2000 ruling that Coles and Daniles must pay $173,871 in attorney fees and $23,884 in other costs to Wonder and co-defendants Motown Record Co. and Stevland Morris Publishing.
Those damages are allowed under federal copyright law to discourage people who might be tempted to bring meritless lawsuits against artists, said appeals judges Alan Norris, Eric Clay and Edmund Sargus Jr.
They said Coles and Daniles failed to produce records to prove their claim that Coles had a copyright to “For Your Love” earlier than 1990. Wonder’s side had records proving he recorded the song in 1982, the court said.
Wonder also included it on a 1995 album, “Conversation Peace.” Wonder obtained a publishing copyright of the song in 1994 and Motown Record Co. obtained a copyright in 1995 for the “Conversation Peace” recording, their lawyers said.
“Because he retained copies of ‘For Your Love’ that dated from 1982, Stevie Wonder was able to prevail in this action even though he obtained his copyright of the song after plaintiff,” Norris wrote for the court.
Coles contended he had worked on the song in the 1970s and recorded it in 1982. But he didn’t provide records to prove that, the appeals judges said in upholding U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr.’s ruling for Wonder.
Coles’ lawyers did not return calls Wednesday for a response.