"Allowing Petrella's suit to go forward will put at risk only a fraction of the income MGM has earned during that period and will work no unjust hardship on innocent third parties, such as consumers who have purchased copies of `Raging Bull,"' Ginsburg said.
Ginsburg was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer said the legal doctrine of unreasonable delay should apply to Petrella's case because she waited 18 years after renewing her copyright to file a lawsuit. He said The effect of delaying legal action can give plaintiffs an unfair advantage in a copyright claim and should be a viable defense.
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Breyer was joined in dissent by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Groups including the Motion Picture Association of America, Consumer Electronics Association, DirecTV and TiVo sided with MGM, arguing that it's unfair to allow plaintiffs to wait years or decades to file copyright claims while studios invest millions in their products.
But Petrella won support from groups including the Authors Guild and the Songwriters Guild of America. They argued that the rolling three-year copyright protection is fair to artists and gives them incentive to create their works.
—By The Associated Press