Despite Jury Finding of Defendants’ Willful Infringement, Plaintiff Awarded Only 20% of Requested § 505 Fees

After a jury trial where the jury found that defendants willfully infringed on two of plaintiff's copyrights and awarded statutory damages, the court reduced plaintiff's requested amount of § 505 attorney fees by 80% because defendants' positions were not objectively unreasonable, and an award of full fees would not serve the goals of compensation and deterrence. "The Fogerty factors mostly weigh neutral, except for the objective unreasonableness and frivolousness factor and deterrence and compensation factor. Plaintiff achieved a low degree of success, Defendants did not present unreasonable or frivolous positions, there is no evidence of Plaintiff’s improper motive in bringing [...]

2018-08-14T12:12:03+00:00August 14th, 2018|Copyright, Docket Report|

Jury’s Award of Plaintiff’s Statutory Damages in the Same Amount as Defendants’ Contract Damages Does Not Warrant New Trial

After a jury trial where the jury found that defendants willfully infringed on two of plaintiff's copyrights and awarded $75,761.80 in statutory damages--the same amount awarded to defendants' for their breach of contract claim--the court denied defendants' motion for a new trial and rejected defendants' claim that plaintiff's damages award was a miscarriage of justice. "⁠[T]here was ample evidence upon which the jury could determine Defendants’ infringement of Plaintiff’s copyrighted designs was willful: (1) Defendants had access to Plaintiff’s designs, (2) Defendants sold the designs to third parties, and (3) Defendants continued to produce and sell the designs after receiving [...]

2018-08-13T11:29:03+00:00August 13th, 2018|Copyright, Docket Report|

Failure to Describe Registered Works as “Registered” in Complaint Does Not Defeat Claim at Pleadings Stage

The court denied defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's infringement claim and rejected defendants' argument that plaintiff's failure to allege in its complaint that the works at issue were registered defeated the claim. "Defendants contend that [plaintiff] fails to state a copyright infringement claim because it 'did not allege, as it must to sustain an infringement claim, that the [d]ata [s]heets are registered.' . . . Plaintiff responds that the data sheets are registered, and attaches the registrations as exhibits. Given that [plaintiff] registered its data sheets for copyright protection prior to filing the initial complaint, the mere fact that it [...]

2018-08-10T11:34:02+00:00August 10th, 2018|Copyright, Docket Report|

Defendants’ Distribution Agreements Inform Statutory Damages Award on Default

In conjunction with granting plaintiff's request for entry of default judgment, the court found plaintiff's willfulness allegations improperly conclusory and reduced plaintiff's requested amount of statutory damages. "⁠[Plaintiff] alleges that Defendants 'knowingly, deliberately, intentionally and willfully copied and exploited the Protected Work,' but provided no specific facts showing willfulness. In ruling on this Motion, the Court disregards such conclusory allegations and instead looks only to the well-pleaded factual allegations in the Complaint, along with affidavits and documentary evidence in the record. Considering only these sources, the Court cannot find that Defendants willfully infringed the Protected Work. . . . While [...]

2018-08-09T11:55:02+00:00August 9th, 2018|Copyright, Docket Report|

Agreement’s Use of Phrase “Works Made for Hire” Precludes Parol Evidence Regarding Copyright Ownership

The court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment that it did not infringe on the plaintiff estate's copyrights in 44 movie reviews written by the decedent because a letter written to the decedent from the publishing entity constituted an agreement that the reviews were works for hire. "⁠The parties agree that the letter on its face is a contract and that [the decedent] signed the agreement in the space provided. . . . [N]either side ever addressed what the Court would characterize as the 'elephant in the room,' the parol evidence rule. The 2004 letter agreement purports to memorialize in [...]

2018-08-08T12:21:03+00:00August 8th, 2018|Copyright, Docket Report|

Allegation that Defendant Permitted Use of Plaintiff’s Songs “Without Compensation” to Plaintiff Insufficient to Allege § 106 Violation

The court granted a defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's infringement claim because plaintiff failed to sufficiently allege that the defendant violated one of plaintiff's 17 U.S.C. § 106 rights. "Plaintiff’s allegations . . . state that [the defendant] infringed Plaintiff’s songs 'by permitting the publishing of the songs or otherwise permitting use of the songs without compensation to Plaintiff.' [The defendant] interprets 'without compensation' to mean without paying songwriter royalties, and argues that a failure to pay royalties does not constitute a violation of one of the six exclusive § 106 rights. Plaintiff concedes his allegations are vague, yet fails [...]

2018-08-07T11:29:02+00:00August 7th, 2018|Copyright, Docket Report|

Presumption of Originality Does Not Extend to Works Covered by a Chinese Copyright Registration

After a jury trial where a verdict was returned in plaintiff's favor, the court denied defendant's renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law and rejected defendant's argument that the court erred in failing to instruct the jury that a design covered by a Chinese copyright registration was presumed to be an original work. "The Court is aware of no authority holding that foreign copyrights convey a presumption of originality that would come with a United States registration. International treaties do require United States courts to recognize foreign copyrights. But recognition of a foreign copyright does not mean that [...]

2018-08-06T11:54:02+00:00August 6th, 2018|Copyright, Docket Report|

Plaintiffs’ Prevailing-Party Status Precludes Defendants’ Recovery of Attorney Fees Incurred After Plaintiffs’ Rejection of Rule 68 Offer

After the court partially granted plaintiffs' motion for attorney fees and determined that they were the prevailing party, the court denied defendants' motion for attorney fees incurred following plaintiffs' rejection of defendants' Rule 68 offer of judgment because a fee award was precluded by plaintiffs' prevailing-party status. "The Fifth Circuit has not yet addressed whether a losing defendant in a copyright case is entitled to an award of attorney's fees incurred following a Rule 68 offer of judgment that exceeds the amount ultimately recovered by a prevailing plaintiff. Although there is a split of authority, the majority position is that [...]

2018-08-03T12:21:02+00:00August 3rd, 2018|Copyright, Docket Report|

Defaulting Defendant’s VP’s Involvement in Prior Infringement Case Involving VP’s Former Employer Supports Willfulness Allegation

After the court granted plaintiff's request for entry of default judgment against the entity defendant, the court found that defendant's infringement was willful and awarded plaintiff maximum statutory damages. "⁠[Plaintiff] testified that the vice president of [the defendant entity] . . . was involved in an earlier lawsuit with [plaintiff] concerning copyright infringement of the same Indianapolis Photograph. The earlier lawsuit concerned a different company of which [defendant's vice president] was a part. That lawsuit resulted in a judgment against the company, yet even after judgement was entered, [defendant's vice president] wrongfully used the same Indianapolis Photograph on [defendant's] website. [...]

2018-08-02T12:09:02+00:00August 2nd, 2018|Copyright, Docket Report|

BitTorrent Plaintiff’s Request for Service Deadline Extension Denied for “Familiar Pattern” of “Lackadaisical Investigation”

The court denied a BitTorrent plaintiff's request to extend Rule 4(m)'s service deadline. "Plaintiff, a proprietor of adult pornography, has filed hundreds if not thousands of copyright infringement cases in this district court over the past several years. These cases have followed a familiar pattern, plaintiff ignores Rule 4(m)'s deadline by conducting a lackadaisical investigation into defendant's identity and then requests a lengthy continuance to identify and serve the defendant. These motions are routinely granted by the Magistrate Judges. Given the volume of cases brought by this particular plaintiff, its attorneys should be aware by now of this District's particular [...]

2018-08-01T13:42:02+00:00August 1st, 2018|Copyright, Docket Report|