|Lawyer — One skilled in the circumvention of the law.|
On August 10, 2016 Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman handed down an Opinion and Order that denied a copyright troll attorney attorney’s fees because such an award would not advance the purposes of The Copyright Act under the “totality of the circumstances.” This post will briefly outline the underlying lawsuit and each of the circumstances that the judge found warranted a denial of attorney’s fees as being counterproductive to the purposes of The Copyright Act.
It should be noted as a preliminary matter that the copyright troll attorney, Carl Crowell, has met several setbacks in Judge Beckerman’s courtroom recently including a sua sponte dismissal of a direct copyright infringement claim.
The lawsuit that is the subject of this post is Glacier Films (USA) Inc. v. Turchin (ORD 15-cv-01817-SB), and was filed on September 25, 2015.The lawsuit involves the alleged copyright infringement of the cinematic masterpiece American Heist. Later on February 17, 2015 plaintiff filed its amended complaint naming the defendant and the defendant was served approximately one month later. The defendant neglected to answer and the plaintiff moved for a default judgement and the judge appointed David Madden as pro bono counsel for the defendant to fight the lawsuit. After some back and forth on July 8, 2016 the parties agreed to settle the case with a stipulated consent judgment whereby the defendant agreed to pay the statutory minimum of $750 and also agreed that the Court should award “reasonable attorney’s fees and costs,” in accordance with 17 U.S.C. § 505 and pursuant to Rule 54. Afterwards on July 20, 2019 Crowell moved for attorney’s fees and costs which defendant opposed to a degree. On August 10, 2016 Judge Beckerman handed down an Opinion and Order declining to award attorney’s fees (despite the July 8, 2016 stipulation) because under the “totality of the circumstances” such an award “… would render an inequitable outcome that is inconsistent with the policies served by the Copyright Act.”
The judge notes that such an award is not unprecedented in her district:
Recently, another court in this district denied a motion for attorney fees in a similar BitTorrent copyright case, in part because “[l]itigation conduct that needlessly increases the expense of resolving copyright disputes neither encourages innovation nor appropriately rewards an author’s creation.” See Countryman Nevada, LLC v. Doe-126.96.36.199,—F. Supp. 3d—,No. 3:15-cv-433-SI, 2016 WL 3437598, at *8 (D. Or. June 17, 2016) (“[U]nder the totality of the circumstances presented, the Court exercises its discretion to deny Plaintiff any attorney’s fees, notwithstanding the fact that Plaintiff has prevailed on the merits of its copyright claim.”).
Let us take a look at each of these three circumstances with the last weighing most heavily that influenced the judge’s Opinion and Order.