Our colleague, Melissa Scott, recently wrote an alert on an opinion from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals about access to attorneys’ fees in copyright infringement cases.  The underlying copyright dispute in Doc’s Dream, LLC, v. Dolores Press, Inc., et al. related to the video recordings of a deceased minister’s sermons, but the significant holding relates to the fee-shifting provision in the Copyright Act.

34126235 - copyrightThe district court held that attorneys’ fees were not available to the accused infringer for the declaratory judgment claim on which it was granted summary judgment because the claim did not require construction of the Copyright Act.  The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that the Copyright Act expressly allows for a discretionary award of attorney’s fees in “any civil action under this title” and that the request for declaratory relief raised multiple aspects of, and invoked, the Copyright Act.  Melissa notes two takeaways from the Ninth Circuit’s holdings:

  • The fee-shifting provision of Section 505 applies to “any civil action under” the Copyright Act.
  • Any action that “turns on the existence of a valid copyright and whether that copyright has been infringed” sufficiently invokes the Copyright Act as to allow for the discretionary award of attorneys’ fees.

For a full summary of the case and holdings, read Melissa’s alert here.