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judge Chen's costs order in Prenda-Navasca case

judge Chen's costs order in Prenda-Navasca case

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Published by Andrew Norton
Court order from Jul 22 in AF holdings v Navasca. Judge Chen rules Prenda owes Navasca $22k+ in costs&fees.
Court order from Jul 22 in AF holdings v Navasca. Judge Chen rules Prenda owes Navasca $22k+ in costs&fees.

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: Andrew Norton on Jul 22, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Previously, this Court granted Plaintiff AF Holdings, LLC’s motion for voluntary dismissal but with prejudice rather than without (as requested by AF). Because of the dismissal with prejudice, Defendant Joe Navasca has now filed a motion for attorney’s fees and costs pursuant tothe Copyright Act. Having considered the parties’ briefs and accompanying submissions, as well asthe oral argument of counsel, the Court hereby
Mr. Navasca’s motion.
A.Legal StandarThe Copyright Act includes a fee- and cost-shifting provision which states as follows:In any civil action under this title, the court in its discretion may allowthe recovery of full costs by or against any party other than the United States or an officer thereof. Except as otherwise provided by this title,the court may also award a reasonable attorney’s fee to the prevailing party as part of the costs.17 U.S.C. § 505.In the instant case, there is no dispute that Mr. Navasca is the prevailing party. Thus, theonly issue is whether the Court, in its discretion, should award fees and costs.
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Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc.
, 510 U.S. 517 (1994), the Supreme Court noted that, under theCopyright Act,[p]revailing plaintiffs and prevailing defendants are to be treated alike, but attorney’s fees are to be awarded to prevailing parties only as amatter of the court’s discretion. “There is no precise rule or formulafor making these determinations,” but instead equitable discretionshould be exercised “in light of the considerations we have identified.”
at 534.The Court also noted that nonexclusive factors that could be considered in making a fee/costdetermination included “‘frivolousness, motivation, objective unreasonableness (both in the factualand in the legal components of the case) and the need in particular circumstances to advanceconsiderations of compensation and deterrence.’”
at 534 n.19.According to the Ninth Circuit, the degree of success obtained is another factor that may beconsidered.
See Halicki Films, LLC v. Sanderson Sales & Mktg.
, 547 F.3d 1213, 1230 (9th Cir.2008). However, “‘[t]he most important factor in determining whether to award fees under theCopyright Act[] is whether an award will further the purposes of the Act’” – the primary objective of the Act being “to ‘encourage the production of original literary, artistic, and musical expression for the good of the public.’”
Sofa Entm’t, Inc. v. Dodger Prods.
, 709 F.3d 1273, 1280 (9th Cir. 2013).B.FactorsThe factors above weigh strongly in favor of Mr. Navasca. Each is discussed briefly below.1.Degree of SuccessThere is no dispute that Mr. Navasca completely prevailed in the instant case. The case wasdismissed with prejudice in its entirety.2.Frivolousness/Objective UnreasonablenessAF’s case was frivolous and objectively unreasonable in that it never presented any evidence(although it had the opportunity to do so) to support its claim that it has standing to assert a claim for copyright infringement. AF claimed standing based on an assignment to AF, which was signed byAlan Cooper on behalf of AF. However, the signature by Alan Cooper appears to have been aforgery, as Judge Wright concluded in his recent sanctions order. In its papers, AF suggests thatthere was no forgery and that Alan Cooper’s “repudiation [of the assignment] was orchestrated by
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3attorney [Paul] Godfread [who now represents Alan Cooper] and other pro-piracy advocacy groups,”Opp’n at 5, but this is sheer speculation. It is not surprising that Alan Cooper did not “initiate hisrepudiation spontaneously,” Opp’n at 4, because he did not even know that his signature had beenimproperly used until he was notified of such. To the extent AF continues to argue that theassignment was valid because the Copyright Act simply requires a signature from the assignor to bevalid, that misses the point this Court has continually made – 
, that, “‘even if there was asufficient transfer for purposes of the Copyright Act, which focuses on proper authorization by thecopyright transferor, not the transferee, that is a separate issue from . . . whether AF has Article IIIstanding in this Court to assert infringement based on claimed ownership of the copyright at issue.’”Docket No. 76 (Order at 6);
see also
Docket No. 51 (Order at 3).Aside from the Alan Cooper problem above, AF’s case was frivolous or objectivelyunreasonable in other ways. For example, AF’s decision to name Mr. Navasca as the infringer wasnot based on an adequate factual investigation. In a prior order, this Court criticized AF’s decisionto name Mr. Navasca as the alleged infringer simply because he best fit the demographic that isattracted to its content.
Docket No. 51 (Order at 3). The Court went on to note that were therewere others in the household who also fit that demographic.
Docket No. 51 (Order at 3). To theextent AF argued that Mr. Navasca was the likely infringer because he works in technical support ata gaming company and is the most knowledgeable person in his household about computers, theCourt pointed out that “one does not need to be tech savvy in order to download information from acomputer – or at least there is no evidence of such.” Docket No. 51 (Order at 3-4).Furthermore, the way that AF has litigated this case is highly questionable. For example:
AF filed an emergency motion to compel,
Docket No. 38 (motion), even though, at thetime it filed the motion, Mr. Navasca’s discovery responses were not even due yet.
Docket No.50 (Order at 1-2) (Vadas, J.) (denying motion to compel on this basis).
AF professes that the Court’s undertaking ruling was the reason why it chose not to proceed with this case,
see, e.g.
, Opp’n at 1, but AF never filed a motion to reconsider with respect to theCourt’s undertaking ruling, even though the Court stayed its undertaking ruling for the express purpose of giving AF the chance to file a motion to reconsider.
Docket No. 51 (Order at 6).
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