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Bell v. Lantz

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

June 8, 2015

RICHARD N. BELL, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLES LANTZ, Defendant.

ENTRY ON DEFENDANT CHARLES LANTZ'S MOTION FOR COSTS AND ATTORNEY'S FEES

TANYA WALTON PRATT, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Charles Lantz's ("Mr. Lantz") Motion for Costs and Attorney's Fees (Filing No. 210) pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 505 of the Copyright Act, following the voluntary dismissal of the action by Plaintiff Richard Bell ("Mr. Bell"). Mr. Lantz seeks an award of $33, 974.65 in attorney's fees and costs (Filing No. 226). For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Mr. Lantz's Motion.

I. BACKGROUND

On January 8, 2013, Mr. Bell, a practicing attorney and professional photographer, filed a Complaint in this Court, alleging copyright infringement against forty-seven defendants, including Mr. Lantz (Filing No. 1). The subject of the alleged infringement was a photograph of the Indianapolis skyline taken by Mr. Bell ("the Indianapolis Photo"). In his Answer to the Complaint Mr. Lantz denied all allegations of copyright infringement of the Indianapolis Photo (Filing No. 114).

Through interrogatories, Mr. Bell confirmed that Mr. Lantz had never infringed the copyright of the Indianapolis Photo. After discovery, on November 17, 2014, Mr. Bell moved to voluntarily dismiss with prejudice his copyright infringement action against Mr. Lantz (Filing No. 205). On December 1, 2014, the Court granted the unopposed motion for voluntary dismissal with prejudice (Filing No. 208).

Because Mr. Bell's copyright action against Mr. Lantz was dismissed with prejudice, Mr. Lantz became the "prevailing party" under the Copyright Act. On December 10, 2014, Mr. Lantz filed his Motion for Costs and Attorney's Fees based on his status as a prevailing party under 17 U.S.C. § 505.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Under 17 U.S.C. § 505, in any copyright civil action, the district court in its discretion may allow the recovery of all costs of litigation, including an award of a reasonable attorney's fee as part of those costs, to the prevailing party. A party prevails "when it obtains a material alteration of the legal relationship of the parties.'" Hyperquest, Inc. v. N'Site Solutions, Inc., 632 F.3d 377, 387 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Riviera Distributors, Inc. v. Jones, 517 F.3d 926, 928 (7th Cir. 2008)). "Defendants who defeat a copyright infringement action are entitled to a strong presumption in favor of a grant of fees." Hyperquest, 632 F.3d at 387.

The United States Supreme Court noted that in determining whether to exercise its discretion to award costs and fees in a copyright case, district courts should look to a number of nonexclusive factors including: (1) the frivolousness of the action; (2) the losing party's motivation for filing or contesting the action; (3) the objective unreasonableness of the action; and (4) the need to "advance considerations of compensation and deterrence." Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc., 510 U.S. 517, 535 n.19 (1994).

III. DISCUSSION

Mr. Lantz asserts that he should be awarded his attorney's fees and costs under 17 U.S.C. § 505 because he is the prevailing party and each factor noted in Fogerty suggests that such an award is appropriate in this case.

A. The Fogerty Factors

When the court considers whether to exercise its statutory discretion to award costs and fees under 17 U.S.C. § 505, the court should consider the frivolousness of the action, the losing party's motivation for filing or contesting the action, the objective unreasonableness of the action, and the need to "advance considerations of compensation and ...


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