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Bell v. Powell

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

August 21, 2019

RICHARD N. BELL, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID N. POWELL, and MIDWEST REGIONAL NETWORK FOR INTERVENTION WITH SEX OFFENDERS, Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR ATTORNEY FEES AND BILL OF COSTS

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Motions for Attorney Fees and Bill of Costs filed by Defendants David N. Powell (“Powell”) and Midwest Regional Network for Intervention with Sex Offenders (“MRNISO”) (Filing No. 102; Filing No. 103; Filing No. 104; Filing No. 109). The Defendants filed their Motions pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 505 of the Copyright Act after they became the “prevailing party” in this Copyright Act case. For the following reasons, the Court grants MRNISO's Motions and awards it $76, 200.05 in fees and costs.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On September 18, 2016, Plaintiff Richard N. Bell (“Bell”), an attorney and professional photographer, filed a Complaint against Powell and MRNISO, asserting a claim pursuant to the Federal Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §101 et seq., for copyright infringement of a photograph of the Indianapolis, Indiana skyline taken by Bell. He requested damages and declaratory and injunctive relief (Filing No. 1). Powell filed a motion to dismiss, which was granted, and Bell was permitted to amend his Complaint (Filing No. 39). Powell filed a second motion to dismiss, which was denied (Filing No. 63). Bell, Powell, and MRNISO then filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Summary judgment was granted in favor of Powell based on Eleventh Amendment immunity, and it was granted in favor of MRNISO based on the “fair use doctrine.” (Filing No. 99.) With Bell's claims being dismissed on the cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court entered Final Judgment in favor of Powell and MRNISO and against Bell on October 11, 2018 (Filing No. 100).

         On October 25, 2018, Powell filed his Motion for Attorney Fees pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 505 (Filing No. 102). That same day, MRNISO filed its Motion to Join in Powell's Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs (Filing No. 103), as well as its Bill of Costs (Filing No. 104). After MRNISO filed its Motions, Bell requested additional documents and statements regarding MRNISO's request for fees. MRNISO agreed to provide supplemental evidence, statements, and authority in an amended motion. Thereafter, MRNISO filed its Amended Motion to Join in Powell's Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs (Filing No. 109). As the prevailing defendants in a copyright action, Powell and MRNISO seek their costs and attorney fees pursuant to 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. “When the prevailing party is the defendant, who by definition receives not a small award but no award, the presumption in favor of awarding fees is very strong.” Assessment Techs. of WI, LLC v. Wire Data, Inc., 361 F.3d 434, 437 (7th Cir. 2004); see also FM Indus. v. Citicorp Credit Servs., 614 F.3d 335, 339 (7th Cir. 2010) (“a defendant that prevails in copyright litigation is presumptively entitled to fees under § 505”).

         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

         Powell filed his Motion for Attorney Fees, which was followed by MRNISO's Motion to Join in Powell's Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs, MRNISO's Bill of Costs, and MRNISO's Amended Motion to Join in Powell's Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs. The Court will first address Powell's Motion and then turn to MRNISO's filings.

         A. Powell's Motion for Attorney Fees

         After prevailing against Bell on summary judgment, Powell filed his Motion for Attorney Fees, relying on the strong presumption of awarding fees and costs to prevailing defendants in copyright infringement cases and also discussing the Fogerty factors' application to this case. Soon thereafter, Bell filed a “Report of Settlement Between Powell and Bell” and asserted that he and Powell had reached a proposed settlement that was “being reviewed by Powell and the State of Indiana.” (Filing No. 110 at 1.) Bell asked the Court to stay all deadlines regarding Powell's Motion to allow the parties to finalize their settlement. Powell did not file any response or opposition to Bell's “Report of Settlement Between Powell and Bell” or the requested stay. The Court entered an Order “vacating all deadlines as between Bell and Powell and enter[ed] a stay as it relates to Powell and Bell only.” (Filing No. 112 at 1.)

         In light of Powell and Bell's apparent negotiated settlement of the claim for fees and costs, the Court now lifts the stay and denies as moot Powell's Motion for Attorney Fees (Filing No. 102). The denial of the Motion is without prejudice to refiling the motion in the event the parties are unable to finalize their settlement.

         B. MRNISO ...


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