Law School Case Brief
Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc. - 510 U.S. 517, 114 S. Ct. 1023 (1994)
The Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C.S. § 505, provides that in any copyright infringement action a court may award a reasonable attorney's fee to a prevailing party as part of the costs.
After petitioner Fogerty's successful defense of a copyright infringement action filed against him by respondent Fantasy, Inc., the District Court denied his motion for attorney's fees pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 505, which provides in relevant part that in such an action "the court may . . . award a reasonable attorney's fee to the prevailing party as part of the costs." The Court of Appeals affirmed, declining to abandon it's "dual standard" for awarding § 505 fees -- under which prevailing plaintiffs are generally awarded attorney's fees as a matter of course, while defendants must show that the original suit was frivolous or brought in bad faith -- in favor of the so-called "evenhanded" approach, in which no distinction is made between prevailing plaintiffs and prevailing defendants. Fogerty sought review of the judgment denying his motion for attorney's fees.
Did the lower court err in holding Fogerty, the prevailing defendant, to a more stringent standard than that applicable to a prevailing plaintiff?
The court held that unless provided otherwise, neither party was entitled to compensation for attorney fees incurred in litigation. The court further held that § 505, which provided for the recovery of attorney fees for a prevailing party as a matter of a court's discretion, was to be applied identically to prevailing plaintiffs as to prevailing defendants. Accordingly, because the lower court erroneously held Fogerty, the prevailing defendant, to a more stringent standard than that applicable to a prevailing plaintiff, its judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings.
Access the full text case
Not a Lexis+ subscriber? Try it out for free.
Be Sure You're Prepared for Class