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LOWE v. LOUD RECORDS

March 17, 2004.

MICHAEL A. LOWE, Plaintiff,
v.
LOUD RECORDS, SCOTT STORCH, ALVIN NATHANIEL JOINER p/k/a XZIBIT, HENNESY FOR EVERYONE MUSIC, ANDRE YOUNG p/k/a DR. DRE, AIN'T NUTHIN' GOIN' ON BUT FUNKIN' MUSIC, MELVIN F. BRADFORD, HARD WORKIN' BLACK FOLKS MUSIC, COLUMBIA RECORDS, INC. and VOCO MUSIC d/b/a ALEXRA MUSIC, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT KELLY, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Michael A. Lowe ("Lowe") brought a copyright infringement and negligence action against Defendants Loud Records, Alvin Nathanial Joiner p/k/a/ Xzibit, Hennesy for Everyone Music, Andre Young ("Young") p/k/a/ Dr. Dre, Ain't Nuthin' But Funkin' Music, Melvin F. Bradford, Hard Workin' Black Folks Music, Columbia Records, Inc., Voco. Music d/b/a/ Alexra Music (collectively referred to as "California Defendants") and Scott Storch ("Storch"). The Court granted the Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment pertaining to Lowe's copyright infringement claim finding that Lowe defeated his claim based upon his deposition testimony and affidavit. As for Lowe's state law negligence claim, the Court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction and dismissed the claim without prejudice. Young has filed a Motion for an Award of Attorneys' Fees and a Bill of Costs Page 2 pursuant to the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 505.*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, Young's Motion for Attorneys' Fees, as well as his Bill of Costs, are granted.

I. BACKGROUND

  The factual background and procedural history of this case can be found in this Court's prior Memorandum Opinion filed November 20, 2003. Accordingly, the Court finds no reason to reiterate them here except to state that this action stems from Lowe's claim that he wrote the musical composition entitled "West Coast (Dre Beat)" (hereinafter referred to as "West Coast Beat"). Lowe asserted that "West Coast Beat" is the underlying musical composition of "X," a rap song in which all of the Defendants played a part in creating, i.e., performing, writing, producing, etc. Lowe, who owns and controls the copyrights for "West Coast Beat," alleged that his music copyrights were violated by all of the Defendants through their use of "West Coast Beat" in "X" without his knowledge or permission.

  Regarding Lowe's copyright infringement claim, summary judgment was granted in Defendants' favor based upon the premise that Lowe defeated his own claim. The Court concluded that Lowe's copyright infringement claim could not prevail because his deposition testimony and subsequent affidavit showed that he granted Defendants a nonexclusive license to use "West Coast Beat" in one of their musical compositions. It was found that Lowe's version of the facts declaring that Page 3 he granted Defendants a nonexclusive license directly contradicted the basis of his copyright infringement claim, that the Defendants used "West Coast Beat" without his knowledge or permission. Based upon various statements and actions made by Lowe pertaining to his alleged granting of an implied license, the Court found that he was left without a viable claim for copyright infringement. The Court noted that it could not allow the copyright infringement case to go forward, when it was clear that Lowe's claims against the Defendants could be more appropriately addressed in another type of action than one for copyright infringement. As such, Lowe's copyright infringement claim was dismissed because his own version of the facts precluded a finding that the Defendants could be liable for copyright infringement. Due to the dismissal of the copyright infringement claim, the only claim justifying federal jurisdiction, the Court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Lowe's negligence claim. Accordingly, Lowe's negligence claim was dismissed without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

  II. DISCUSSION

  A. Attorney Fees and Costs Under the Copyright Act

  "Under § 505 of the Copyright Act, the court has the discretion to award attorneys fees and costs to a prevailing party in a claim brought under the Copyright Act." Don Post Studios, Inc. v. Cinema Secrets, Inc., 148 F. Supp.2d 572, 573 (E.D. Pa. 2001)(citing 17 U.S.C. § 505). The Copyright Act provides, in pertinent part, that "[i]n any civil action under this title, the court in its discretion may allow the recovery of full costs by or against any party. . . . [T]he court may also award a reasonable attorney's fee to the prevailing party as part of the costs." 17 U.S.C. § 505. "A district court is entrusted with considerable discretion to determine whether an award should be granted to the Page 4 prevailing party, and, if so, whether the amount requested is reasonable under the circumstances." Cottrill v. Spears, No. 02-3646, 2003 WL 21545105, at *1 (E.D. Pa. July 2, 2003)(citing Lieb v. Topstone Indus., Inc., 788 F.2d 151, 155-56 (3d Cir. 1986)).

  Under the Copyright Act, a court's exercise of discretion in determining whether to award attorneys' fees and costs should be employed within certain boundaries. Lieb, 788 F.2d at 156. Namely, an award of attorneys' fees and costs is not mandated in every case, but lies within the discretion of the court. Id. Also, there is no requirement of bad faith in determining whether to award attorneys' fees and costs. Id. Lastly, in making its determination, the court's exercise of discretion should be approached in an evenhanded manner. Id. In addition to the aforementioned boundaries, certain nonexclusive factors also should be considered in determining whether an award of attorneys' fees and costs is appropriate. Id. "These factors include `frivolousness, motivation, objective unreasonableness (both in the factual and in the legal components of the case) and the need in particular circumstances to advance considerations of compensation and deterrence.'" Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc., 510 U.S. 517, 535 n.19 (quoting Lieb, 788 F.2d at 156). Notably, "such factors may be used to guide [a] court's discretion, so long as such factors are faithful to the purposes of the Copyright Act." Id. "The primary objective of copyright is to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts. To this end, copyright assures authors the right to their original expression, but encourages others to build freely upon the ideas and information conveyed by a work." Cottrill, 2003 WL 21545105, at *1 (quotation and internal quotation marks omitted). "Copyright law ultimately serves the purpose of enriching the general public through access to creative works." Id. (quoting Fogerty, 510 U.S. at 527)(internal quotation marks omitted). Page 5

  Once a court concludes that an award of attorneys' fees and costs is appropriate, it must go on to ascertain the issue of reasonableness. Lieb, 788 F.2d at 156. That is, a court must determine what amount of fees and costs is reasonable under the circumstances of the case. Id. When determining the issue of reasonableness, the following nonexclusive factors should be considered: the relative complexity of the litigation; the relative financial strength of the parties; damages; and the culpability of the [parties'] conduct. Id.

  B. Court's Analysis

  Young, as the prevailing party on the copyright infringement claim, asserts that he is entitled to attorneys' fees in the amount of $64,992.50, as well as costs totaling $8,569.94, that he incurred as a result of successfully defending against Lowe's copyright infringement claim.*fn2 Young argues that Lowe's own testimony established that his claims had no merit, and, based on his own knowledge and testimony that preceded the litigation, Lowe proved the facts that showed his claims to be objectively unreasonable. Regarding the reasonableness of the attorneys' fees totaling $64,992.50, Young argues that such amount is reasonable because he was responsible for the defense of each of the nine California Defendants herein other than Storch. Thus, the attorneys' fees incurred by Young were less than the fees would have been if the California Defendants each retained separate counsel to Page 6 represent them in this action. Additionally, Young argues that the attorneys' fees are reasonable in light of the extensive discovery conducted in this litigation which included travel between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Los Angeles, California.

  In Lowe's Response to Young's Itemization of Attorneys' Fees, he claims that Young is entitled to no more than $23,454. (Pl.'s Resp. Def. Young's Item. Att'y Fees at 2-3). Lowe argues that the evidentiary record in this case establishes the existence of common law claims including, but not limited to, negligence, breach of contract, fraud, bad faith and conversion.*fn3 As such, Lowe asserts that only the portion of Young's attorneys' fees which dealt with the pursuit of the summary judgment motion regarding his copyright infringement claim should be awarded because they were the only fees incurred in furtherance of the purposes of the Copyright Act. Thus, Lowe does not challenge the appropriateness of the amount of $23,454 in attorneys' fees which were incurred regarding the copyright infringement claim, but ...


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