However, District Judge’s Award Of Only 15% of Requested Fees Vacated/Remanded For Another Adjudication On the Issue.
In an issue of first impression, the Ninth Circuit in Ryan v. Editions Limited West, Inc., Nos. 12-17810/13-15061 (9th Cir. May 19, 2015) (published), decided that the Copyright Act of 1976 does not expressly or implicitly preempt enforcement of a broadly worded attorneys provision in a contributory copyright infringement suit, affirming the district magistrate judge’s conclusion that fee entitlement was proper to the winning copyright infringement plaintiff.
However, the fee award was reversed and remanded because the magistrate judge only awarded $51,363.81 out of a requested $328,077.50 in fees—about 15% of the requested amount. The reasons for reversal had to do with the fact district judges have to explain the bases for an award and “show the math” in more rigorous fashion than California trial judges, who do not even have to issue a statement of decision. Here were the reasons for sending the matter back for a “re-do”: (1) the categorical exclusion of fees associated with tasks other than pretrial and trial was error (called a “mechanical excising” of work which obviously involved important work relating to plaintiff’s prosecution of her copyright infringement claim); (2) the pro rata, three-quarters reduction of pretrial and trial fees—based on plaintiff only winning on one of four claims—was too mechanical and not explained well enough; and (3) the 20% reduction for block billing and interest improperly claimed—although within the percentage range of block billing reductions frequently issued by district judges—was not properly explained either.