“Friday the 13th” screenwriter Victor Miller has partial attorney fees in his case against Manny and Horror Inc. over proceeds from the film. Miller was paid $9,282 to write the script as an independent contractor. Therefore, Manny and Horror Inc. claimed that Miller’s status as a writer-for-hire was not eligible for authorship rights. Because Miller was an independent contractor, “Manny’s rights and to assert his own as an author under a provision of the Copyright Act that allows “authors” to reassert their rights 35 years after they had been granted.”
“I have determined that this action arises under the termination rights provision of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 203, and Title 17 of the United States Code plainly incorporates Section 203,” Underhill said. “Therefore, like others before me, I have no trouble concluding that Section 505 applies to the termination rights declaratory judgment action at bar.”
While Manny and Horror claimed the case raised a “novel and unsettled question of copyright law,” which did not warrant attorney fees, the district court disagreed. In fact, Underhill found the plaintiffs to be lacking “legal and factual support.”
“I arrive at this conclusion because plaintiffs’ theory was contrary to well-settled precedent, which plaintiffs appeared to try to circumvent rather than to try to challenge, and not because plaintiffs lost at summary judgment and on appeal,” he wrote.
“That plaintiffs’ claims were objectively unreasonable substantially weighs in favor of a fee award,” Underhill added.
Miller’s lead counsel, Marc Toberoff of Toberoff & Associates, was awarded his requested hourly rate of $795, which Underhill said was consistent with what other partners litigating copyright law cases in the Southern District of New York charge. All of his associates were also awarded their reasonable rates.
However, Miller also made a motion to strike down a complaint pursuant to California’s Anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation law. California’s Civil Procedure Code provides that attorney fees are only awarded to prevailing defendants on “a special motion to strike.”
– Excerpt from an article for Deadline by David Robb. Read the full article here.
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