Considering a plaintiff’s second motion for reconsideration challenging the award of attorneys’ fees to the defendant in a copyright case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld the award without remanding the issue to the district court where plaintiff’s objection was over 30 days late and defendant had submitted records demonstrating the reasonableness of the award. Latin American Music Co. d/b/a Asociacion de Compositores y Editores de Musica Latinoamericana v. American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, Case No. 08-1498 (1st Cir., Dec. 28, 2010) (Torruella, J.).
The case involved a long-running dispute between music publisher Latin American Music Company (LAMCO) and its affiliate, a Puerto Rican performing rights society, against the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). The plaintiffs sued two Puerto Rican radio stations for copyright infringement, alleging infringement of the plaintiffs’ rights in 51 music compositions. Following consolidation with other actions, the litigation involved more than 500 compositions. ASCAP entered the litigation as a third party and claimed LAMCO infringed ASCAP’s copyrights.
The district court granted summary judgment in favor of ASCAP with regard to over 400 of the works at issue. However, in 2007, the 1st Circuit held that LAMCO’s inclusion of songs in its licensing catalog, issuance of broadcast licenses to radio stations and threats of litigation against alleged infringers did not constitute infringement of ASCAP’s rights under the Copyright Act. After ASCAP succeeded on a later appeal to the 1st Circuit, it applied for an award of attorneys’ fees incurred on appeal. LAMCO failed to timely object to the award within the 30-day time limit and the First Circuit granted ASCAP a fee amount of approximately $90,000.
LAMCO filed a motion for reconsideration in order to object to the attorneys’ fees awarded to ASCAP. LAMCO disputed, among other things, ASCAP’s status as the “prevailing party” under §505 of the Copyright Act, whether ASCAP had timely registered the song to be eligible for attorneys’ fees and the reasonableness of the award. The 1st Circuit denied LAMCO’s first motion for reconsideration. LAMCO then filed a second motion for reconsideration, renewing its original arguments and further requesting that if attorneys’ fees were awarded, the determination be remanded to the district court.
In rejecting LAMCO’s second motion for reconsideration, the 1st Circuit confirmed that granting attorneys’ fees was clearly within the court’s discretion as defendant ASCAP was the “prevailing party” under §505 by successfully defending LAMCO’s copyright claim and due to the weakness of LAMCO’s clams. Next, the court refused to consider LAMCO’s argument that ASCAP did not timely register its copyright as “fatally underdeveloped” and therefore waived. The court also rejected LAMCO’s challenge to the reasonableness of the award of attorneys’ fees, finding that LAMCO’s challenge was “undermined, if not forfeited” by its own neglect in filing its objection 39 days late and without detailed support. Finally, the 1st Circuit rejected LAMCO’s request for remand to the district court of the determination of the amount of attorneys’ fees. “Although not appropriate in every case,” the court explained, an appellate court may award fees incurred on appeal, where, as in the instant case, “the prevailing party has submitted records that establish the reasonableness of the award.”