Tanya Andersen's attorneys fees motion in Atlantic v. Andersen has been granted by the Magistrate Judge to whom the question was referred. U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald C. Ashmanskas issued a 15-page decision in which he ruled as follows:
defendant incurred substantial fees before the claims against her were dismissed, including those incurred to file her motion for summary judgment and to respond to a motion to dismiss her counterclaims with prejudice. During that time, plaintiffs were either unable to obtain, or chose not to produce, significant evidence to support their claims.....when plaintiffs dismissed their claims in June 2007, they apparently had no more material evidence to support their claims than they did when they first contacted defendant in February 2005.....The parties will be afforded an opportunity to file objections to the Magistrate's report, after which time it will be submitted to the District Judge for finalization.
Whatever plaintiffs' reasons for the manner in which they have prosecuted this case, it does not appear to be justified as a reasonable exploration of the boundaries of copyright law..... In this case, plaintiffs dismissed their claims before any rulings on any significant legal issues under the Copyright Act, or the factual issues associated with plaintiffs' claim. Choosing that course, on this record, should be deterred in light of its potential chilling effect on the public's access to creative works. If this were to become a more typical course in prosecuting the type of allegations faced by defendant, it is reasonably foreseeable that members of the public would be more hesitant to use the Internet to share creative works in general, regardless of whether their specific conduct violated copyright law or occupied an area yet to be addressed by copyright law.
Copyright holders generally, and these plaintiffs specifically, should be deterred from prosecuting infringement claims as plaintiffs did in this case. Plaintiffs exerted a significant amount of control over the course of discovery, repeatedly and successfully seeking the court's assistance through an unusually extended and contentious period of discovery disputes. Nonetheless, after ample opportunity to develop their claims, they dismissed them at the point they were required to produce evidence for the court's consideration of the merits..... this case provides too little assurance that a prosecuting party won't deem an infringement claim unsupportable until after the prevailing defendant has been forced to mount a considerable defense, and undergo all that entails, including the incurring of substantial attorney fees.
Decision of Magistrate Judge Granting Defendant's Attorneys Fees Motion*
* Document published online at Internet Law & Regulation
Commentary & discussion:
Keywords: digital copyright online law legal download upload peer to peer p2p file sharing filesharing music movies indie independent label freeculture creative commons pop/rock artists riaa independent mp3 cd favorite songs