Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Copyright
DAVID LOWERY, ET AL V. RHAPSODY INTERNATIONAL, INC.
Counsel filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of copyright holders of musical compositions and recovered a little over $50,000 for the class members from Defendant Rhapsody International, Inc. (now rebranded as Napster), a music streaming service. The class members obtained no meaningful injunctive or nonmonetary relief in the settlement of their action. The district court nonetheless authorized $1.7 in attorneys’ fees under the “lodestar” method. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s award of attorneys’ fees to Plaintiffs’ counsel and remanded. The panel held that the touchstone for determining the reasonableness of attorneys’ fees in a class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 is the benefit to the class. Here, the benefit was minimal. The panel held that the district court erred in failing to calculate the settlement’s actual benefit to the class members who submitted settlement claims, as opposed to a hypothetical $20 million cap agreed on by the parties. The panel held that district courts awarding attorneys’ fees in class actions under the Copyright Act must still generally consider the proportion between the award and the benefit to the class to ensure that the award is reasonable. The panel recognized that a fee award may exceed the monetary benefit provided to the class in certain copyright cases, such as when a copyright infringement litigation leads to substantial nonmonetary relief or provides a meaningful benefit to society, but this was not such a case. The panel instructed that, on remand, the district court should rigorously evaluate the actual benefit provided to the class and award reasonable attorneys’ fees considering that benefit. View "DAVID LOWERY, ET AL V. RHAPSODY INTERNATIONAL, INC." on Justia Law
The Authors Guild Inc., et al. v. Google, Inc.
Plaintiffs, an association of authors and several individual authors, filed suit against Google alleging that it committed copyright infringement through the Library Project of its "Google Books" search tool by scanning and indexing more than 20 million books and making available for public display "snippets" of most books upon a user's search. On appeal, Google challenged the district court's grant of class certification. The court believed that the resolution of Google's fair use defense in the first instance would necessarily inform and perhaps moot the court's analysis of many class certification issues and that holding the issue of certification in abeyance until Google's fair use defense has been resolved would not prejudice the interests of either party. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for the district court to consider the fair use issues. View "The Authors Guild Inc., et al. v. Google, Inc." on Justia Law
In re Literary Works in Elec. Databases Litig.
Plaintiffs in this consolidated class action allege copyright infringements arising from defendant publishers' unauthorized electronic reproduction of plaintiff authors' written works. The district court certified a class for settlement purposes and approved a settlement agreement over the objection of ten class members (objectors). In this appeal, objectors challenged the propriety of the settlement's release provision, the certification of the class, and the process by which the district court reached its decisions. Although the court rejected the objectors' arguments regarding the release, the court concluded that the district court abused its discretion in certifying the class and approving the settlement because the named plaintiffs failed to adequately represent the interest of all class members. The court did not reach the procedural challenges, which were moot in light of the court's class certification holding. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's order and remanded for further proceedings.