Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc.

Citation: 510 U.S. 517
Docket Number: 92-1750
Judge: Rehnquist
Opinion Date: March 1, 1994

The Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. 505, provides in relevant part that in any copyright infringement action “the court may . . . award a reasonable attorney’s fee to the prevailing party as part of the costs.” The question presented in this case was what standards should inform a court’s decision to award attorney’s fees to a prevailing defendant in a copyright infringement action. After Fogerty’s successful defense of a copyright infringement action filed against him by respondent Fantasy, Inc., the District Court denied his motion for attorney’s fees pursuant to 17 U.S.C. 505. The Court of Appeals affirmed, declining to abandon it’s “dual standard” for awarding 505 fees – under which prevailing plaintiffs are generally awarded attorney’s fees as a matter of course, while defendants must show that the original suit was frivolous or brought in bad faith – in favor of the so-called “evenhanded” approach, in which no distinction is made between prevailing plaintiffs and prevailing defendants. The Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeals erroneously held the prevailing defendant, to a more stringent standard than that applicable to a prevailing plaintiff, and reversed and remanded the Court of Appeals Decision.

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