Spanish Broadcasting System retains $800k charge win in music copyright case

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  • Unreliable testimony was solely infringement proof
  • Plaintiff’s president admitted sister-in-law owned copyrights
  • Company could not place blame on former attorneys

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(Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court docket on Tuesday stated radio-station proprietor Spanish Broadcasting System Inc was entitled to $845,000 in attorneys’ charges and prices it spent in defending itself in opposition to copyright claims introduced by Latin American Music Company Inc (LAMCO), whose solely proof of infringement was testimony that its president was “basically making up” as he went alongside.

A 3-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said LAMCO additionally didn’t show that its earlier attorneys had been answerable for the misconduct that led to the charge award.

SBS’ legal professional James Sammataro of Pryor Cashman stated in an e-mail that with copyright claims of questionable benefit at an all-time excessive, the court docket’s ruling “validates the decision for all those defendants who refuse to bow to nuisance-value pragmatism.”

LAMCO’s legal professional Steven Storch of Storch Byrne did not instantly reply to a request for remark.

LAMCO, a Puerto Rican efficiency rights group that stated it administers hundreds of music copyrights, sued SBS in 2013 in Manhattan federal court docket, alleging SBS’ stations in San Juan and New York performed a number of songs it has copyright pursuits in with out a license.

Then-U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan in Manhattan dominated for SBS after a bench trial, and Sullivan, now on the 2nd Circuit, ordered LAMCO final yr to pay $845,000 of SBS’ attorneys’ charges and prices. Sullivan stated the case justified charges as a result of LAMCO’s president, Luis Raul Bernard, admitted his sister-in-law, not LAMCO, owned the songs, and he failed to provide any proof of copying, amongst different issues.

LAMCO argued on attraction that it had rights to the songs via licenses, that it moderately believed it had a case based mostly on recommendation from its earlier attorneys, Jose Luis Torres and Kelly Talcott, and that they failed to provide recordings of infringing radio broadcasts that LAMCO gave them that may have supported its case.

Torres and Talcott did not instantly reply to a request for remark.

In Tuesday’s opinion, U.S. Circuit Judges John Walker, William Nardini and Steven Menashi, in an unsigned opinion, stated LAMCO gave no purpose to disturb Sullivan’s conclusions.

Under copyright legislation, components used to find out whether or not attorneys’ charges are justified embrace whether or not the claims had been frivolous, objectively unreasonable and introduced with an improper motivation.

The court docket famous that LAMCO “forged ahead” to trial regardless of Sullivan’s warning that he possible would not credit score Bernard’s testimony except Bernard “demonstrates savant-like abilities of recall.”

It additionally rejected LAMCO’s argument that its claims had been affordable based mostly on its recordings.

LAMCO’s “post hoc explanations based largely on evidence that was never properly presented in the district court” did not make the claims “objectively reasonable or non-frivolous at the time they were filed and litigated,” the appeals court docket stated.

The court docket additionally denied LAMCO’s try and move the blame on to its former attorneys, crediting Sullivan’s findings that LAMCO had a “litigation strategy designed to extract settlements by imposing costs and litigation risks on defendants,” and had been compelled to pay attorneys’ charges by different courts for bringing comparable claims, whatever the attorneys’ conduct.

The case is Latin American Music Company Inc v. Spanish Broadcasting System Inc, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 20-2332.

For LAMCO: Steven Storch of Storch Byrne

For SBS: James Sammataro of Pryor Cashman; and James Fitzpatrick of Hughes Hubbard & Reed

Blake Brittain

Blake Brittain experiences on mental property legislation, together with patents, emblems, copyrights and commerce secrets and techniques. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com

REUTERS/Chip East