Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Thresona Multimedia v. Burbank H.S. Vocal Music Ass'n (9th Cir. - March 24, 2020)

It probably behooves a potential plaintiff to take a step back before suing someone and think:  "How might this look to an outsider."  Lest the result be something like this.

"Tresóna did more than simply pursue an aggressive litigation strategy. It sued a public school teacher, a not-for-profit Boosters Club, and parent volunteers. Both during litigation, and in pre-litigation communications with Carroll, Tresóna repeatedly mischaracterized its copyright interests in the songs at issue by claiming to be the sole entity empowered to issue licenses. In light of Tresóna’s minimal and belatedly produced evidence supporting its claimed chain-of-title, these communications appear specifically designed to frighten Carroll and the Boosters Club into purchasing licenses from Tresóna, rather than to legitimately enforce its limited licensing interests or those of the true copyright owners. Indeed, Tresóna’s initial complaint alleged exclusive rights in 79 songs used by the Burbank show choirs. And it was not until after briefing on Carroll’s summary judgment motion was complete that Tresóna belatedly produced any evidence of its chain of title, which demonstrated its claimed interests were almost entirely unsubstantiated. None of these actions furthers the purposes of the Copyright Act. SOFA Entm’t, 709 F.3d at 1280–81.

Courts have a legitimate interest in deterring the type of litigation conduct in which Tresóna engaged, and in compensating those who have been harmed by such conduct. . . . As much of this litigation was avoidable from the beginning based on settled law when Tresóna filed its complaint, awarding attorneys’ fees to Defendants appropriately serves the interest in deterrence."

To say that the Ninth Circuit was less than sympathetic to the plaintiff here is an understatement.