Fantasy, Inc. v. Fogerty
984 F.2d 1524 (9th Cir. 1993)
510 U.S. 517 (1994)
94 F.3d 553 (9th Cir. 1996)

  • Fogerty wrote a song and then sold the rights to it to Fantasy.
  • Later Fogerty wrote a similar song. Fantasy sued for copyright infringement.
    • Essentially, Fantasy was accusing Fogerty of plagiarizing himself!
  • The Trial Court found for Fogerty. Fogerty appealed.
    • Fogerty asked the Court to make Fantasy pay him attorney's fees (under 17 U.S.C. 505), but the Trial Court denied the request on the grounds that Fantasy's lawsuit was neither frivolous nor prosecuted in bad faith.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed. Fogerty appealed.
  • The US Supreme Court reversed and remanded.
    • The US Supreme Court found that there were two standards floating around for when to award attorney's fees:
      • The dual standard (used by the Appellate Court here) which said that prevailing plaintiffs were generally awarded fees as a matter of course, while prevailing defendants had to show that the original lawsuit was frivolous or brought in bad faith.
      • The British rule which said that the prevailing party automatically receives fees.
    • The Court didn't like either of those, and so came up with the evenhanded approach, which said that plaintiffs and defendants are to be treated alike, but attorney's fees are only awarded based on equitable discretion.
      • "Equitable discretion" isn't a precise rule or formula, but there are many considerations that could be used to make the determination.
        • See Lieb v. Topstone Indus., Inc. (788 F.2d 151 (1986)).
  • The Trial Court awarded attorney's fees. Fantasy and Fogerty both appealed.
    • The Trial Court gave Fogerty $1.37M. The Court based their decision on the idea that Fogerty's defense was the type of defense that furthers the purposes underlying the Copyright Act and therefore should be encouraged through a fee award.
    • The Court did not give Fogerty interest on the attorney's fees.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court looked at the factors the Trial Court used and found that they were reasonable for "equitable discretion."