Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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Cycling Author Granted $65K in Attorney Fees

(CN) - The author of a cycling book was awarded more than $65,000 in attorney fees after winning a copyright dispute, despite the "vigorous objections" of the defendant publisher and its owner.

U.S. Circuit Judge Gerard E. Lynch in Manhattan decided that granting the fees to Julie Harrell "will provide compensation to an author-plaintiff, who was forced to pursue this litigation in the face of obviously losing positions on the part of the defendants."

"Not only was defendants' decision to force plaintiff to litigate without colorable basis," Lynch wrote, "but defendants also chose to pursue the matter in a particularly vexatious manner that multiplied plaintiff's expenses."

Robert Van der Plas and Cycle Publishing were ordered to pay Harrell $7,500 in June for republishing an unauthorized version of "A Woman's Guide to Bikes and Biking."

The judge granted the award this week over the defendants' "vigorous objections."

Van der Plas and Harrell agreed to a publishing deal 1999, but the company relinquished all publishing rights to the author in 2006, though they were allowed to sell their remaining stock of original editions.

But two years later, Harrell discovered that the defendants were publishing and selling a "substandard" revised edition of her book.

She sued in September 2008, claiming Van der Plas did not have her permission to publish a revised version.

This led to a series of unsuccessful - and unnecessary - actions taken by the defendants, according to Lynch, including a "largely frivolous motion to dismiss" and "an unwarranted arbitration claim just three days after the Court denied defendants' motion to dismiss."

After Harrell won the case, the defendants argued that they shouldn't have to pay for her lawyer, because the complaint was more akin to a contract dispute than a copyright violation.

Lynch didn't buy it. He called the argument "puzzling," and ruled that Van der Plas failed to "plausibly transform this otherwise classic action for copyright infringement into one for breach of contract."

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