Russian Singer Nets $80K in Copyright Fracas

     (CN) – A Russian singer who won an appeal in a copyright infringement case last year is entitled to repayment of about $80,000 in attorney fees, a federal judge ruled.
     Taryn Murphy and Chris Landon sued Sergy Lazarev in 2010 for copyright infringement and breach of contract. The singer claimed he got permission from Murphy and Landon to record the song “Almost Sorry” and did not owe them royalties.
     A federal judge in Nashville agreed, granting him summary judgment in August 2012.
     Murphy and Landon appealed but the 6th Circuit affirmed the district court ruling in October of last year.
     Lazarev then filed his renewed motion for attorney fees, according to last week’s ruling. The singer sought fees incurred at the district court level and on appeal, and for both his U.S.-based counsel and his Russian attorneys.
     U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger ruled that Lazarev was not required to plead special damages in order to recover attorney fees under the Copyright Act. She also said Murphy and Landon ignored court decisions in the case.
     “They argue that Lazarev had no contractual right to use their song (the court found that he did, pursuant to a valid sub-license with Style Records), that he breached both U.S. and Russian copyright law (the court found that he did not), that his sub-license to use the song expired on November 20, 2011 (the court found that it expired in May 2013), that he used the work illegally after November 20, 2011 (the court found that he did not), that he illegally recorded and performed the work before 2008 (the court found that he did not), and that he engaged in infringing conduct after May 2013 (the court found that he did not),” the judge wrote. “The plaintiffs offer no explanation why – taking this court’s findings as a given, which the plaintiffs should have – their pursuit of claims against Lazarev was objectively unreasonable. Crying over spilled milk is insufficient.”
     Trauger held that Lazarev is entitled to attorney fees and expenses for defending himself against Murphy and Landon’s “unreasonable” claims.
     “Their complaint and amended complaint reflected a failure to properly investigate the facts, their legal theories shifted repeatedly without coherence, they advanced claims and took positions inconsistent with the factual record (including their own deposition testimony), they dragged their feet in pursuing the claims once they filed the complaint, and they did little to develop any potential claims against Lazarev,” Trauger wrote.
     Murphy and Landon claimed copyright infringement under U.S. law as well as Russian law. Trauger declined to rule on the Russian law claim.
     “Rather than rule on the Russian choice of law issue on a thin legal record (and potentially create precedent on a difficult issue that requires better treatment than the plaintiffs have given it), the court will award fees to Lazarev under the Copyright Act and will decline to rule on his entitlement to fees under Russian law,” she wrote.
     The judge’s decision for awarding $80,000 in attorney fees is based on invoices from both of Lazarev’s law firms.

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