Late last week, Judge Stefan R. Underhill declined to grant Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) motion for attorneys’ fees and costs in view of a motion to stay the case by plaintiff Yout LLC pending its appeal. Without opining on the merits of Yout’s appeal, the court said that deferring the fee motion until resolution of the appeal, when more fees and costs would accrue, would conserve judicial resources in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) case.
The dispute concerns Yout’s bid for a declaration that its conduct does not violate the DMCA, a federal law enacted during the Clinton Administration that, among other things, protects copyright holders from online theft. Yout’s case is against RIAA, a recording industry trade association.
The central question posed to Judge Underhill was whether Yout’s software, which allows subscribers to download local copies of audio, video, and combination files from major streaming websites like YouTube, circumvented YouTube’s technological measures in violation of the DMCA. The court answered in the affirmative, finding that the plaintiff’s software facilitated unauthorized access to downloadable digital copies of files ordinarily streaming-available only.
The court ruled that Yout had not stated and could not state a plausible claim for relief, and dismissed the matter with prejudice in late September.
In last week’s short opinion, the court exercised its discretion to deny the fee motion without prejudice and grant the RIAA leave to re-file the motion upon resolution of the appeal. Judge Underhill noted that the Copyright Act provides for recovery of fees and costs incurred by the prevailing party, including those on appeal. Because the appellate winner will likely seek fees, the opinion reasoned that “the interests of judicial efficiency, avoidance of piecemeal adjudication, and conservation of judicial resources favor denying the fee motion without prejudice at this time.”