Glacier Films v. Turchin

Takeaway: Attorney’s fees payable to a prevailing party in a Copyright Infringement action must be based on the specifics of the case at hand, not on the general presumption of the type of copyright matter at hand.

In Glacier Films v. Turchin a production company sued Turchin, who downloaded and distributed a movie made by Glacier Films without paying for the movie and without the consent of Glacier Films. Initially, Glacier Films did not know who downloaded the movie, but after seeking information from the ISP where the movie was downloaded, they were able to track down Turchin. The way Turchin downloaded the movie was through a technology called BitTorrent.

BitTorrent chops files into smaller pieces and users download files in pieces from other users. Once the file pieces have been downloaded from the other users, they are reassembled into the original file. The district court ruled in favor of Glacier Films but did not award attorneys’ fees in the matter, causing Glacier Films to appeal decision.

In this case the Ninth Circuit determined that the district court based their decision not to award attorneys’ fees on a “generally unfavorable view of other BitTorrent litigation.” For this reason they determined that the district court abused its discretion by denying attorneys’ fees without evaluating the details of the case.

They noted that the Court’s analysis of whether attorney’s fees were warranted should have been based on the Glacier Films’ case and not on the Court’s view of other BitTorrent litigation. They additionally found that the District Court based its decision partially on the conduct of Glacier Films’ counsel in other suits.

The Ninth Circuit was not saying that some BitTorrent cases may well warrant a denial of fees. Rather, they were saying that “an approach that furthers the goals of the Copyright Act considers the facts of a given case, weighs the appropriate factors, and makes a fee determination based on the conduct of both parties.” Therefore, the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded the case back to district court for “reconsideration” of whether to award attorneys’ fees.