No Attorneys' Fees: Defendants In Bridgeport Sampling Case

by Tamera H. BennettPosted October 23, 2009

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's denial of  the defendants’ request that attorney fees be imposed as a condition of granting plaintiffs’ motions to voluntarily dismiss WITHOUT prejudice twenty cases of copyright infringement stemming from master use and music publishing sampling.  (Bridgeport Music, Inc.  v. Universal-MCA Music Publishing, Inc. , Cause Nos: 08-5254/55/56/57/58/59/60/61/62/63/64/65/66/67/68/69/70/71/72/73 (6th Cir. October 212, 2009).

The "Bridgeport Case" has been on-going since May 2001.  The claims involved in this appeal were originally asserted in a single action by two record labels and two music publishers  against approximately 800 defendants relating to the use of samples in new rap recordings.  The appellate decision linked above gives a great summary of the history behind the case.

At some point in the litigation process, evidence was uncovered that a good number of Bridgeport's claims would probably not prevail.  Even though the Defendants wanted out of the case, the Defendants would not agree to a voluntary dismissal because the court had ruled in other Bridgeport cases that a voluntary dismissal WITH prejudice would not establish prevailing-defendant status for the purpose of seeking attorney fees.  See 17 U.S.C. § 505.   Compare Cadkin v. Loose, 569 F.3d 1142 (9th Cir. 2009).  The Ninth Circuit held a voluntary dismissal WITHOUT prejudice does not confer prevailing party status.)

["With-Prejudice" means the plaintiff has dismissed all claims brought in the lawsuit and cannot bring those claims against the defendant in the future. "Without-Prejudice" means the plaintiff, unless barred for other reasons, could file another lawsuit bringing the same claims.]

The Magistrate Judge summed it up:  All parties were responsible for the case taking years to litigate, and even if it looked pretty good that the Defendants would prevail, that was mere speculation.  The cases were dismissed WITHOUT prejudice and no attorneys' fees were awarded to the Defendants.

Take a look at what William Patry had to say about this case in March 2008.

The "Bridgeport Cases" have raised a lot of comments over the years.  Read more here from Tech Dirt in 2007, here from the LA Times in 2001, here from MSNBC in 2004 citing Billboard.