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Ryan v. Editions Ltd. West, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

May 19, 2015

VICTORIA RYAN, Plaintiff-Appellee/Cross-Appellant,
v.
EDITIONS LIMITED WEST, INC., a California corporation; ARTSELECT, INC., Defendants-Appellants/Cross-Appellees

Argued and Submitted, San Francisco, California February 11, 2015.

Page 755

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 756

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. D.C. No. 5:06-CV-04812-PSG. Paul S. Grewal, United States Magistrate Judge, Presiding.

SUMMARY[*]

Copyright

The panel affirmed in part and vacated in part the district court's judgment in a copyright case.

The plaintiff prevailed on a contributory copyright infringement claim against a publisher of her artwork, and the district court awarded her attorney fees pursuant to a fee-shifting provision contained in the parties' publishing contract.

Vacating in part, the panel held that the Copyright Act did not bar enforcement of a contractual attorney fees provision in this copyright-based litigation. Nonetheless, the district court abused its discretion by categorically excluding the majority of the plaintiff's requested fees without explanation. Affirming in part, the panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the plaintiff's motion for sanctions based on the defendant's alleged spoliation of evidence. The district court did not abuse its discretion in interpreting the mandate from a prior appeal to exclude damages from the issues at trial. The district court also did not abuse its discretion in denying the plaintiff's motion for leave to amend.

Michael A. Painter (argued), Isaacman, Kaufman & Painter, P.C., Los Angeles, California, for Defendants-Appellants/Cross-Appellees.

Richard A. De Liberty (argued), Santa Rosa, California, for Plaintiff-Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

Before: Michael Daly Hawkins, Richard A. Paez, and Marsha S. Berzon, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge Hawkins.

OPINION

Page 757

HAWKINS, Circuit Judge:

After many years of litigation and several appeals to the Ninth Circuit, artist Victoria Ryan prevailed on a contributory copyright infringement claim against a publisher of her artwork, Editions Limited West, Inc. (" ELW" ). The district court awarded Ryan attorney fees pursuant to a fee-shifting provision contained in the parties' publishing contract (the " Agreement" ). Both parties appeal.

The primary appeal, initiated by ELW, presents us with an issue of first impression: Does the Copyright Act of 1976 preclude enforcement of a contractual attorney fees provision in copyright-based litigation? On cross appeal, we are asked whether the district court abused its discretion in calculating the amount of fees to be awarded, excluding the issue of damages from trial, or denying Ryan's motion for sanctions and motion for leave to amend her complaint.

We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1291. We conclude the Copyright Act does not bar an award of attorney fees under the circumstances but hold that the district court abused its discretion by categorically excluding the majority of Ryan's requested fees without adequate explanation. Therefore, we vacate the district court's order awarding Ryan attorney fees and remand for further ...


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