In an opinion Wednesday, Judge Kaplan awarded attorneys’ fees to news networks that broadcast brief excerpts of the plaintiff’s live-streaming on Facebook of his partner’s childbirth. Alongside the broadcasts, the networks offered “social commentary about the phenomenon of someone publicly live-streaming a life event that traditionally is considered personal.” Judge Kaplan dismissed the plaintiff’s copyright claims on fair use grounds, and in the ruling Wednesday, he found the case so meritless as to justify fee-shifting:
Here, no reasonable lawyer with any familiarity with the law of copyright could have thought that the fleeting and minimal uses, in the context of news reporting and social commentary that these defendants made of tiny portions of the 45-minute Video was anything but fair.
An award of attorneys’ fees to the defendants would serve to “encourage parties with strong legal positions to stand on their rights” while deterring “those with weak ones from proceeding with litigation.”
Nor is any special solicitude warranted toward plaintiff on the theory that these lawsuits “resolved an important and close legal issue and thus meaningfully clarified copyright law.” This, after all, was what a wag the Court once encountered would have called a “purple and green spotted cow” case – a case the like of which is not particularly likely ever to be encountered again.