Good news for artists. Copyright law allows a cartoonist who won a copyright claim to receive attorney fees to pay her lawyer, which gives artists a stronger hand in protecting their works.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the Copyright Act allows enforcement of a contractual attorney fees provision for artist Victoria Ryan.
Ryan creates pastel on paper works for art posters. In 1995, she sued Editions Ltd. West, the publisher of art posters because it began to produce derivative works, such as canvas transfers, giclees and wall murals without a copyright license.
After years of litigation Ryan won a contributory copyright infringement claim against ELW. She was awarded attorney fees through a fee-shifting provision in her publishing contract. ELW appealed challenging the fees and Ryan appeals saying her lawyers had not been awarded enough in fees.
The appeals court held the Copyright Act does not bar award of fees and that the district court excluded a majority of Ryan’s fee request without adequate explanation.
The court sent the case back to recalculate the attorney fees.
Ryan sought $328,000 in fees but the district court allowed only $51,000 in fees.
The opinion was written by Judge Michael Daly Hawkins and joined by Judges Richard Paez and Marsha Berzon.
Case: Ryan v. Editions Ltd. West, No. 12-17810