Supreme Court Review 2016/2017 TERM
MONDAY, JULY 24, 2017

Issue:  Attorneys' Fees Award Under Copyright Act

Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.



Section 505 of the Copyright Act provides that a “court may ... award a reasonable attorney’s fee to the prevailing party” in a copyright case. 17 U.S.C. § 505. The Ninth and Eleventh Circuits award attorneys’ fees when the prevailing party’s successful claim or defense advanced the purposes of the Copyright Act. The Fifth and Seventh Circuits employ a presumption in favor of attorneys’ fees for a prevailing party that the losing party must overcome. Other courts of appeals primarily employ the several “nonexclusive factors” this Court identified in dicta in Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc., 510 U.S. 517, 534 n.19 (1994). And the Second Circuit, as it did in this case, places “substantial weight” on whether the losing party’s claim or defense was “objectively unreasonable.” Matthew Bender & Co. v. W. Publ’g Co., 240 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2001).

The question presented is:
What is the appropriate standard for awarding attorneys’ fees to a prevailing party under § 505 of the Copyright Act?


Decided June 16, 2016 HOLDING

When deciding whether to award attorney’s fees under §505, a district court should give substantial weight to the objective reasonableness of the losing party’s position, while still taking into account all other circumstances relevant to granting fees.

Agree image Justice Sotomayor
Agree Sotomayor
Agree image Justice Breyer
Agree Breyer
Agree image Justice Thomas
Agree Thomas
Recused image Justice Scalia
Recused Scalia
Agree image Chief Justice Roberts
Agree Roberts
Agree image Justice Kennedy
Agree Kennedy
Agree image Justice Ginsburg
Agree Ginsburg
Agree image Justice Alito
Agree Alito
Author image Justice Kagan
Author Kagan

KAGAN, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Text of Opinion
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Granted January 15, 2016

Certiorari Stage Documents
      Petition for Certiorari (pdf download)
Brief in Opposition (pdf download)
Petitioner's Reply (pdf download)


United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Decided May 27, 2015
pdf download