from the democracy! dept
The court did not take long in dismissing the lawsuit and benchslapping the city for filing the lawsuit in the first place. The court allowed Teixeira to seek legal fees, and while the city pushed back, the court has now told the city to pay another $117,741 in legal fees to Teixeira's lawyers, noting that the entire lawsuit was "objectively unreasonable."
Judge Michael Fitzgerald has another opportunity to smack Inglewood around for filing such a bogus lawsuit in the first place, and notes that it's pretty damn clear that the entire purpose behind this lawsuit was to silence a critic, not because of any legitimate belief that a copyright was being infringed.
It is, of course, impossible to know with certainty what prompted the City to bring this lawsuit. The City avers that its only motivation was to enforce the rights it believed it had in the videos.... But the Court is not persuaded. As Defendant rightly notes, the main justification of the Copyright Act is “the protection of the commercial interest of the author.”... California law, however, prohibits the City from charging anything more than the “direct costs of duplication” when providing public records.... Pecuniary gain, therefore, could not have been the motivating factor in filing this action. As the Court made clear at the hearing, the City’s most plausible purpose was to stifle Defendant’s political speech after he harshly criticized the City’s elected officials. As such, this factor weighs heavily in favor of an attorneys’ fees award.The judge also notes that he's worried that, if left unpunished, Inglewood or other cities might do this again:
At the hearing, counsel for Plaintiff implied that this Court was basing its ruling on the reaction of the press or the academic community. The Court does not do so.
The Court is also persuaded that a fee award is necessary to deter future meritless litigations of this kind. The City argues that the attorneys’ fees “will have absolutely no deterrent effect” on a municipality that intends to file no future copyright lawsuits.... Even if true, the Court notes that deterrence is a broad value that is not limited to the individual litigants here. Indeed, a reasonable award of fees will serve to deter other entities, whether public or private, that contemplate bringing unreasonable suits to pressure an individual into abandoning protected activity.So, between the original $50,000 allotted and this $117,741, that's an awful lot of taxpayer money being spent just to try to stifle someone's First Amendment rights. It kind of makes you wonder what they're doing with the rest of the taxpayer funds they have access to.