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IP/Entertainment Case Law Updates

Mayimba Music Inc. v. Sony/ATV Latin Music Publishing LLC

District court awards defendants $400,000 in legal fees in copyright infringement suit over Shakira’s hit song “Loca,” in which plaintiff’s claims were shown to be based on fabricated evidence.

In 2012, Mayimba Music sued Sony Corp. of America, Sony Music Entertainment, Sony/ATV Latin Music Publishing LLC and related entities, claiming that the song “Loca Con Su Tiguere,” released in 2007 by Dominican performer Eduard Bello, known as El Cata, and the song “Loca,” released in 2010 and 2011 by Latin American pop star Shakira, infringed Mayimba’s copyright in a song that was allegedly written in 1998 by Dominican songwriter Ramon Arias Vasquez. Following a bench trial, the district court ruled in 2014 that the defendants were liable for copyright infringement. Defendants then moved for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence and, following a second bench trial in August 2015, the district court determined that Mayimba’s claims were based on falsified evidence and that its copyright was therefore invalid.

In a March 31, 2016, order, the district court denied Mayimba’s motion to set aside the judgment and partially granted the defendants’ motion for attorneys’ fees and costs, but only as to fees and costs incurred after the defendants moved to set aside the court’s original judgment. The district court also granted the defendants’ request for sanctions against plaintiff’s counsel. (Read our summary of the district court’s decision here.)

Defendants sought $677,934 in attorneys’ fees and $64,946 in nontaxable costs. The district court found that the hourly rates of defendants’ attorneys and their support staff were either commensurate with the rates approved for similarly qualified attorneys in the jurisdiction or reasonable in light of their substantial experience. It also found that the amount of time spent preparing the motion for attorneys’ fees and opposing the plaintiff’s motion to set aside the judgment was reasonable in light of the complexity of the case and the voluminous record.

Despite finding that the defendants’ request was technically reasonable, the district court awarded defendants $350,000 in attorneys’ fees and $50,000 in nontaxable costs. The court reasoned that “[t]he sanctioned party did not agree to such a schedule [of fees and costs], and may ill afford the expense, particularly after losing so completely on the merits.”

The district court refused to sanction Mayimba’s new counsel, Balber Pickard, which had appeared after the 2015 trial, but it held Mayimba’s former counsel, James Sheinbaum of the firm Borstein & Sheinbaum, jointly and severally liable for $200,000 of the $400,000 award.

Litigation Update: the parties have entered a confidential settlement agreement in which Mayimba denies any fraudulent activity or other wrongdoing.

Summary prepared by Tal Dickstein and Amanda-Jane Thomas 

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