Manatt Secures Significant Copyright Victory Before the Ninth Circuit

Manatt appellate partner Benjamin Shatz successfully represented Dolores Press Inc. and Pastor Melissa Scott in a significant copyright victory before the Ninth Circuit. In a published opinion on a matter of first impression, Shatz guided our clients through an appeal in the Ninth Circuit, which ruled that they were in fact eligible to recover attorneys’ fees related to a case involving the copyrights to a late pastor’s video-recorded sermons.

In 2014, Dolores Press initially filed three related lawsuits against Patrick Robinson, Truth Seekers Inc. and Doc’s Dream LLC for copyright and trademark infringement related to the online dissemination of the sermons of Pastor Eugene Scott. Dr. Scott was a well-known Los Angeles pastor and broadcaster for nearly 50 years until his death in 2005. Dolores Press’ claims were originally dismissed in district court, but in 2019, the Ninth Circuit reversed that dismissal in appeals also handled by Shatz.

In a fourth related suit, Doc’s Dream sought a declaratory ruling that Dr. Scott had completely abandoned his works to the public domain. The district court granted summary judgment in Dolores Press’ favor, and in 2019 Shatz successfully represented Dolores Press and Pastor Melissa Scott before the Ninth Circuit, winning an affirmance of the district court’s decision.

Dolores Press had also sought an award of attorneys’ fees, which the district court denied on the grounds that recovery is not generally available in declaratory relief petitions under the Copyright Act. Shatz again guided Dolores Press and Pastor Melissa Scott through an appeal to the Ninth Circuit, which ruled that the firm’s clients were in fact eligible to recover attorneys’ fees because the question of the validity of the copyright was at the core of the declaratory relief action. On the day of this opinion’s publication, and as a result of the decision, the Ninth Circuit also issued an unpublished order awarding us attorneys’ fees in the earlier appeal as well.

To read the Ninth Circuit’s full decision, click here.

This case has been covered by The Recorder, Bloomberg Law and Law360.

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