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RIAA denied legal fees claim in Yout dispute pending appeal

By | Published on Wednesday 18 January 2023


A US judge has knocked back an attempt by the Recording Industry Association Of America to get a contribution towards the legal costs it incurred fighting a lawsuit filed against it by stream-ripping site Yout.

Although the trade body can have another go at getting those costs covered once the ongoing appeal in that legal dispute is complete.

Yout sued the RIAA after the trade body tried to get the stream-ripping website removed from Google search on copyright grounds. Via the lawsuit, Yout hoped that an American court would confirm that its service is compliant with the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

But, alas, said court did the opposite, confirming that the Yout service circumvents technical protection measures put in place by YouTube that are designed to stop people grabbing permanent downloads of temporary streams delivered via the Google video site. And such circumvention is prohibited by the DMCA.

Yout is now appealing that judgement in the Second Circuit appeals court. But that didn’t stop the RIAA from returning to the lower court that ruled in its favour seeking a motion ordering Yout to contribute $250,000 towards the legal costs it has incurred fighting this legal battle to date.

Lawyers for Yout then requested that any motion on costs be paused pending the outcome of the appeal. That was based on the argument that if Yout was forced to hand over $250,000 at this stage, that would negatively impact on its ability to pursue an appeal.

And, given the potential wider impact of the lower court’s ruling on the legalities of stream-ripping, it’s in the public interest for the case to be heard by the Second Circuit.

But, in a legal filing just before Christmas, the RIAA countered that there was “no reasonable basis” for pausing its motion on legal costs. And not only that, it’s actually in the public interest to grant the trade body its legal costs now in order to discourage “meritless lawsuits like this one” and, in doing so, protect “the rights of music creators”.

However, the lower court judge has decided not the grant any motion ordering the RIAA’s legal fees be paid by Yout at this time.

In his ruling he states: “Although Yout’s notice of appeal does not deprive the court of jurisdiction to consider the pending motion for attorneys’ fees, the court nevertheless retains discretion to deny the fee motion without prejudice with leave to re-file after disposition of the appeal”.

“Here”, he goes on, “I choose to exercise my discretion to deny the fee motion without prejudice and grant the RIAA leave to re-file the motion upon resolution of the appeal”.

A key factor in that judgement, the judge explains, is that if the RIAA prevails on appeal it will likely seek an order forcing Yout to cover at least some of the additional costs it incurs fighting said appeal. Therefore it will be more efficient to consider any claims relating to legal costs – for both the original court case and the appeal – at that point.

“The Copyright Act provides for recovery of fees and costs incurred by the prevailing party, including fees and costs incurred on appeal”, the judge adds. “The party prevailing on appeal will likely seek fees at that time; therefore, the interests of judicial efficiency, avoidance of piecemeal adjudication, and conservation of judicial resources favour denying the fee motion without prejudice at this time”.