Storix v. Johnson | Copyright Infringement

JUDGE MARILYN HUFF

In this case, federal district court Judge Marilyn L. Huff ruled that Johnson transferred ownership all copyrights to his software (SBAdmin) to Storix when he incorporated the company in 2003, even though Johnson was Storix's sole owner, officer and director.  After finding for the first time in U.S. History that no written agreement was needed to transfer copyright ownership, Judge Huff ordered Johnson to pay Storix (after he gave 60% ownership to his employees) over 5 times the largest attorney fee award against any individual in a copyright case in U.S. History ($555,000) simply because he sent an email during the litigation threatening to sue the new 52% majority shareholders for the damages they were causing Storix. and she did so knowing Johnson woudl have to sell his house to afford a bond to appeal her decision. Despite Judge Huff's rulings, Storix still has no right to enforce "its" copyrights because they remain registered to Johnson with the U.S. copyright office - which Storix cannot change without a written transfer agreement from Johnson.

On first appeal, the Ninth Circuit upheld the copyright ownership decision without addressing the fact that the copyrights had been registered with the Copyright Office to Johnson fro 15 years or that Storix posessed no written transfer agreement. But it remanded the case back to Judge Huff to redecide the attorney fees they found unreasonable and excessive.

 

Judge Huff again ignored all Johnson's arguments and evidence showing that, by then, Storix had demanded and was awarded only $3,739.14 related to the "2015 email" from which she based the entire attorney fee award (even though it had nothing to do with the copyright case). He also cited numerous statutes and cases showing that anything more than a nominal amount was unreasonable under the circunstances. She nevertheless only reduced the amount to $420,000 ("to comply wth the mandateto reduce the fees") but then added 3 years of interest. Johnson appealed again, citing the same cases and statures proving the amount still unreasonable, and also that it was a violation of his First Amendment rights to base the award on an email that Judge Huff simply found "inapppropriate" because it threatened Storix's management with litigation. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the entire fee award on the sole ground that Johnson improperly appealed the "decision" to award fees instead of the "amount" remanded for reconsideration (without even saying what the "decision" was based on or deciding the other four issues addressing the unreasonablemess of the amount). 

(missing Storix opposition to motion for reconsideration)