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Court To Guy Who Sued News Stations Over His Facebook Live Video: Pay Their Legal Fees... And Maybe Sue Your Lawyers


If the name Kali Kanongataa doesn't ring a bell, he was the man who sued roughly all of the news for copyright infringement earlier this year. The whole episode stemmed from Kanongataa having put the birth of his child up on Facebook through the site's live streaming function in 2016. Many, many news organizations used snippets of the video in their reporting on the viral nature of the video, which had been viewed over 100,000 times. Kanongataa ultimately lost those suits on obvious Fair Use grounds and the various news organizations subsequently petitioned to be awarded attorney's fees, which the court ultimately granted.

Well, Kanongataa has since petitioned the court to vacate or reduce those attorney's fees awards on two grounds. First, Kanongataa claims his financial situation is such that these awards would bankrupt him. As the court notes however, denying the request, Kanongataa only claimed this and failed to provide any sort of evidence of his financial situation.

The difficulty here, however, is that the plaintiff has submitted no evidence at all as to his financial circumstances only an unsworn statement in a memorandum by his lawyer, which does not cut it. As Judge Chin illustrated in the Muller case, reductions in fee awards based on an unsuccessful party's limited means typically, or at least often, are made in response to evidence rather than airy claims.  And this is not unique to fees under the Copyright Act. A party resisting an award of costs under Rule 54 on the basis of inability to pay, for example, bears the burden of proving the extent of its financial resources.

While Kanongataa's subsequent claim that NBC specifically inflated the amount of time billed for its defense was also denied, the real gem in the court's written response is in a later portion on the matter of Kanongataa's financial situation. Where the court again highlights that Kanongataa submitted absolutely zero evidence for his financial situation, the court footnotes the following:

The Court expresses no view on whether and to what extent plaintiff may have recourse against his attorney for the attorneys' fees awarded here in View of any attorney advice to pursue this case and the failure to submit evidence of plaintiff's financial condition.

The court can preface this footnote any way it wants, but this sure reads like a heavy-handed hint to Kanongataa that he may want to look into recouping costs through his attorney for even bringing this case before the court in the first place, never mind failing to properly advise him on his claims of financial strife. This pretty clearly reads like a court that knows this is a case that never should have made it past the idea stage in Kanongataa's head, with clear implications that his attorney should have advised him against, or refused to even assist him with, putting any of this in motion.

One wonders exactly what sort of faces Kanongataa's attorney made upon reading this.


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