FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO [Hon. Gustavo A. Gelpí, Jr., U.S. District
R. Rodríguez, with whom Rodríguez Lopez Law
Offices, P.S.C. was on brief, for appellant.
C. Rose, with whom Pryor Cashman LLP, Jorge I. Peirats, Maria
D. Trelles-Hernández and Pietrantoni Méndez
& Alvarez LLC, were on brief, for appellees.
Torruella, Lipez, and Barron, Circuit Judges.
BARRON, Circuit Judge.
appeal is from an order granting a motion for attorney's
fees pursuant to the Copyright Act. We reverse.
28, 2014, the plaintiff, Luis Adrián
Cortés-Ramos, filed a complaint in the District of
Puerto Rico against Sony Corporation of America (Sony) and
other related defendants, in connection with a songwriting
contest that Sony had co-sponsored. The suit alleged various
claims under Puerto Rico and federal law, including claims
under the Copyright Act. 17 U.S.C. § 505.
District Court dismissed with prejudice all of the claims on
the grounds that they were subject to mandatory arbitration
pursuant to an agreement that Cortés-Ramos had signed
when he entered the contest and that he had failed to allege
facts sufficient to support his claims under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). We affirmed the District Court's order
dismissing the claims. See Cortés-Ramos v. Sony
Corp. of Am., 836 F.3d 128 (1st Cir. 2016).
defendants then moved for attorney's fees pursuant to
§ 505 of the Copyright Act, which provides for a
"reasonable attorney's fee to the prevailing
party." 17 U.S.C. § 505. The District Court granted
the defendants' motion and awarded $47, 601.78 in
now argues that the District Court erred in awarding
attorney's fees because the defendants do not qualify as
prevailing parties under § 505. We agree.
evaluating a similarly worded attorney's fees provision
to the one that we confront here, see 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1983, 1988(b) (providing that federal district
courts may "allow the prevailing party . . . a
reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs"),
the Supreme Court made clear that "[t]he touchstone of
the prevailing party inquiry . . . [is] the material
alteration of the legal relationship of the parties in a
manner which Congress sought to promote in the fee
statute." Sole v. Wyner, 551 U.S. 74, 82
(2007) (internal quotations and citations omitted) (emphasis
added). Here, there has been no such alteration.
these parties were last before us on appeal, we did affirm
the District Court's order dismissing
Cortés-Ramos' claims (including the Copyright Act
claims) "with prejudice."
Cortés-Ramos, 836 F.3d at 129-30. But, we
made clear that we were doing so solely because we were
affirming the District Court's order compelling
arbitration of these claims. Id. at 130. And, we
expressly noted that "in light of the District
Court's order compelling arbitration, Cortés's
claims 'ha[ve] not been extinguished but [have been]
merely left to the arbitrator.'" Id. at 130
(quoting Next Step Med. Co. v. Johnson & Johnson
Int'l, 619 F.3d 67, 71 (1st Cir. 2010)).
the only material alteration in the parties' legal
relationship concerning the Copyright Act arises from a
ruling regarding the forum in which Cortés-Ramos'
Copyright Act claims must be heard. But, the Copyright Act --
unlike the Federal Arbitration Act, see 9 U.S.C.
§ 2 -- reflects no congressional policy favoring or
disfavoring arbitration of claims. There thus has been no
"material alteration of the legal relationship of the
parties in a manner which Congress sought to promote"
when it enacted § 505 of the Copyright Act.
Sole, 551 U.S. at 82; see also Heritage Capital
Corp. v. Christie's, Inc., No. 3:16-CV-3404-D, 2018
WL 398202, at *3 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 12, 2018) (holding that
Defendant did not qualify under § 505 of the Copyright
Act as a prevailing party because compelling arbitration was
a procedural victory that did not materially alter the legal
relationship between the parties).
therefore reverse the order of the District Court