On an issue of first impression in a copyright infringement dispute out of the Southern District of Texas, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit confirmed that failure to mitigate is not a complete defense to copyright or Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) claims for statutory damages. Energy Intelligence Grp., Inc. et. al., v. Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors, LP, et. al., Case No. 18-20350 (5th Cir., January 15, 2020) (Higginson, J.).
In 2014, energy industry publisher Energy Intelligence Group, Inc. and its affiliated entity in the United Kingdom (together, EIG) filed suit against energy securities investment firm Kayne Anderson Capital Advisers (KA), alleging copyright infringement and abuses of the DMCA based on a KA partner’s violation of US copyright law and violation of his subscription agreement for EIG’s Oil Daily newsletter, which provides news and analysis about the North America petroleum industry. The jury in the district court proceeding found that EIG could have reasonably avoided almost all of the alleged copyright and DMCA violations through real-time investigations and enforcement efforts, and thus awarded EIG just over $500,000 in statutory damages for the infringement of 39 works of authorship. The district court, however, still applied the Copyright Act’s fee shifting provisions and awarded EIG over $2.6 million in attorney’s fees and costs. The parties’ consolidated appeals to the Fifth Circuit thus presented an issue of first impression: namely, whether the failure to mitigate copyright infringement is a complete defense to liability for statutory damages under the Copyright Act and the DMCA.