Articles Posted in Copyright Infringement

U.S. Supreme Court–Frederick Allen (“Allen”) was hired as a videographer to document the recovery of the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck off the North Carolina coast. Allen worked to document the recovery for over a decade and registered copyrights for his works. When North Carolina published some of Allen’s work online, Allen sued for copyright infringement. North Carolina moved to dismiss the lawsuit on the ground of state sovereign immunity; while Allen argued the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act of 1990 (“CRCA”) removed the States’ sovereign immunity.

The District Court agreed with Allen while the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in favor of North Carolina on March 23, 2020.

Sovereign immunity has recently been the basis for granting summary judgment in several recent copyright cases in the Southern District of Indiana, namely at least Richard N. Bell v. Jay L. Hess, Case No. 1:16-cv-02463-TWP-DML, (S.D. Ind. March 9, 2018) and Richard N. Bell v. Jason Henderson, Case No. 1:16-cv-02488-RLY-DML, (S.D. Ind. July 23, 2018).

Lafayette, Indiana – Aaron Babcock (“Babcock”), the Plaintiff, claims to be a professional photographer in Lincoln, Nebraska. According to the complaint, Babcock photographed actor Bill Murray attending a Nebraska vs. Purdue football game (the “Photograph”). The Photograph was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office under Registration No. VA 2-126-687.

In the second of two lawsuits with identical parties, Babcock claims Gannett Satellite Information Network, LLC (“Gannett”), the Defendant, ran four articles on its websites featuring the Photograph. Babcock first sued Gannett for copyright infringement of a different photograph in December 2019 in the Western District of Wisconsin. In this case, Gannett allegedly used the Photograph without a license or permission from Babcock. As such, Babcock is seeking damages, costs, and attorneys’ fees for copyright infringement.

The case was assigned to Chief District Judge Theresa Lazar Springmann and Magistrate Judge Joshua P. Kolar in the Northern District and assigned Case 4:20-cv-00023-TLS-JPK.

Lafayette, Indiana – Professional photographer and Plaintiff, Bryan Glynn, managing member of BG Pictures LLC, claims Defendant Cigar Cigar LLC (“Cigar Cigar”) displayed his photograph protected by U.S. Copyright No. VAu 1-271-409  on its website without his consent. Glynn claims Cigar Cigar’s actions amount to copyright infringement in violation of 17 U.S.C. §§ 106 and 501. Pursuant to 17 U.S.C. §§ 504 and 505, Glynn is seeking Cigar Cigar’s profits from the use of the photograph, statutory damages, and attorney’s fees.

The case was assigned to District Judge Theresa L. Springmann and Magistrate Judge Joshua P. Kolar in the Northern District and assigned Case 4:20-cv-00022.

1-Complaint

South Bend, Indiana – Real Clear Holdings LLC (“RCH”), the Defendant, is alleged to have copied Plaintiff Christopher Sadowski’s photograph of Mayor Bill de Blasio (the “Photograph”) without a license or authorization. Sadowski claims to be a professional photographer and owner of U.S. Copyright No. VA 2-175-419 for the Photograph. According to the Complaint, Sadowski licensed the Photograph to the New York Post who posted the Photograph with Sadowski’s name in an article on its website on July 25, 2019.

RCH allegedly took the Photograph from the New York Post’s website and used the Photograph on RCH’s website www.realclearmarkets.com/ in an article posted on September 9, 2019. Sadowski claims RCH did not license the Photograph from him and did not have his permission to utilize the Photograph. He further claims RCH removed the copyright management information identifying Sadowski as the photographer as shown on the New York Post’s website and instead credited “YouTube”. Therefore, he is seeking damages for copyright infringement and removal and alteration of copyright management information.

The case was assigned to District Judge Damon R. Leichty and Magistrate Judge Michael G. Gotsch, Sr. in the Northern District and assigned Case 3:20-cv-00215-DRL-MGG.

South Bend, Indiana – Kevin Jairaj (“Jairaj”), the Plaintiff, claims to be a professional photographer in the business of licensing his photographs including one of Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney (the “Photograph”). Jairaj claims to have registered the Photograph with the U.S. Copyright Office and granted Copyright Registration No. VA 2-112-984. According to the Complaint, Defendant Gray Television ran multiple articles on its websites regarding the alleged sexual abuse of McKayla Maroney featuring the Photograph without a license. Jairaj is seeking damages and statutory relief for copyright infringement pursuant to 17 U.S.C. §§ 106 and 501 and intentionally removing copyright management information pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 1202.

The case was assigned to District Judge Robert L. Miller, Jr., and Magistrate Judge Michael G. Gotsch, Sr. in the Northern District and assigned Case 3:20-cv-00156-RLM-MGG.

Complaint

Fort Wayne, Indiana – George Matula (“Matula”), the Plaintiff, claims to be a professional photographer in the business of licensing his photographs for a fee. Matula allegedly photographed a horse and registered the photograph as U.S. Copyright No. VA 2-154-421 (the “Photograph”) in 2018. According to the Complaint, Defendant Triple H Magazine ran the Photograph in its publication without licensing the Photograph from Matula in violation of the U.S. Copyright Act. Therefore, Matula is seeking damages for copyright infringement pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 504(b).

The case was assigned to District Judge Holly A. Brady and Magistrate Judge Susan L. Collins in the Northern District and assigned Case 1:20-cv-00071-HAB-SLC.

Complaint

Fort Wayne, IndianaShield Exteriors, Inc. (“Shield Exteriors”) filed an infringement suit against five Defendants regarding its U.S. Copyright No. VA 2-174-290 (the “‘290 Registration”) and its “SHIELD EXTERIORS” word mark and logo (the “Shield Marks”) in the Northern District of Indiana. According to the Complaint, the ‘290 Registration protects eight photographs of roof installations completed by Shield Exteriors. Shield Exteriors claims it has used the Shield Marks in connection with roofing services since as early as 2015.

Defendant Roof Genius Pro (“Roof Genius”) allegedly owns and operates two different websites that display the Shield Marks and seven of the eight photographs protected by the ‘290 Registration. According to the Complaint, Roof Genius advertised for Defendant 4Ever Metal Roofing, LLC (“4Ever Metal”) via a video advertisement posted on Facebook that included photographs of metal roofs installed by Shield Exteriors. The link posted with that advertisement redirects viewers to a website hosted by Defendant Local2Online, which displays the name and logo of 4Ever Metal and solicits customer information utilizing photographs protected by the ‘290 Registration. The other two named Defendants, sued in their individual capacities, are the owner of Roof Genius and Local 2Online, John Estabrook, and the owner of 4Ever Metal, Travis Sliger.

The case was assigned to District Judge Holly A. Brady and Magistrate Judge Susan L. Collins in the Northern District and assigned Case 1:20-cv-00064-HAB-SLC.

District of Oregon – Richard Bell, a well-known copyright infringement litigant, has filed over 100 lawsuits regarding infringement of U.S. Copyright No. VA0001785115 (the “Indianapolis Photo”). However, in September 2019, a federal jury in Bell v. Carmen Commercial Real Estate Servs. found that Bell was unable to prove that he actually owned the Indianapolis Photo. Case No. 1:16-cv-01174-JRS-MPB, (S.D. Ind. Sept. 26, 2019). Being that the first element in a copyright infringement claim is to prove ownership of a valid copyright, it appeared that the jury’s decision would put an end to future litigation for Bell.

In the present case, Bell, sought a default judgment against Michael J. Davis and three other Defendants for allegedly infringing his rights in the Indianapolis Photo in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. After the Defendants failed to appear or respond to the Complaint, the Magistrate Judge issued an entry of default against all of the Defendants. Bell then filed a motion for an entry of default judgment to be entered along with an award of $150,000 in statutory damages, attorneys’ fees, costs, and injunctive relief.

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Hammond, Indiana – Broadcast Music, Inc. (“BMI”), along with eleven other Plaintiffs (the “Copyright Owners”), filed suit against Backstage of Indiana, LLC d/b/a Backstage on Broadway (“Backstage”) and Marcell Jackson (“Jackson” and collectively “Defendants”) alleging copyright infringement of six different musical compositions. BMI alleges it has licensing rights to the six musical compositions at issue which are owned by the eleven Copyright Owners. Jackson is allegedly an owner of Backstage and is responsible for the operation and management of the establishment including the public performance of musical compositions. BMI and the Copyright Owners are seeking damages for six claims of willful copyright infringement after allegedly reaching out to Defendants over seventy times in an effort to educate them on the Copyright Act and license the musical compositions to Defendants.

The case was assigned to Northern District Judge Philip P. Simon and Magistrate Judge Joshua P. Kolar in the Northern District and assigned Case 2:20-cv-00010-PPS-JPK.

BMI-Complaint

Indianapolis, Indiana – Sheryl Lutz-Brown (“Sheryl”), the principal for Plaintiff, Corlinea, is a graphic designer and creator of copyrighted jewelry designs. In 2016, Sheryl claims to have developed a unique work entitled “HEARTY LOVE Design” that incorporated the word “love” into a heart shape design with one continuous line. Shortly after the “HEARTY LOVE Design”, it appears Sheryl created the “Heartlines Love Pendant” which was a heart-shaped pendant with the word “love” incorporated into the design with a continuous line. Sheryl registered both of these designs and they were assigned U.S. Copyright Registration Nos. VAu 1-301-361 and VAu 2-093-049 (the “Registered Copyrights”), respectively. Corlinea claims to own both of the Registered Copyrights by assignment.

Pendant-picture-300x161Corlinea and Defendant, Shah Diamonds, Inc. d/b/a Shah Luxury (“Shah”), are no strangers in litigation as Corlinea previously sued Shah in a similar lawsuit in 2018. The parties in that case entered into a confidential Settlement Agreement and Release and the case was voluntarily dismissed. Less than one year after Shah signed the previous Settlement Agreement and Release, Corlinea claims it discovered Shah was once again offering infringing jewelry for sale on its website.

Corlinea claims Defendants, Spath Jewelers, Inc. and Showcase Jewelers, LTD are also offering infringing jewelry for sale on their respective websites. Due to the allegedly intentional copying of the Registered Copyrights, Corlinea is seeking damages for Federal Copyright Infringement pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 501 and breach of the Settlement Agreement and Release from the 2018 lawsuit.

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