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.
The Court held an evidentiary hearing to address the damages and liability issues before deciding on Bell’s motion. Further, the Court provided notice to Bell that he should be prepared to discuss discrepancies in his testimony provided during the Carmen case. While Bell testified as to the discrepancies in his previous testimony, the Court took judicial notice of the jury instructions, verdict, related briefing, and court records in the Carmen case and found that the issue of Bell’s ownership of the Indianapolis Photo was litigated and decided in the Carmen action. Therefore, the Court found that Bell was precluded from relitigating his alleged ownership interest in the Indianapolis Photo and his Motion for Default Judgment was denied.