Notorious New York copyright lawyer Richard Liebowitz filed five different copyright infringement suits in Massachusetts. Liebowitz, is well known for filing hundreds of infringement suits and seeking to extract settlements without consideration of the merits of the lawsuit or the defenses asserted against them – I have personal experience with his tactics, which amounted to filing suit without first seeking to resolve matters and then simply demanding an outrageous dollar amount without explanation or justification, using the threat of the Copyright Act’s statutory damages and attorneys’ fees provisions to drive settlement. Liebowitz had yet to actually get to summary judgment or trial on any of his cases at the time, and indeed had settled virtually all the cases he filed without getting into discovery, and often without the defendant having answered the complaint. Liebowitz has been criticized by courts on several occasions and has been sanctioned for his litigation conduct, with S.D. N.Y. Judge Kaplan identifying one such filing as frivolous, and Judge Cote labelling him a “copyright troll” and imposing monetary sanctions and required Liebowitz take ethics classes. None of this is to say that the defendants did not infringe the copyrights of the plaintiffs – as Liebowitz has noted in his defense, it is very common for people to find photographs on-line and simply cut and paste the photos into their own projects, without license or attribution. The amounts sought by Liebowitz, however, vastly exceed the royalties that the photographers would have obtained, even with attorney’s fees included. The cases are split between Judges Stearns, Kelley, Saylor, Casper, Woodlock, and Young.
ALMO Music, and several other music companies, sued Worcester’s Ralph’s Rock Diner, accusing the venue of allowing the performance of copyrighted, unlicensed works by visiting artists. The plaintiffs, all members of ASCAP, allege that Ralph’s has repeatedly refused ASCAP’s licensing offers, but allowed the performance of several works in early August, 2018 that plaintiffs own copyright in. Somewhat unusually, ASCAP itself is not named as a plaintiff, with the copyright owners going it alone. Plaintiffs seek statutory damages and costs and fees as well as injunctive relief.
Coventry, RI photographer Kristen Pierson accuses Barrett’s of infringing her copyright in a photograph of New Bedford singer Craig DeMelo (known as the “Whiskey Poet”) in promotions for a performance by DeMelo at the restaurant. Pierson asserts that her notice of copyright was included at the bottom of the photograph as reproduced by Barrett’s, and further that she provides notice via her website, Rok-Pix.com. Despite receiving notice from Pierson, Barrett’s continued displaying the photograph on at least one webpage. Pierson seeks statutory damages and attorney’s fees, as well as injunctive relief.
After photographer Alexander Stross sued Ivymedia for copyright infringement relating to IvyMedia’s alleged use of a Stross photograph in its on-line advertising, Judge Sorokin denied IvyMedia’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted. IvyMedia subsequently answered and counterclaimed for extortion and fraud. Stross moved to dismiss the counterclaims as being legally and factually baseless and designed to drive up the costs of litigation. Stross further sought an award of attorneys’ fees as a sanction for IvyMedia’s continued baseless motion practice. Judge Sorokin granted Stross’ motions and awarded Stross $9671.09 in fees and costs in connection with the motion to dismiss.
DiscoverOrg, a company that provides business-to-business marketing data, sued Timlin Enterprises for copyright infringement. DiscoverOrg provides its marketing information to customers through a password-protected on-line user interface. According to the complaint, a Timlin employee accessed the database while employed by a licensed company, downloaded the data, and took it with him when he moved on to work for Timlin. A second person, meanwhile, who worked with the first accessed the database from their new, licensed company, and the data made its way to the first employee now working for Timlin. DiscoverOrg asserts that Timlin knowingly used the misappropriated data in marketing efforts. In addition to copyright infringement, DiscoverOrg asserts federal and state trade secret misappropriation (the state claim under Washington law, as DiscoverOrg is a Washington-based company), unjust enrichment, tortious interference with contractual relations, negligence for failure to properly train and supervise its employees regarding misappropriation of trade secrets, and violation of Ch. 93A. The case was assigned to Judge Zobel.
Maine resident John S. Barth, Jr., filed a pro se complaint against the United States and several individual defendants in connection with Barth’s alleged copyright infringement claims. Barth wrote a novel, The National Memorial, which was published in 2015. After sales were flat, Barth discovered a number of outlets offering low or no-cost digital versions on-line. In 2017, Barth instituted a lawsuit against several individuals and companies in the Central District of California, claiming copyright infringement and violation of the Racketeer influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). He sought to file the complaint under seal, and to undertake RICO-related discovery under seal to ascertain the entities or individuals who owned and operated the relevant websites, most of which were registered under false names, and the locations of their servers. He also filed a motion for discovery assistance, seeking assistance from federal agencies in obtaining this information. Judge Olguin denied the request that the complaint and discovery-related documents be accepted under seal and published the documents on PACER. Judge Olguin denied several follow-up motions to seal the information as well as a motion to disqualify himself. Barth now claims that the actions of Judge Olguin constitute willful collusion with the defendants in that it allowed them to transfer evidence and funds outside of the jurisdiction of the United States, denying Barth just compensation for his claims. Barth presses copyright infringement claims and RICO violations against the individual defendants, and brings a count against the United States for compensation for the taking of his private property, namely (as near as I can decipher) his right to bring the California case under seal. Judge Stearns has the pleasure of untangling this mess.
Global merchandising, who had exclusive rights to the OZZY OSBOURNE mark, filed a preemptive trademark suit in advance of Osbourne’s upcoming show at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, MA. Global seeks a TRO and preliminary injunction prohibiting the unknown defendants from making, distributing or selling merchandise bearing the mark or Osbourne’s likeness. As with the majority of these types of cases, Judge Zobel has been assigned to handle this matter.