Wednesday, June 25, 2008

$12M © Verdict. Yea! Hmmm, no, not so much

I've been trying to get worked up and excited about the $12M verdict that everyone is so excited about (Carolyn Wright's Posting - Photographer Gets $12 Million Verdict!!! , 6/21/08), but much of me can't. I've been thinking about this for the past few days.

First, the part of me that can - yes, anytime someone is punished for the theft of someone else's intellectual property, and the reason that the win occurs is because of the proper business practices (i.e. copyright registration in this case), I am happy for them.

(Continued after the Jump)

That said, here are a few sobering facts. The McDonalds $3M hot coffee incident (and no, I'm not referring to the GTA Hot Coffee incident) was quietly slashed by more than two-thirds, and further, settled, in the end, for reportedly much less than that. The $5B fine against Exxon for their oil spill ended up being much much less, in the end. (to read more, go here for both).

Thus, I expect that a $12M verdict will find it's way to a much much smaller number. Either through bankruptcy, an appeal, or some other meandering loophole.

Carolyn Wright does an excellent job of laying out how the whole thing went down on her blog, and it's worth a read. I get excited when I read about things like Chase Jarvis making headway in a battle with K2 (JARVIS V. K2, 6/26/2007), and other cases where the party doing the wrong-doing turns up. Sadly, this is not the case. The party didn't show up. Didn't respond. It was like the ball players for the scheduled weekly game didn't turn up and thus the tick in the win column was by default, and the referee called a forfeit.

Now, photographers might find themselves with up against the use of a $12M verdict for 7 images as being an example by those looking to diminish the value of copyright as to just how bad the current state of copyright is, and why wholesale reform needs to take place, with more images available for pennies on the dollar, or no pennies at all.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

5 comments:

Will Seberger said...

That finding will probably do more to hurt her chances of ever seeing money from them than a much smaller one would.

First, it sticks out like a sore thumb and will be appealed. I understand that infringement suits are designed to be punitive, but there isn't a judge out there who's going to think $12M is fair punishment, since no one was truly harmed. Wrongful death suits rarely see so much. And someone DIED.

Frankly, does the punishment fit the infraction? A finding of 10x what she could have reasonably charged to make and license the photo is punitive. Doubtful a photographer would see $12M in a lifetime of work otherwise.

In fact, that's not a bad idea. In cases such as these, have the offended party draw up an estimate to do the shoot all over again and license the photo as it was used for one year. Order the offending party to pay 10x that amount as punishment for not doing it the 'right way' the first time, and call it a day.

Secondly, even if a large number sticks, the company files Chapter 7 (or just disappears altogether), opens under a new DBA and life goes on.

Honestly, for a non-public company, a bankruptcy doesn't hurt much.

I'm a full-time freelancer too, and I respect the need to protect our work, but we need a more effective, and less costly, method of being made whole (and punishing infringers).

ButchM said...

I too think the award indeed excessive, however, the complainant did not seek that amount. If people read past the amount of the award, they'll soon see, this case was an exception and not the average case. The amount was awarded by the JUDGE after he calculated using a formula established by legal precedent.

The amount was equal to the total gross profit received for multiple real estate transactions. The defendants never bothered to show up or offer information and evidence as to the actual net profit the photographer was entitled to a fair share of. The photographer could have accepted a little over $1M in statutory damages, but accepted the judges ruling instead. Who wouldn't? Chances are she will likely end up with an amount closer to the lower number, but now she has a bargaining tool.

Following the legal precedent, and no information being offered by defendants to the contrary, the judge had little choice but to rule as he did expecting there would be a negotiated settlement or a later appeal.

Will the photographer ever receive an amount even close to the award? Probably not. Although anytime another infringer bites the dust .... can't be all bad.

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Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! thanks a lot! ^^

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