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.
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.
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