Masterfile Awarded $46,800 in Online Lawsuit

Posted on 9/20/2007 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Masterfile Corp.'s lawsuit against J.V. Trading concluded with the District Court of New York awarding the stock agency five times its usual licensing fee for online use of rights-managed imagery. The court granted the full extent of damages requested, including statutory damages and attorney's fees, for a total of $46,816.91.

New York entertainment law firm of Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard represented Masterfile in this matter. Firm partner Nancy Wolff, who is also the legal counsel for the Picture Archive Council of America and a number of other stock-licensing businesses, says this case sets an important legal precedent: It shows the court's willingness to award multiple times the usual fees and to penalize offenders by also awarding other damages. In addition, the outcome reaffirms that there is a legal remedy for online copyright infringement; it is worth pursuing, particularly in cases of multiple infringements by the same party.

During 2002-2005, the Web site of Asian foods marketer J.V. Trading used eight Masterfile images without obtaining proper licenses or paying the corresponding fees. The infringement was discovered by PicScout, whose services Masterfile engaged to monitor the online use of its images. Masterfile contacted J.V. Trading, whose responses ranged from ignoring cease-and-desist communications to attempting to blame its Web designer. The company clearly hoped that removing the images and avoiding contact would be enough to make the problem go away.

In addition to having proof of copyright ownership for all eight images, Masterfile sent three notices and also offered J.V. Trading a retroactive licensing agreement, seeking payment for three years of unauthorized image use. J.V. Trading ignored all such attempts at an amicable resolution. This provided the court with evidence of willful infringement and led to an award of an increased amount of damages.

When Masterfile finally filed a lawsuit, J.V. Trading did not answer the federal-court action. After an appropriate time period, Masterfile sought and the court granted a default judgment in favor of the stock agency.

The next step is collection. Steve Pigeon, Masterfile's president, says, "These things are rarely easy. We'll wait the requisite period of time and then, if the opposite side doesn't cough up, we'll take action to enforce the judgment." Even if full recovery is not achieved, Wolff says the case presents an important example of how to pursue a copyright infringement claim when defendant refuses to answer and defaults.

Copyright © 2007 Julia Dudnik Stern. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


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