Jury awards our client $403,500 for John Wiley & Son's willful copyright infringement of six photographs
After a six day trial, in which textbook publisher John Wiley was shown to have exceeded the limits of licenses issued by our client Panoramic Stock Images LLC, a Chicago jury found Wiley liable for willful copyright infringement and returned a verdict of $150,000 for one image, $62,500 each for four images, and $3,500 for a sixth image. Wiley argued the total award should be less than $12,500 at most because Wiley's infringements were insignificant and mere mistakes. The evidence exposed Wiley's widespread copyright infringements, including ongoing infringements, and Wiley's failure to pay photographers for known unauthorized uses.
Jury awards our client $127,087 for McGraw-Hill's willful copyright infringement of 53 photographs
Grant Heilman Photography Inc.
had a 20-year relationship with textbook publisher McGraw-Hill, issuing
hundreds of licenses permitting the use of its photographs on the limited terms
McGraw requested and paid for. McGraw exceeded GHPI's licenses by
printing more copies than authorized, distributing overseas after securing
North America only rights, and making unauthorized electronic products.
In a mini-trial of 3% of the claims in suit, McGraw asserted the case
should be dismissed because GHPI allegedly did not sue McGraw soon enough.
McGraw argued a 2006 payment it sent to GHPI for overrunning 12 licenses
should have caused GHPI to be aware of McGraw's infringements relating to other
licenses. At the same time it contended GHPI should have known McGraw was
infringing on a widespread basis, its witnesses at trial all denied they knew
McGraw was infringing. The jury rejected McGraw's defenses, found McGraw
liable for copyright infringement, and awarded damages. A trial of
the remaining claims is pending.
Corbis Corporation copyright registrations reinstated by Ninth Circuit federal appeals court
Our clients Tom Bean and Alaska Stock LLC brought suit against Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company (HMH) and Pearson Education, Inc. for copyright infringement of their photographs in textbooks, relying on group registrations like the ones found deficient in the Muench Photogrphy Inc. case discussed above. The District Courts dismissed. We appealed both cases to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed the lower courts rulings and reinstated the cases. In a rebuke to the lower courts, the Appeals Court stated, "We are not performing a mere verbal, abstract task when we construe the Copyright Act. We are affecting the fortunes of people, many of whose fortunes are small. The stock agencies through their trade association worked out what they should do to register images with the Register of Copyrights, the Copyright Office established a clear procedure and the stock agencies followed it. The Copyright Office has maintained its procedure for three decades, spanning multiple administrations. The livelihoods of photographers and stock agencies have long been founded on their compliance with the Register’s reasonable interpretation of the statute. Their reliance upon a reasonable and longstanding administrative interpretation should be honored. Denying the fruits of reliance by citizens on a longstanding administrative practice reasonably construing a statute is unjust."
Now the cases can be decided on the merits.
Corbis Corporation copyright registrations invalidated by SDNY federal district court
Our client Muench Photography Inc. (MPI) brought suit against Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company (HMH) for copyright infringement, alleging the textbook publisher exceeded copy limits in over 100 licenses issued by MPI's stock agency Corbis Corporation. HMH persuaded a federal judge in New York to dismiss the claims. Even though the Copyright Office approved the Corbis registration program - under which millions of photographs have been registered - the registrations were stricken because not every photographer was named on Corbis' registration application forms. The Court did not give any weight to the fact that the Copyright Office expressly advised Corbis it need not name each photographer. The Court also did not address a 2008 amendment to the Copyright Act that states that inaccurate information on an application shall not invalidate a registration certificate unless (1) the applicant knew the information was inaccurate and (2) the Copyright Office would have denied the registration if the accurate information had been known. This provision was enacted to prevent infringers from using technical deficiencies in the registration process to avoid liability for copyright infringement.
Not surprisingly, the Muench court’s ruling has generated great interest in the visual art licensing industry and three amicus curiae, Corbis Corporation, American Society of Media Photographers, and Picture Archive Council of America, Inc., filed briefs in support of Harmon & Seidman LLC's (www.harmonseidman.com) now pending motion for reconsideration.
US federal judge rules Houghton Mifflin Harcourt committed copyright infringement
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company (HMH) is a multi-billion dollar textbook publisher. For many years HMH engaged in a wide-ranging, fraudulent business practice. Its scheme was simple. HMH obtained thousands of licenses for copyrighted visual art, alleging it would reproduce small quantities while knowing it would reproduce far more. It did so without telling the copyright holders or paying additional fees. For example, in Wood v. Houghton Mifflin et al, HMH licensed work for 40,000 but printed in excess of one million.
On December 15, 2008, for the first time, a U.S. District Court granted a motion for summary judgment we filed on behalf of our client, professional photographer Ted Wood, finding HMH and its printer committed copyright infringement by copying Wood's photographs in excess of the license limit of 40,000. The court also denied HMH's motion for summary judgment on disgorgement of profits, fraud, punitive damages, and its printers' profits. This means Wood could have presented all those claims to the jury. Shortly after this ruling was announced, the case settled.
In another case pending against HMH, Semerdjian v. McDougal Littell, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, HMH licensed paintings for 40,000 copies for use in The Language of Literature, grade 9, 2000 edition but printed more than 1.2 million copies. Sales of this textbook have generated approximately $64 million in revenues.
US federal judge rules John Wiley & Sons, Inc. committed copyright infringement
For decades, our client, professional photographer Tom Bean, licensed photographs to John Wiley & Sons for use in its textbooks. Tom asked us to find out whether Wiley was using his images beyond the permissions he granted. After Wiley was required to disclose its uses in response to our discovery requests, we filed a motion for summary judgment on 108 copyright infringement claims. On March 30, 2012, Federal Judge Martone in the District of Arizona granted our motion and ruled as a matter of law that Wiley committed copyright infringement in all 108 instances.
US federal judge rules Pearson Education, Inc. committed copyright infringement
Our clients, photographers Tom Bean and Dr. Dennis Kunkel, licensed images to Pearson Education for use in its textbooks. After Pearson secured limited licenses, Pearson ignored these limits, thereby committing copyright infringement. To add insult to injury, Pearson often knew - at the very time it was asking for limited rights - that its actual uses would far exceed the rights it was requesting.
For example, we established that In August 2005 Pearson requested permission from Bean to include two of his photographs in Scott Foresman Science, Grade 3, and Bean granted permission to reproduce up to 200,000 copies of the text. By April 2009, Pearson had already reproduced 354,847 copies. In November 2009, Pearson sought permission to print an additional 100,000 copies of Bean’s photographs in that textbook in the future. Before granting permission for the extension, Bean asked Pearson to verify that the “current number of copies that have been produced is less than 200,000 copies including e-books, and that the distribution was in North America only.” Pearson’s representative confirmed that “Yes that is correct.” Based on this representation, Bean granted the extension for an additional 100,000 copies for a fee of 50% of the original licensing fee. In all, Pearson printed 719,191copies of the text, despite having licensed only 300,000 copies from Bean.
On our clients’ behalf, Harmon & Seidman filed a complaint against Pearson, alleging copyright infringement and fraud. After discovery revealed the full scope of Pearson’s misconduct, we filed a motion for summary judgment on 418 copyright infringement claims. Pearson filed a motion to have the fraud claims dismissed. On June 11, 2013, Federal Judge Rosenblatt in the District of Arizona granted our motion and ruled as a matter of law that Pearson committed copyright infringement in all 418 instances. The Judge also denied Pearson’s motion to dismiss the fraud claims, holding that “A reasonable jury could find that Pearson, when it agreed to the numerical and geographical limits set forth in the invoices and request letters, knew that it would exceed those limits.”