Judge Stearns granted photographer John Curtis Rice default judgment, finding that SAJ wrongfully reproduced Rice 2019s copyrighted photograph of New York City taken by drone from above in SAJ 2019s 201cDroneLife 201d drone news website. The default came after SAJ 2019s CEO was informed that he (a non-lawyer) could not file an answer on SAJ 2019s behalf and SAJ could not afford to pay for a defense. Judge Stearns refused, however, to go along with Rice 2019s demand for regarding damages and fees. Rice had sought $3000 in actual damages for copyright infringement, $10,000 in statutory damages for removal of copyright management information, and $3,825 in fees and $475 in costs, asserting that SAJ 2019s 201cinfringement and refusal to appear and respond 201d were 201cobjectively unreasonable. 201d Judge Stearns, noting that an intern at SAJ had utilized the image without the corporation 2019s knowledge and that SAJ immediately took down the photograph upon learning of its use, determined that the violations were 201cunintentional, very limited, and the source of no discernable profit to SAJ. 201d He awarded only the minimum $750 in statutory damages.
As I have previously noted, the attorney representing Rice has achieved quite a bit of notoriety in demanding vastly unreasonable sums having no ties to the actual infringement or actual likely measure of damages. As Judge Furman of Liebowitz 2019s home court in the Southern District of New York, recently noted, 201c[i]n his relatively short career litigating in this District, Richard Liebowitz has earned the dubious distinction of being a regular target of sanctions-related motions and orders. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that there is a growing body of law in this District devoted to the question of whether and when to impose sanctions on Mr. Liebowitz alone. 201d Perhaps this decision is an indication that courts outside of New York 2019s Southern District are taking note of Mr. Liebowitz 2019s predatory practices.
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