We have written about Andrew Paul Leonard’s 1.6 million dollar jury award for actual damages arising out the infringement of his images by a company known as Stemtech. See our prior article here. Mr. Leonard is a client of Ed’s but this case was handled by counsel in Delaware.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals just today upheld the award of 1.6 million dollars and instructed the trial court on how to re-compute the interest due on that money. The interest alone is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Had Andrew believed that which was written on the web and presented as gospel he would only be out about 2 million dollars ($1.6 million plus interest).
We have referred to this case repeatedly for the proposition that the creator and competent legal counsel must weigh the merits of each and every case and its potential value. In other words, contact a lawyer, not your Facebook friends to get advice. Mr. Leonard was not entitled to nor did he seek statutory damages. He registered his images “too late” to avail himself of those remedies. Many web “experts” and more than a few lawyers inexperienced in the field will have a knee jerk reaction of rejecting any case where late registration prevents seeking an award of statutory damages (up to $150,000) and an award of attorneys’ fees.
If he listened to advice on the Interweb, those wanna be experts would have cavalierly advised that if the image wasn’t registered before publication or within the 3 month grace period for post publication registration, the case would not worth suing. This is our umpteenth example for the proposition that one answer does not fit all cases. Listening to web experts and those who don’t actually practice copyright law in real courtrooms will cost you – big money. This includes the many “copyright services” that look to settle quickly rather than actually sue. Andrew was smart enough to listen to all of his lawyers and ignore faux authorities who would have assured him that without “pre-registration” this wasn’t much of a case. The imaginary “$30,000” floor that is being thrown around by some would have theoretically stopped Mr. Leonard in his tracks.
Always register, everything, all of the time but if you haven’t actually registered that does not necessarily mean you are without legal recourse. Don’t whine, don’t listen to the advice of other photographers. Get thee to a lawyer who is experienced in these matters so you can jointly determine the relative merits of each case. Few people yearn for doctor visits but we all make them because they are necessary for our health.
We don’t know about you, but we know that our spouses could find some uses for 2 million dollars.