There is a vast, underground market, which resides on the web and is based on infringing copyrights and selling counterfeit goods. Protecting your work against such thieves who have no brick and mortar address to call home nor even a “true” identity, is a difficult but hardly impossible task. Creators – and even some lawyers – will oft times through up their hands in frustration when they “can’t even find the guy”!  Fear not.

In a January 28, 2014 ruling, Federal Court Judge Paul A. Engelmayer in New York granted Ed’s client Richard Noble’s motion for email service of court papers on several defendants.  The defendants which are “a number of websites and individuals” that “are part of an intertwined, opaque online T-Shirt-selling enterprise that has sold T-Shirts bearing the ‘Bo Knows” photograph [of Bo Jackson], in violation of Mr. Noble’s rights” in the copyright of the photograph.

The judge gave his permission to serve process via e-mail where traditional service (ie handing the defendant the actual papers) is impractical.  The court ruled that “Noble has more than shown the impracticability of traditional service. He had been shown that actual prior attempt, performed with due diligence, have been unsuccessful.” The Court also found that email service comports with Due Process because “Noble has served the defendants at email addresses that they listed on their websites and on confirmation stating, “emails sent to [Noble’s] lawyer, Edward Greenberg, after Greenberg purchased T-Shirts from defendants.

The judge was convinced that given prior attempts to serve papers “that these emails are likely to reach the defendants. As a result, the email service comports with the requirements of due process.”

The case stands for the proposition that you don’t necessarily have to actually find a living person or an actual business address to commence a lawsuit. Whether the infringer is well heeled or not cannot be ascertained just based on their lack of a hard address.  In 2014 the mere inability to locate a warm body or “real” address ought not deter anyone from pursuing an action based on copyright infringement of a registered work.