$338,171 Damages Awarded

May 16, 2000

  • In the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division
  • Suze Randall Photography
  • General Media Communications, Inc.
  • Wendy M., And Shannon B., Plaintiff

VS

  • Reactor, Inc., Michael Saenz,
  • Max Sheridan and DOES 1-10, Defendants.

No. 99 C 7812

Memorandum Opinion and Order

Plaintiffs sued the defendants for copyright infringement and for other claims based on their use of copyrighted photographs on their internet website relating to an adult entertainment business. Defendants were served but they did not appear or respond. We earlier entered an injunction as a result of that default, but we deferred entering a money judgment pending further justification of the amounts claimed.

That justification has now been furnished. In the meantime, the corporate defendant and Saenz have filed for protection in bankruptcy. We dismiss them without prejudice and with leave to reinstate. Accordingly, we assess damages only against defendant Max Sheridan.

According to the documented assertions of plaintiffs (and we have no reason to doubt them), the individual defendants were the principals of the corporation defendant controlling the website. They continued to use eleven photographs, despite several cease-and-desist letters, deleted the plaintiffs’ copyright notices from the photographs, and asserted that the corporate defendant had the full copyrights in the works and would vigorously pursue any copyright violations.

That all adds up to $100,000 in statutory copyright infringement damages per infringement for willful violations, up to $25,000 for each violation of Copyright Information management tampering, up to $1,000 each for violation of the Illinois Right of Publicity Statute, trebled as a sanction, together with costs and attorneys’ fees, (not including damage claims on various other counts). Plaintiffs seek the maximum amount $1,407,000, plus $16,171.14 in fees both because the documented infringements undoubtedly understate by multiples the actual infringements and do not reflect secondary publication through downloading by internet users and because of the need to deter flagrant willful misuse. While we are sympathetic to plaintiffs’ concerns, we think that figure is excessive in the absence of hard evidence of actual publication. We award $150,000 for copyright infringement, $150,000 for the tampering, $22,000 for the state violation, and $16,171.14 in fees, for a total of $338,171.14.

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