Judge rules for defendants in Indy skyline photo copyright suit

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A retired attorney and photographer who has filed numerous infringement lawsuits over the use of his copyrighted photo of the Indianapolis skyline lost a contested case. The ruling judge also said the purported value of the photo is questionable.

Richard N. Bell has sued hundreds of people for their use on websites of a skyline photo of the city he took in 2000 and copyrighted in 2011. Nearly all the cases have settled, but some parties to the instant litigation label Bell a copyright troll; he claims he’s defending his copyright against people who failed to pay a licensing fee before using the photo on their websites without permission.

On Tuesday, District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana granted defendants’ motions for summary judgment in Richard N. Bell v. Cameron Taylor, Taylor Computer Solutions, Insurance Concepts, Fred O’Brien, and Shanna Cheatam, 1:13-CV-00798.

“Mr. Bell contends that he is entitled to actual damages of $200.00 (from each defendant), as he has ‘sold for several years and currently sells the perpetual commercial rights to display digital download version [sic] of all his photos ... for use on the web for $200,’” Pratt wrote. “However, as Defendants note, Mr. Bell has not produced any objective evidence of the Indianapolis Photo’s value.

“(T)here is no evidence other than Mr. Bell’s unsupported assertion that he has sold the rights to the Indianapolis Photo for years at a price of $200.00. Without any support or evidence, this value is based on undue speculation,” Pratt wrote.

Bell also failed to show that defendants profited from the use of his photo on their websites, which would have entitled him to damages based on indirect profits. The court said Bell made overbroad discovery requests – in one case asking for 11 years’ worth of income tax records from Indianapolis Realtor Shanna Cheatam.

“Mr. Bell had opportunity to tailor his discovery requests based on the Court’s rulings, but he failed to do so,” Pratt wrote. “The Court finds Mr. Bell’s assertion that he ‘believes’ further ‘research and investigation’ will lead to issues of genuine material fact to be speculative.

“Additionally, the Court notes that the record does contain web reports from, despite Mr. Bell’s argument that he needs such reports, and presumably, the reports could have been used to attempt a causal nexus. However, the Court will not scour the record to create an argument for Mr. Bell.”

The Taylor defendants were granted summary judgment because they used a nighttime photo of the Indianapolis skyline that Bell claimed infringed his copyright. The court did not allow Bell’s complaint to be amended to include that image.

Since 2011, Bell has filed nearly two dozen copyright infringement suits in the Southern District, many naming multiple defendants. Only this case and another remained open as of Wednesday.


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.