Indy skyline photo suit against Purdue official dismissed

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A judge has thrown out a lawsuit against a Purdue University official who was accused of copyright infringement by an attorney who has sued hundreds of people and entities for publishing his photos of the Indianapolis skyline. 

District Judge Richard Young on Monday dismissed McCordsville attorney Richard Bell’s lawsuit against Jason Henderson, director of extension services at Purdue. The suit was filed in the federal court for the Southern District of Indiana in Indianapolis after Bell discovered in 2016 that a copyrighted photo he took had been published without authorization in a Purdue Extension presentation entitled “Keeping Cattle in the Books.”

Young ruled that the true defendant in the action, though, remained Purdue, an entity of the state that enjoys immunity from such a suit under the Eleventh Amendment. Bell amended his complaint to name Henderson in his individual capacity after first naming Purdue, then Purdue President Mitch Daniels, as defendants.

“This conspicuous chain of events certainly suggests that Bell is trying to find a way to lawfully sue Purdue,” Young wrote. Bell’s second amended complaint “repeatedly frames its allegations against Henderson in terms of his authority over Purdue employees. Additionally, the sole cause of action against Henderson arises out of a copyrighted photo that appears on a website owned by Purdue.

“… The court fails to see how Henderson could have profited from distributing the ‘Keeping Cattle in the Books’ presentation,” Young wrote in Richard N. Bell v. Jason Henderson, 1:16-cv-2488. “… Accordingly, the Eleventh Amendment bar applies here.” Young left open the option for Bell to file a third amended complaint if he wishes to seek an injunction.

“Bell may no longer be interested in continuing this litigation now that monetary damages are off the table,” the judge wrote. “But if he does wish to pursue injunctive relief, he should be given that opportunity.”

Bell also has sued Indiana University after learning that the IU School of Medicine used one of his photos on a web page for its pediatrics residency program. Bell later amended his suit against IU to name Jay L. Hess, dean of the school of medicine, in his individual capacity.

In answering that complaint in late June, Hess also claimed immunity under the Eleventh Amendment along with 21 other affirmative defenses. That case before Judge Tanya Walton Pratt is Richard N. Bell v. Jay L. Hess, 1:16-cv-2463.


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  1. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: Here are the two research papers: 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.