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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 ShannaSells.com, 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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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