Indy skyline photo copyright appeal not fully developed

A lawyer and photographer’s appeal in a copyright lawsuit over unlicensed use of his photo of the Indianapolis skyline was improper, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday, dismissing the appeal.

Richard Bell has sued hundreds of defendants he claimed used his city skyline photo on websites without first paying a licensing fee. In one case, defendants were granted summary judgment by Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, and Bell appealed.

“In addition to the summary judgment ruling, Bell contests the district court’s denial of two motions to compel and a motion seeking leave to file a fourth amended complaint,” Circuit Judge Joel Flaum wrote for the panel in Richard Bell v. Cameron Taylor, 14-3099.

“We have no jurisdiction to decide these issues. Although the court purported to issue a ‘final judgment’ after ruling on the defendants’ summary judgment motion, it did so in error; the issue of injunctive relief was never adjudicated,” Flaum wrote. “Accordingly, an appeal in this case is premature until the district court resolves Bell’s outstanding claims for injunctive relief.”

The District Court concluded that though Bell had established ownership of the photo, he was not entitled to damages. But the 7th Circuit ruled that Bell’s copyright claim remained alive because he had sought both damages and an injunction against the defendants.

Earlier this month, Pratt ordered Bell to pay defendant Charles Lantz nearly $34,000 in legal fees in a separate case. Bell named Lantz in a suit claiming he wrongly used the photo, but he did not.


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