Judge awards $150K for lawyer’s infringement of Indy skyline photo

A district court judge has awarded more than $150,000 in damages to McCordsville attorney Richard Bell in the most recent decision in a long line of copyright infringement cases stemming from a photo of the Indianapolis skyline.

Indiana Southern District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt awarded enhanced statutory damages to Bell in a Monday ruling in his case against Indianapolis attorney Michael F.S. Patrick. Bell sued Patrick in May 2016 after he allegedly included Bell’s copyrighted photo of the Indianapolis skyline on his firm website, michaelpatricklaw.com, without Bell’s permission. The photo in question was taken in 2000 and has been the impetus for dozens of copyright infringement claims, which have had mixed results in the Southern District Court.

Bell’s complaint alleged Patrick downloaded the Indianapolis photo, posted it on his website, then copyrighted all elements of the website, including the photo. Patrick, however, failed to file an answer or responsive pleading, so default judgment was entered against him in Richard N. Bell v. Michel F.S. Patrick, 1:16-cv-1160

Bell then requested enhanced statutory damages and the costs of the proceedings at a damages hearing in November 2017, where Patrick also failed to appear. Pratt granted Bell’s request after finding Patrick’s conduct — particularly his attempt to copyright the photo — constituted willful infringement.

The judge awarded Bell $150,000 in enhanced damages pursuant to 17 United States Code section 504(c)(2) and $417.50 in costs. She also issued an injunction prohibiting Patrick from “posting on his website the Indianapolis Photograph at issue in this litigation or otherwise using the photograph in any other way.” The injunction will remain in effect until Patrick pays the statutory damages in full.

Patrick was not immediately available for comment on the damages award. Patrick’s website involved in this case said simply “under construction” on Tuesday.

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