King's College Football Coach Sued For Copyright Infringement For Retweeting A Book Page 2 Years Ago

from the flag-on-the-play dept

We cover many petty intellectual property lawsuits here at Techdirt. After a while, you kind of become somewhat numb to them and the only mildly ridiculous lawsuits seem sort of… meh. But every once in a while you run into a real doozy, the sort of lawsuit that really gets the anger juices flowing. The copyright infringement lawsuit brought by author Dr. Keith Bell against King’s College and its football coach, Jeff Knar, is one of those lawsuits.

A timeline is required here, for reasons that will become readily apparent. In 1982, the year I happen to have been born (skypoint for myself), Bell published a 72 page book called Winning Isn’t Normal. The book is supposed to be of motivational nature, prodding the reader to win at sports, games and life, or something. Fast forward to 2015, when the Twitter account for Northeastern State University’s baseball team tweeted out an image of a single page from the book. Also in 2015, King’s College coach Knarr retweeted that tweet. Now fast forward to late 2017, when Knarr and the school are being sued by Bell for that retweet.

Almost two years after the retweet, Knarr and his employer were sued for copyright infringement over the retweet. Seems more than petty to sue over this so there has to be something else motivating this lawsuit. Actual damages can’t equate to much and will be almost impossible to prove. Knarr does have a fair use defense since he did only retweet one page of a much larger work. Bell seeks damages and his attorneys’ fees associated with the lawsuit.

It should be plain that lawsuits of this kind are plainly ridiculous. It’s not direct copyright infringement. It’s almost certainly not contributory infringement. Regardless, Knarr and the school have all kinds of Fair Use arguments that they can make at court. That said, it’s likely that Bell has no interest in actually going to court, and is instead looking for a quick settlement, which I assume is the reason for including Knarr’s employer in the legal action.

Now, Bell sent a cease and desist letter to NSU in 2016, the original tweeter, which took the tweet and image down. While that likewise broke the retweet by Knarr, Bell’s lawsuit says it had been available for nearly a year. On top of that, Bell holds the trademark to the phrase “Winning isn’t normal”, and so is suing for trademark infringement as well. Over a retweet, where the phrase appeared on the same image that is supposedly infringing his copyrights.

Describing what appears to be a casual retweet as “willful, intentional and purposeful” infringement carried out “in disregard of and with indifference to Plaintiff’s rights,” Bell demands damages and attorneys fees from Knarr and his employer.

It should be clear that this is nonsense. Retweeting is not the same as republishing and holding individual members of the public responsible for copyright infringement, even if they happen to work for a college that has money, over retweets of content that maybe kinda sorta is copyright infringement is the kind of legal action that practically begs for a reprimand.

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Comments on “King's College Football Coach Sued For Copyright Infringement For Retweeting A Book Page 2 Years Ago”

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18 Comments
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

On the upside, now a bunch of sports teams are aware of a book to avoid at all costs.

Copyright is madness.
Someone thinking a single page being seen without them being paid is worth the courts time, is insane.

Copyright no longer seems to push them to create more works, but instead to sit & wait to pounce for a payday well outside of reality.

“Winning isn’t normal”™ so you should expect to have your ass handed to you & I pray the courts award your targets their costs.

JustMe (profile) says:

Re: That Anonymous Coward

Why is it that I support almost exactly 50% of what you write and I cannot stand 50% of what you write? What’s up with that? Get your shit together and fully embrace the dark or light side; this waffling is weirding me out man. On this topic you are correct so you get my Insightful upvote.

Hugs and kisses – JustMe

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: That Anonymous Coward

The world is not black and white.

I never said I was a good guy, just that I never shook down senior citizens for their medicare checks.

By all means challenge me on the things you disagree with (hell even if you approve of them), I am fallible & can adapt.

I can’t always be right because “Winning isn’t normal”™, but I’m usually on the right side of things.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 That Anonymous Coward

I’m always up for debating positions and learning things I might not have been aware of. I have no reason to not give honest responses (well outside of who I am).

It’s hard to tell sometimes because I do not respond well to the people who attack my grammar & phrasing. That’s often the only feedback I get, and I tend to eviscerate them and move on.

I’ve learned about things here on TD that I wasn’t aware of before, and I’ve expanded areas I am interested in. I grew from a 1 trick pony pointing out copyright trolls, to the odd person I am today. 😉

Retsibsi (profile) says:

I actually looked up the trademark and the description of the class of trademark applies to paper materials, specifically
“Class (016) – Paper, cardboard and goods made from these materials, not included in other classes; printed matter; bookbinding material; photographs; stationery; adhesives for stationery or household purposes; artists’ materials; paint brushes; typewriters and office requisites (except furniture); instructional and teaching material (except apparatus); plastic materials for packaging (not included in other classes); printers’ type; printing blocks.”

Does anyone know if that therefore applies to this case, an electronic communication?

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