by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
canada, copyright, damages

Copyright Lawsuit Plaintiff Demands $27 Million; Gets $500

from the don't-overstate-your-case dept

Michael Geist points us to an amusing ruling in a Canadian lawsuit over copyright infringement, where the plaintiff demanded $27 million in damages... and ended up with $500. Yes, $500 period. Not $500 thousand. Just $500. One would imagine that the plaintiff spent a hell of a lot more than that on legal fees. The judge seemed to waste no opportunities to point out how ridiculous the case was, even if the plaintiff's copyright was, actually, infringed upon. Some key quotes:
Generally speaking, the evidence adduced concerning infringement of copyright suggests that the Plaintiff's claims are disproportionate and opportunistic....

In relation to breach of copyright, the Plaintiff entered the trial seeking $27,000,000.00 (CD) as compensation for acts that, even if proved, would be fairly contained and/or inconsequential forms of infringement....

The Plaintiff speculates that further use was made of the Report but there is no evidence before me to support anything more than the limited uses outlined above.... Also, I can find no evidence that multiple copies of the Report were made and disseminated.... The only action that could have resulted in broader dissemmation occurred when Re-defining Water placed the original version of the Report on its website, but there is no evidence before me, apart from Mr. Reif's downloading of a single copy for purposes of this lawsuit, that anyone either viewed the Report on the website or downloaded it.

I can find no evidence that any of the Defendants made any money, or gained any other advantage, from either copying or using the Report or any modified version of the Report, or that they have deprived, or could deprive, the Plaintiff of any profits that the Plaintiff might earn from the Report. In fact, the Plaintiff does not even allege that the Defendants sold copies of the Report or that the conduct of the Defendants prevented him from selling or otherwise exploiting the Report with someone else, and it is difficult to see how the Plaintiff might make money from any such activities given the limited purpose of the Report and the context in which it was produced.
It goes on and on in this nature and finally concludes by awarding $500 in statutory damages, noting that the defendant did a good job defending themselves "as best they can in the face of an obviously dubious claim for a substantial sum of money" and then defends the small sum by noting:
I say this because there is no evidence here that the Plaintiff has suffered any damages or that the Defendants have made any profit as a result of the infringing act. This is simply a technical breach and does not warrant the Plaintiff receiving a substantial windfall . Statutory damages require an assessment of the reality of the case and a just result.
That last line is interesting, though (obviously) meaningless in the context of the US cases involving Jammie Thomas and Joel Tenenbaum over that very same question.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jul 2010 @ 3:15pm

    On the facts stated in the Judge's opinion, it is much more likely than not that had the suit been tried in the US the award would have been in the neighborhood of $750, the minimum amount awardable under US law for statutory damages.

    As an aside, to compare this case to the JRT and T cases is inapt, unless, of course, the purpose for such a comparison is to fan the flames that copyright law is just so unfair to people who wilfully and deliberately download and distribute via P2P copyrighted works of the type that are spread virally and in copious amounts.

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