Copyright

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. icon
    Brigitta (profile), 21 Jul 2010 @ 4:49pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Damages awarded

    If you were to actually read the FACTS of the McDonalds case, you would know that the lady only wanted compensation for her hospitization costs. She was a passenger in a car, and they had parked so she could remove the lid of her coffee. That's when it spilled on her, and she suffered 3rd degree burns in her groin area, which as you can imagine, is a significantly more painful area than if it had been only her thighs. It was shown that this MacDonalds had kept their coffee at near boiling temperature, and had received many complaints about how hot their coffee was. They kept it that hot as an energy savings measure, and ignored the many complaints they received.

    Look at it this way: when you spill coffee on yourself from a restaurant or fast food joint, all it does is smart for a while, you don't actually expect that it will scald the skin off. Any fluid at 200 degrees or more will cause serious burn damage. (Indeed, we imprison parents who deliberately scald their kids with hot water as child abusers.)

    MacDonalds decided to stonewall and delay the trial, and in the end the JURY made the award for a sum that was vastly more than what the plaintiff had been seeking. (Moral: don't play games with a jury; they're not as stupid as you think.) Had MacDonalds simply DONE THE RIGHT THING at any time, none of us would be talking about this lawsuit.

    Finally, remember that our jury system, where plaintiff and defendant argue their case in front of a group of 12 of their peers, is considered one the best systems the world has come up with for meting out justice. (If you can think of a better system, please don't keep it to yourself and let the rest of us know about it.) Sure, it isn't, perfect, but all in all, it works pretty well most of the time. I am always astonished at the readiness of some people to assume that any 12 random people in a jury will be all too easily bamboozled. Because, you know, we just have to protect large corporation from those predatory little old ladies.

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