Inglewood Told To Pay $118k Of Taxpayer Money For Abusing Copyright Law To Silence A Critic

from the democracy! dept

Remember the City of Inglewood, California? The city where mayor James Butts was so annoyed that an online critic, Joseph Teixeira, had made some mocking videos using clips from city council meetings, that he allotted $50,000 of taxpayer money to fund a lawyer to file an absolutely bogus copyright lawsuit against Teixeira? This lawsuit alleged that Teixeira somehow infringed on the copyright of the City by adding commentary to these videos. There was so much wrong with the lawsuit that it was a total embarrassment for the city and the lawyer, Joanna Esty, who claims to be a "seasoned" lawyer with expertise in intellectual property law.

The court did not take long in dismissing the lawsuit and benchslapping the city for filing the lawsuit in the first place. The court allowed Teixeira to seek legal fees, and while the city pushed back, the court has now told the city to pay another $117,741 in legal fees to Teixeira's lawyers, noting that the entire lawsuit was "objectively unreasonable."

Judge Michael Fitzgerald has another opportunity to smack Inglewood around for filing such a bogus lawsuit in the first place, and notes that it's pretty damn clear that the entire purpose behind this lawsuit was to silence a critic, not because of any legitimate belief that a copyright was being infringed.
It is, of course, impossible to know with certainty what prompted the City to bring this lawsuit. The City avers that its only motivation was to enforce the rights it believed it had in the videos.... But the Court is not persuaded. As Defendant rightly notes, the main justification of the Copyright Act is “the protection of the commercial interest of the author.”... California law, however, prohibits the City from charging anything more than the “direct costs of duplication” when providing public records.... Pecuniary gain, therefore, could not have been the motivating factor in filing this action. As the Court made clear at the hearing, the City’s most plausible purpose was to stifle Defendant’s political speech after he harshly criticized the City’s elected officials. As such, this factor weighs heavily in favor of an attorneys’ fees award.

At the hearing, counsel for Plaintiff implied that this Court was basing its ruling on the reaction of the press or the academic community. The Court does not do so.
The judge also notes that he's worried that, if left unpunished, Inglewood or other cities might do this again:
The Court is also persuaded that a fee award is necessary to deter future meritless litigations of this kind. The City argues that the attorneys’ fees “will have absolutely no deterrent effect” on a municipality that intends to file no future copyright lawsuits.... Even if true, the Court notes that deterrence is a broad value that is not limited to the individual litigants here. Indeed, a reasonable award of fees will serve to deter other entities, whether public or private, that contemplate bringing unreasonable suits to pressure an individual into abandoning protected activity.
So, between the original $50,000 allotted and this $117,741, that's an awful lot of taxpayer money being spent just to try to stifle someone's First Amendment rights. It kind of makes you wonder what they're doing with the rest of the taxpayer funds they have access to.

Filed Under: censorship, copyright, copyright as censorship, free speech, inglewood, james butts, joanna esty, joseph teixeira


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  • icon
    limbodog (profile), 9 Oct 2015 @ 10:56am

    Well I'm glad everyone learned their lesson!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      TechDescartes (profile), 9 Oct 2015 @ 11:10am

      Re: Lessons Learned

      Yes, the City of Inglewood learned that Texeira's speech was free, for everyone but them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        art guerrilla (profile), 9 Oct 2015 @ 3:46pm

        Re: Re: Lessons Learned

        there is no free (as in beer) speech any longer, its all fee speech, babykins, you got to pay to play...

        besides, i'm sure The They (tm) have learned their 'lesson', and will just find some other 'legal' means of exacting their revenge...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DogBreath, 9 Oct 2015 @ 11:04am

    Just another day of typical government malfeasance in action

    So, between the original $50,000 allotted and this $117,741, that's an awful lot of taxpayer money being spent just to try to stifle someone's First Amendment rights. It kind of makes you wonder what they're doing with the rest of the taxpayer funds they have access to.

    Based on their level of self-importance and incompetence, I'll bet it is mostly on this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2015 @ 11:21am

    what a shame no judge has the balls to take a similar line against the various sections of the entertainment industries and Hollywood. perhaps there would be a diminishing of the ridiculous 'cease and desist' threats those industry heads issue, knowing full well they have not the slightest right to do so

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 9 Oct 2015 @ 11:31am

    4 comments and no jokes?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2015 @ 11:31am

    Cadillac v Chevy

    From the Judge Fitzgerald's order:
    The City maintains that the hours billed by Defendant’s attorneys are grossly inflated. The City primarily takes issue with the time spent on drafting the motion to dismiss and related papers. Mr. Laidman alone appears to have spent over 130 hours on the motion to dismiss . . .

    The Court in no way wishes to criticize Mr. Laidman and does not suggest that the hours worked were excessive in terms of producing a polished final product. Nonetheless, the City cannot be forced to pay for a Cadillac if a Chevy would have sufficed. Moreover, based on the Court’s own experience as an associate, this is precisely the sort of case in which a lawyer might feel free to work more hours since the client might not get stuck with a bill. . . .

    Therefore, the Court determines that 45 hours should be subtracted from the total time billed by Mr. Laidman in the final loadstar calculation.
    (Emphasis added; citations omitted.)

    I would agree that the City should not be forced to pay for a chartered helicopter when an automobile would have sufficed. But neither should defendants run the risk of getting stuck with a Trabant. When hauled into an American court, defendants may reasonably expect an American-made car.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2015 @ 12:44pm

      Re: Cadillac v Chevy

      Or at least a American-made foreign car.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 12 Oct 2015 @ 3:57pm

      Re: Cadillac v Chevy

      No worries, a Trabant isn't road-legal in the US. I don't think defendents can reasonably expect an American-made car (why would that be a reasonable expectation?), but they can reasonably expect a car that is road-legal and in good working order.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2015 @ 11:52am

    In the city of Hawthorne on Hawthorne blvd there is a spaceX monumental statue and there is (or at least used to be) speakers surrounding it that say taking pictures is prohibited and you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law if you do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2015 @ 6:40pm

    And this is relevant how?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2015 @ 5:39am

    Esty=""Copyright Troll"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    karotu (profile), 10 Oct 2015 @ 9:18am

    Karot
    Karot işleri – Karot uygulamaları bir çok alanda kullanılmakta ve çözümler sunmaktadır.

    Karot işi, matkap şeklindeki karotcu makinaları olarak adlandırılan makinalarla yapılmaktadır. İşlevi nedeniyle bir çok alanda ihtiyaca cevap veren uygulamadır. Bu makineler ile beton yapıdan silindir şeklinde parça çıkarılmaktır. Buna karot alma denilmektedir.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John85851 (profile), 12 Oct 2015 @ 11:57am

      Re:

      Is this spam or not? The rough Google Translation is:
      "Core work - Core applications are used in many areas and offers solutions.
      Carotene work is done with machines called karotc machines shaped drill. The function is responsive to the needs of applications in many fields due. These machines will be removed with the cylindrical part of the concrete structure. This is called coring."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2015 @ 3:37pm

    The internet is dying a slow death, but the lawyers aren't done bleeding dry the goose that laid the golden egg, yet. I hope they are happy with what they have accomplished and guess they will have to revert to chasing ambulances again when it is all said and done.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), 11 Oct 2015 @ 9:15am

    What's really sad is that a simple little court case like this costs as much as buying a house.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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