Richard Liebowitz Is Wrong On So Many Levels, And Is In Trouble Yet Again

from the wrong-on-so-many-levels dept

Copyright troll Richard Liebowitz (who once got so offended that he was called a copyright troll that he asked a judge to "redact" the phrase, only to have the judge double down on calling him a troll)... He's been sanctioned for lying to the court, he's been sanctioned for failing to comply with court orders, and is currently facing some serious penalties for lying about the death of his grandfather to a judge (which resulted in the most ridiculous letter he had a family friend send to the court, chalking such mistakes up to inexperience). But Liebowitz has a ton of experience in getting the law wrong. Hell, it was over two years ago that we wrote about him getting a judicial smackdown so bad that the judge began it by stating:

No reasonable lawyer with any familiarity with the law of copyright could have thought...

And yet, Liebowitz is still out there doing his thing. And it's causing real problems. Earlier this year, he sued a small business called Analytical Grammar because the company's owner, Erin Karl, shared a viral meme on Facebook. She wrote all about the case in a GoFundMe page:

In Dec 2017 we shared a picture of a visual pun that was going viral around the internet. It also went viral from our page.

Fast forward to August 2019. Analytical Grammar was served a lawsuit on behalf of Matthew Bradley of Windsor, California, who says he created the meme. There had previously been no communication between Bradley and AG.

Representing Bradley is New York attorney Richard Liebowitz.

If you're curious, the Facebook post appears to still be up. You can also see the original image as it's Exhibit A in the complaint. It's a silly joke showing a bunch of levels (you know, the tools you use to see if something is level), all with painter's tape on each one with "WRONG" written in a Sharpie on each one, and the image is captioned: "This is wrong on so many levels." Get it? It made me chuckle, at least. You can find this image in some other places online, including, (bizarrely) a version that also shows Ajit Pai's face on each level for reasons I don't fully understand.

Either way, Liebowitz sued on behalf of Matthew Bradley, who apparently wants to cash in on the viral nature of this image. Erin Karl brought in Booth Sweet, the Boston-based law firm that has quite a bit of experience dealing with copyright trolls, including Liebowitz. Their Answer and Counterclaims is worth reading as well, as they note that Bradley originally posted his image to Facebook, which has a convenient "share" feature, and even commented how excited he was that his image was being shared widely, stating: “Wow! I am stunned! Over 10K shares. Time for a shameless plug for my blog..." They also point out that Bradley's image itself is believed to be "an unlicensed derivative work based on an earlier photograph by a third party," meaning that if there is much of a copyright at all in the image, it might not be Bradley's, while also pointing out some other issues regarding Bradley's delayed registration of the image.

Also, how can you not love a filing in this case with the following paragraph:

Bradley’s lawsuit is wrong on so many levels. He levels claims against Analytical for sharing his joke. He does his level best to take Analytical down a level. But his claims are not on the level. Analytical raises these counterclaims to level the field.

The case appears to be proceeding in standard Liebowitz fashion. In October, Judge Louise Flanagan, followed in the footsteps of so many other judges and started to benchslap Liebowitz over his many mistakes:

It appears Mr. Leibowitz’s standing has been called into question in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Referred to as a “copyright troll,” in a case involving one of the plaintiffs named above, a district judge recently observed “Mr. Liebowitz has been sanctioned, reprimanded, and advised to ‘clean up [his] act’ by other judges of this Court.” Sands v. Bauer Media Grp. USA, LLC, No. 17-CV-9215 (LAK), 2019 WL 4464672, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 18, 2019). Serious sanctions were imposed by the judge in that case on account of plaintiff’s discovery deficiencies, including requirement that Mr. Leibowitz personally pay defendant’s fees associated with advancing its motion to dismiss as a sanction for alleged discovery misconduct.

This judge joins the chorus of those telling this attorney to clean up his act. The dockets of each of the cases assigned to me, wherein this attorney represents a plaintiff, are littered with deficiency notices. This is a harbinger for troubled litigation ahead.

The judge highlights the many mistakes Liebowitz has made, including not filing a "notice of appearance" (one of the first steps you do as a lawyer in a lawsuit) for over two months. The judge points to similar failures in other dockets where Liebowitz is the lawyer in question. The judge is not happy about Liebowitz wasting the court's time.

The problems described above appear rooted in a failure to read or understand the court’s CM/ECF Policies and Procedures Manual and the Court’s Local Civil Rules, and disrespect for the work of the clerk. There appears a failure to profit from the clerk’s work to bring issues to the attorney’s attention prompt attention. Many of the issues repeat themselves from case to case.

And then tells him to shape up, or see all the cases dismissed:

This attorney is noticed that he has until October 10, 2019, to cure any and every noticed deficiency in the three cases now assigned to me. If no address is made in accordance with this order, the cases at issue will be dismissed.

On October 10th, Liebowitz had to tell the court that he believed that all of the various deficiencies had been resolved and "there are not any noticed deficiencies on the docket for the above-referenced matter." The case is continuing, but it appears that, still, all is not well. Since Liebowitz is not based in North Carolina where the case is filed, he had a local co-counsel on the case, Seth Hudson. However, for whatever reason (we won't speculate), Hudson apparently decided that maybe he was better off not being a part of this case, and so Liebowitz is trying to swap him out with another local lawyer.

Last week, Liebowitz filed a motion for Hudson to withdraw as an attorney, and wouldn't you know it? He did that wrong as well. From the docket:

NOTICE OF DEFICIENCY regarding 23 Motion to Withdraw. The signature block on this document does not comply with the local rules for local counsel. In addition, whenever an attorney of record in a case will be replaced by another attorney who is an active member of the bar of this court, a notice of substitution of counsel must be filed. The notice must (i) be signed by and contain a signature block for both attorneys in compliance with Local Civil Rule 10.1; (ii) identify the parties represented; (iii) verify that the attorney entering the case is aware of and will comply with all pending deadlines in the case, including proceeding with any scheduled trial or hearings; and (iv) be served on all parties. The moving attorney should file the notice of substitution through CM/ECF. The withdrawing attorney will remain attorney of record until this deficiency is corrected. See Local Rule 5.2(c). (Collins, S.)

I'm not even a lawyer and I know that the first thing you should be doing when filing documents is understanding the (often detailed and arcane) local rules before filing any documents. The court is already not happy with Liebowitz in this case, and that doesn't seem likely to change any time soon.

At this point, you kind of have to wonder who the hell still thinks it's worth hiring Richard Liebowitz? There are plenty of good copyright lawyers out there. Ones who have not been frequently sanctioned by courts for doing things "no reasonable lawyer" would do.

Filed Under: copyright, copyright trolls, erin karl, matthew bradley, memes, richard liebowitz, seth hudson, wrong on so many levels
Companies: analytical grammar, facebook


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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 25 Nov 2019 @ 1:42pm

    who the hell still thinks it's worth hiring Richard Liebowitz?

    Answer: Richard Liebowitz.

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

  • identicon
    Bobvious, 25 Nov 2019 @ 2:23pm

    Ajit Pai's face on each level

    for reasons I don't fully understand.

    WRONG, on so many levels

    Mike, you're just demonstrably willing not to immediately see the worst in people, even if they do stupid things.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2019 @ 2:29pm

    I genuinely feel bad for the guy but I don't know if he actually shakes down people for undeserved settlements.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2019 @ 2:48pm

      Re:

      He actually shakes down people for undeserved settlements.

      Now that that's out of the way... I feel bad for all the courts that have had to put up with this guy. And all the ambulances he's chased to get these suits.

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

    • icon
      Norahc (profile), 25 Nov 2019 @ 2:49pm

      Re:

      I feel bad for his clients...they thought they were hiring competent counsel. Even if their claims are BS, they are entitled to effective representation.

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

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 25 Nov 2019 @ 3:10pm

        Re: Re:

        Don't.

        IIRC the magical registration & replacing the original image with one bearing the copyright notice happened after he retained a lawyer to make bajillions off a picture he posted online.

        If your lawyer says do this, change that, then we get paid & you still retain him... you deserve everything you get.

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

        • icon
          Norahc (profile), 25 Nov 2019 @ 3:18pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          That's my point. Competent and effective counsel would have a) told him he had no case and b) told him not to try and fabricate evidence.

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

        • identicon
          ryuugami, 26 Nov 2019 @ 7:44am

          Re: Re: Re:

          If your lawyer says do this, change that, then we get paid & you still retain him... you deserve everything you get.

          The usual advice if you're unsure about legality of something is "consult an attorney". If consulting a bad attorney means I deserve everything I get, does that mean I actually need to have a law degree so I could check my lawyer isn't feeding me bullshit? Isn't that what the lawyer's license is supposed to be for?

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

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 25 Nov 2019 @ 3:05pm

      Re:

      blinks slowly

      Drugs are bad, mmmmmmmmmmmmmkay?

      Missing from the part you read is the fact that he put this image up, celebrated it going viral, then saw a chance to extort a buck, took down the original & replaced it with one with a copyright notice. Then they tried to sue everyone.

      So an image without a notice is now magically "edited" to knowingly and deliberately steal from this idiot who copied someone elses idea. Claiming extra damages for knowingly removing the copyright notice from an image that at the time had no such notice... isn't that a lie told to get a windfall?

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 25 Nov 2019 @ 3:06pm

    BoothSweet are really level headed guys.

    giggles

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2019 @ 3:31pm

    Copyright law, staffed by the best people before the Trump presidency made it cool...

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 25 Nov 2019 @ 4:52pm

    'I'm warning you, two dozen more times...'

    It is well past the time for judges to be handing out warnings and giving this particular bag of slime the benefit of the doubt, and time for them to be handing out benchslaps hard enough to really hurt.

    A couple of mistakes might be a sign of a new lawyer still unsure about things, but at this point the only possible excuse along those lines would be if he is so monumentally incompetent that he has no business working as a lawyer, so either he's doing all this crap on purpose and needs to be benchslapped until he either goes broke and has to quit or shapes up, or he's so incompetent that he needs to have his license revoked so he stops wasting everyone's time.

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

  • icon
    Dan Neely (profile), 25 Nov 2019 @ 6:41pm

    It's not just that Liebowitz is an idiot; apparently both people he's employed and is trying to employ as local council are idiots as well. Unlike Liebowitz they both should be intimately familiar with how the local court likes its paperwork to be done and be capable of making sure that it is. That knowledge is one of the reasons to hire local assistance in the first place. (Having someone who is a short drive to the court instead of a long flight is the other one.)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2019 @ 8:05pm

    Interesting that Liebowitz can't even manage to get his client's address correct. It's not 10008, it's 1008, and it's a residence, which for some reason Bradley chooses to advertise on his website:

    https://brad-tech.com/

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

  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 25 Nov 2019 @ 9:44pm

    Natalie : Mr. Monk, it's level. See? The bubble is right in the middle.

    Adrian Monk : I think it's broken.

    Natalie : Mr. Monk, the level is not broken! It's a bubble on a stick.

    Adrian Monk : Let's just make sure...

    [He unwraps a second level and holds it next to the first one]

    Natalie : You have two levels?

    Adrian Monk : I use this level to check the other levels. It's my level-checking level.

    Julie Teeger : [deadpan] How do you know that one's not broken?

    Adrian Monk : That's a good question. I take my level checking level to the hardware store twice a year to have it re-calibrated.

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

    • identicon
      Niveau Le Vel, 25 Nov 2019 @ 10:31pm

      Re: bubble on a stick

      Ah, Adrian Monk. Taking level-checking levels to the next....

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

    • icon
      wereisjessicahyde (profile), 26 Nov 2019 @ 4:41am

      Re:

      It is good practice to get the bubble replaced every once in a while.

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

    • identicon
      peter, 26 Nov 2019 @ 9:07am

      Re:

      That has just triggered a flashback where I was trying to explain to a UK Ministry of Defence QA auditor why the tape measure used by the plumber visiting our software labs, to measure how much copper was needed to move a radiator, did not have certified calibration records.

      No I am not kidding.

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

  • icon
    OldMugwump (profile), 26 Nov 2019 @ 8:34am

    Q:Who the hell still thinks it's worth hiring Richard Liebowitz?

    A: Plaintiffs with cases so meritless that "no reasonable lawyer with any familiarity with the law of copyright" would take them.

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

  • icon
    Anonymous Monkey (profile), 26 Nov 2019 @ 11:08am

    Love to Hate

    Also, how can you not love a filing in this case with the following paragraph:

    Only copyright lawyers not on the level would hate it...

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


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