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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

$2.6 Million Awarded in Copyright Damages

ST. LOUIS (CN) - A federal judge ordered collectibles dealers to pay Warner Bros. $2.57 million for violating copyright on The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind and Tom and Jerry products.

Warner Bros. and Turner Entertainment sued A.V.E.L.A., Inc., Art-Nostalgia.com, Inc., Leo Valencia and X One X Productions in 2006.

"This court finds statutory damages of $10,000.00 per infringement to be reasonable, considering: the factual history of this case, including defendants' failure to provide accurate records in order for plaintiffs to determine the profits made for the infringements; defendants' undisputed continued infringement after the initiation of this suit; the need for specific deterrence of the defendants' further copyright violations; the need for general deterrence for others who may consider engaging in copyright violations; and comparative awards of statutory damages by other federal district courts confronted with similar violations," U.S. District Judge Henry Edward Autrey wrote.

Warner Bros. also sought the defendants' entire gross revenues, since the defendants failed to provide records to figure out profits gained from the infringement.

The defendants claimed that they gained $70,390.10 from the acts.

"This case has had a tortured and laborious discovery history," Autrey wrote. "The parties have engaged in extensive battles for production of defendants' records. The court is indeed sympathetic to plaintiffs' difficulties in obtaining accurate records throughout the entire history of this matter. The court, therefore, recognizes plaintiffs' continued frustration with the inability to receive reliable, accurate and complete records for assessment of damages. By the same token, the court recalls that defendants were sanctioned in the past for failing to provide properly requested discovery, and promptly satisfied the sanction.

"Having so recognized defendants compliance with the court's sanction, the court is, however, unpersuaded that defendants' claim that it earned a total of $70,390.10 from the infringement of plaintiffs' copyrights is entirely accurate. Over the course of the time period in question, defendants' records that have been produced indicate that the license royalties they received far exceed the stated total. As such, the court will not rely on defendants' self-serving totals provided by the declaration of Ms. Acuna, who was not produced for deposition in this matter."

Given the discovery issues, Autrey ruled that the most sound course of action would be to grant the plaintiffs' alternative of statutory damages.

"Plaintiffs have submitted proof of 257 registered copyrights owned by plaintiffs: the copyright in the film 'The Wizard of Oz,' the copyright in the film 'Gone with the Wind' and the copyrights in 255 Tom and Jerry cartoons," Autrey wrote. "Thus, the court will award statutory damages for each copyright infringed. The statute provides for a minimum of $750.00 and a maximum of $30,000. As stated above, the court has considered this entire record, the proceedings herein and the events that have led to this point in the litigations. The court, in its discretion, is of the opinion $10,000.00 per infringement, for a total of $2,570,000.00 is reasonable. Judgment will be entered accordingly."

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