Billionaire Must Pay $640,000 to Artist

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – A federal judge rejected a billionaire developer’s challenge of a jury’s $640,000 verdict for having copies of a noted sculptor’s work made in China and putting them on public display.
     John Raimondi sued Igor Olenicoff in 2012 after seeing copies of his works displayed in Orange County, California, including at Century Centre in Irvine and Olen Pointe in Brea. Olenicoff had two copies each made of two of Raimondi’s large sculptures.
     Olenicoff admitted his copyright infringement, shifting the focus to damages, but filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law after the jury delivered its verdict.
     The Florida-based real estate developer is worth an estimated $3.6 billion and one of the 500 wealthiest people in the world, according to Forbes magazine, which posted him at No. 481.
     Olenicoff pleaded guilty to felony tax charges in 2007 for hiding more than $350 million in Europe. He paid $52 million in back taxes and was sentenced to 2 years probation and 120 hours of community service. He received more derogatory publicity in 2012 when he admitted his copyright infringement.
     Raimondi sued him after learning the Russian-born immigrant was public displaying copies of his “Dian” and “Ceres” sculptures.
     Raimondi has been commissioned to create sculptures for private, public and corporate collections for more than 40 years. His work with stainless steel and bronze, in pure abstraction and natural forms, has made him one of the nation’s most successful sculptors of public art, and has been featured in numerous publications, including Esquire magazine.
     Olenicoff asked him in 2001 about buying sculptures for his many properties, and Raimondi provided him pictures, drawings and prices of “Dian” and “Ceres.”
     Olenicoff didn’t buy them; he had them copied in China.
     Raimondi got a tip about it 10 years later.
     Olenicoff filed his motion for judgment as a matter of law in January, claiming there was insufficient evidence to support the December 2014 jury verdict.
     Raimondi filed a motion for a permanent injunction ordering Olenicoff to tear down the sculptures.
     U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford denied Olenicoff’s motion.
     “After reviewing the evidence presented at trial and briefing by the parties on the issue of actual damages, the court disagrees that the evidence was insufficient,” Guilford wrote. “The jury was properly instructed. … This instruction reflects the rule in the Ninth Circuit that ‘actual damages are usually determined by the loss in the fair market value of the copyright, measured by the profits lost due to the infringement or by the value of the use of the copyrighted work to the infringer.”
     But Guilford denied Raimondi’s motion for a permanent injunction, saying the sculptor’s damage award was based on “benchmark transactions,” and that he has been “adequately compensated for both the reproduction and continuous display of the sculptures.”
     “Having now been fully compensated for Olenicoff’s use of the sculptures, plaintiff has not shown irreparable harm from their continued display,” Guilford wrote, finding the balance of hardships rests in the defendants’ favor.
     “Defendants would, of course, have to spend time, money and effort in removing and replacing the sculptures if the injunction is granted. As for plaintiff, he has already been compensated for the ongoing rights to display the sculptures. It is true that he must live with what amounts to a forced license, something that copyright law disfavors, but under the circumstances this hardship does not exceed defendants’.”
     But Guilford said the sculptures should be properly attributed.
     “The hardship of defendants to replace the placards on the sculptures is far less than the hardship to plaintiff of public misattribution of his work,” he wrote. “The court finds that plaintiff’s desired injunction should not issue, but a permanent injunction tailored to attribution is appropriate.”
     Neither Raimondi nor his attorney, Michael Kuznetsky, was available for comment Thursday.

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