Websites Win $87,000 From Attorney

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A Vallejo attorney must pay more than $87,000 after his defamation and copyright lawsuit against two websites was dismissed, a federal judge ruled.
     Dionne Choyce sued San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center and its Internet service provider Layer42.net in 2012. Choyce claimed the Media Center posted defamatory comments about him on its aggregate news site, Indybay.org.
     He also claimed the organization broke copyright laws by publishing one of his images without permission.
     Specifically, Choyce said Indybay posted a page titled “Attorney Dionne Choyce, who embezzled from homeless, may serve prison time,” and another one: “The Choyce Law Firm evicted from building.”
     Choyce claimed that Layer42.net shared responsibility with the Media Center for publishing false information.
     U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar dismissed Choyce’s claims with prejudice, citing the Media Center’s right to free speech and calling Choyce’s copyright claim “objectively baseless.”
     In a rather scorching paragraph, Tigar wrote: “Plaintiff’s copyright claim was, to put it bluntly, objectively baseless. At the time plaintiff filed his complaint, plaintiff had not even applied for a copyright registration. The Court first dismissed the claim without prejudice, which should have given plaintiff an opportunity to assess the strength of his claims, and take whatever steps were necessary to ensure that he had a valid claim to assert. Instead, he filed a registration application which identified himself as the ‘author’ of the image, which he knew he was not. And then, when faced with the argument that he still had no valid ownership interest in any copyright, he resorted to additional meritless arguments: that his registration was prima facie valid (which it was not) and that the image was a work made for hire
     (which was implausible, unsupported by any evidence, and did nothing to salvage the validity of the registration he had actually obtained).” (Parentheses in ruling.)
     The defendants filed a motion for attorneys’ fees, the Media Center asking for $59,836.11 and Layer42 for $57,278.50.
     Tigar granted the motion, but knocked 25 percent off each one.
     He awarded the Media Center $44,877 and Layer42 $42,958.

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