Don’t interfere with the livelihood of professional photographers by stealing their work. But if you do and your hand is caught in the proverbial cookie jar, don’t ignore e-mails, Federal Express letters, and multiple phone calls trying to resolve the matter without a lawsuit. But if you do ignore all of those attempts, don’t ignore the eventual lawsuit for copyright infringement eventually filed against you! Because if you ignore all of the above, the following might apply to you too….
Christopher Sadowski is one of the many professional photographers we here at CopyCat Legal are proud to represent. He is an award-winning photojournalist that is widely published in some of the most-recognized news outlets/newspapers – of relevance here, the New York Post. In 2021, Mr. Sadowski captured a series of photographs of immigrants arriving at a New York airport at night, and those photographs were included in a New York Post article titled “Biden secretly flying underage migrants into NY in dead of night” Here are the photographs at issue:
photos by Christopher Sadowski
Enter Diverse New Media Corp d/b/a The Floridian, a Florida-based media platform. In October 2021, Diverse New Media published three of Mr. Sadowski’s photographs on its website in an article titled “Biden Secretly Flying Unaccompanied Minor From Border ‘In Dead of Night’ to New York, Florida.” The problem is that Diverse New Media did not have Mr. Sadowski’s permission to do so and did not pay to license the photographs. Our clients are generally not happy when that happens.
Enter CopyCat Legal. On behalf of Mr. Sadowski, we tried multiple times to contact Diverse New Media in an effort to resolve the matter privately and avoid a lawsuit for copyright infringement. Diverse New Media never responded, and on July 25, 2022, Mr. Sadowski filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida (Sadowski v. Diverse New Media Corp, Case No. 0:22-cv-61380).
Diverse New Media failed to respond to the lawsuit within the required timeframe (generally not a good idea), and on January 17, 2023, the Court entered a Default Judgment against Diverse New Media in the amount of $48,847.90 for its infringement of Mr. Sadowski’s photographs. The Court awarded Mr. Sadowski $45,000.00 in statutory damages, $586.65 in costs, and $3,261.25 in attorneys’ fees. You can read a copy of that Order here.
Important lessons: (1) It’s a lot less expensive to pay for professional photography than it is to be caught stealing it. (2) If you are caught, ignoring the problem may not be the best strategy. (3) If you’re a professional photographer whose work was infringed, it helps to have experienced legal counsel like CopyCat Legal fighting to protect your intellectual property!