The new year brings two more reminders to staffers in digital content roles about how posting copyrighted photos on station websites without permission can bring hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. Both Bonneville International and Liberman Broadcasting are on the receiving end of copyright infringement complaints brought by serial infringement suit filer Richard Liebowitz.
In a case filed in U.S. District Court in Colorado, photographer Michelle Eve Sandberg claims Bonneville infringed on one of her copyrights. Specifically the suit alleges Bonneville CHR “99.7 Now” KMVQ-FM San Francisco posted on its site a copyrighted photo of the Jonas Brothers kicking off their Happiness Begins tour in Miami that Sandberg owns and registered. The photo appeared in an article on the site entitled, “Jonas Brothers – The Happiness Tour has Begun.”
The other case comes from Hawthorne, NJ-based photographer Christopher Sadowski, a regular Liebowitz client who has previously sued Alpha Media, Mississippi Valley Broadcasters, Cox Media Group, JVC Media, Beasley Media Group, Cumulus Media and Royce International Broadcasting. This time he’s filed a complaint against Liberman Broadcasting, which allegedly posted a copyrighted picture of Mexican drug lord El Chapo, seen for the last time before heading to prison in Colorado, on the website for its “La Ranchera 96.7” KWIZ, licensed to Santa Ana in the Los Angeles region.
The copycat suits claim, “Defendant did not license the Photograph from Plaintiff for its article, nor did Defendant have Plaintiff’s permission or consent to publish the Photograph on its Website.”
In both cases the photographers seek damages and the defendant’s profits for the infringements. But how much money Bonneville or Liberman made from running the photo can be difficult to prove so the photog says that statutory damages of up to $150,000 per work infringed would do. They are also seeking reimbursement for legal costs.