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Getty Images, Inc. v. Clinics

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

March 20, 2014

GETTY IMAGES (US), INC., Plaintiff,
v.
VIRTUAL CLINICS, et al., Defendants.

ORDER AWARDING STATUTORY DAMAGES AND ENTERING PERMANENT INJUNCTION

JAMES L. ROBART, District Judge.

A. INTRODUCTION

The court ordered default judgment against Defendants Kendra and Ryan Camp ("the Camps") on January 31, 2014, and awarded Plaintiff Getty Images (US), Inc. ("Getty") $21, 433.00 in actual damages under 17 U.S.C. § 504(b) and prejudgment interest for the Camps' infringement of ten unregistered images. ( See 1/31/14 Ord. (Dkt. # 40).) Getty also requested maximum statutory damages for infringement of two registered images and a permanent injunction against the Camps. ( See id. ) After considering the evidence presented at a February 25, 2014, evidentiary hearing on these requests, Getty's post-hearing briefing ( see Brief (Dkt. # 46)), and the relevant law, the Court awards Getty maximum statutory damages of $300, 000.00 under 17 U.S.C. § 504(c)(2) for the Camps' willful copyright infringement and ENJOINS the Camps from engaging in future infringing activity.

B. BACKGROUND

Getty controls the intellectual property rights to numerous pictures of cats and dogs, 12 of which are at issue in this case. (Compl. (Dkt. # 1) ¶¶ 22-23.) Getty owns some of the images it licenses and also acts as a distributor for third-party content suppliers. ( Id. ¶ 14.) As Getty explained at the evidentiary hearing, Getty licenses images under different pricing structures. Getty customers who license rights-managed images have exclusive use and control of those images. Rights-managed images are often used by companies for major advertising campaigns, and customers pay a higher premium for the exclusivity associated with this model.

The Camps are a Florida couple who run a website design company from their home. (Camp Decl. (Dkt. # 16) ¶ 2.) They design websites for veterinarians and veterinary clinics, doing business as "Vet Web Designers."[1] ( Id. ) They use pictures of cats and dogs in the websites they design.

Getty brought a single claim of copyright infringement against the Camps in April 2013, [2] alleging that the Camps used pictures of cats and dogs exclusively licensed to Getty in designing websites for veterinarians. ( See Compl. ¶¶ 25, 33.) Getty also alleged that the Camps continued to use the images after they became aware of their infringement. ( Id. at ¶ 34.)

The Camps moved to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) on June 3, 2013. ( See Mot. to Dismiss (Dkt. # 15)): Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). Between the Camps' filing of that motion and the court's order denying the motion on September 9, 2013, the Camps' attorney withdrew from the case. ( See generally 7/19/13 Ord. (Dkt. # 21); 9/9/13 Ord. (Dkt. # 31).) After that point, the Camps stopped defending the action. ( See generally Dkt.) The court entered default against the Camps on October 15, 2013. (10/15/13 Ord. (Dkt. # 34).)

Getty subsequently moved for default judgment, and on January 31, 2014, the court ordered default judgment against the Camps, and awarded Getty actual damages of $21, 433.00 and prejudgment interest for copyright infringement of ten unregistered images. ( See generally Mot. for Def. Judg. (Dkt. # 35); 1/31/14 Ord.) The court also ordered an evidentiary hearing to determine the appropriate amount of statutory damages for willful copyright infringement of two registered images under 17 U.S.C. § 504(c)(2) and whether the court should issue a permanent injunction. ( See 1/31/14 Ord.) At the conclusion of the evidentiary hearing on February 25, 2014, the court requested additional briefing from Getty about the scope of Getty's proposed permanent injunction. ( See generally Brief.)

C. STATUTORY DAMAGES UNDER 17 U.S.C. § 504(C)(2)

The court finds that an award of maximum statutory damages of $300, 000.00 for the Camps' willful infringement is appropriate in this case. The Camps infringed Getty's copyrights with the knowledge that they were doing so, and saved expenses and generated profit through their infringing use. The Camps' actions also cost Getty revenue it otherwise would have received had the two rights-managed images been properly licensed to maintain their exclusivity. Further, an award of maximum statutory damages in this case will serve to protect the copyright system from flagrant violation of the law.

The court has wide discretion in determining the amount of statutory damages to be awarded within the ranges provided by 17 U.S.C. § 504(c)(1)-(2). Harris v. Emus Records Corp., 734 F.2d 1329, 1335 (9th Cir. 1984). The court is directed to do "what is just in the particular case, considering the nature of the copyright, the circumstances of the infringement and the like... but with the express qualification that in every case the assessment must be within the prescribed [statutory range]. Within these limitations the court's discretion and sense of justice are controlling...." F.W. Woolworth Co. v. Contemporary Arts, Inc., 344 U.S. 228, 232 (1952) (citing L.A. Westermann Co. v. Dispatch Printing Co., 249 U.S. 100, 106-07 (1919)). "Statutory damages are particularly appropriate in a case... in which [a] defendant has failed to mount any defense or to participate in discovery...." Jackson v. Sturkie, 255 F.Supp.2d 1096, 1101 (N.D. Cal. 2003). Further, "[b]ecause awards of statutory damages serve both compensatory and punitive purposes, a plaintiff may recover statutory damages whether or not there is adequate evidence of the actual damages suffered by plaintiff or of the profits reaped by defendant.'" L.A. News Serv. v. Reuters Television Intern., Ltd., 149 F.3d 987, 996 (9th Cir. 1998) (quoting Harris, 734 F.2d at 1335). If a plaintiff demonstrates that the infringer's conduct was willful, the court may award maximum statutory damages of $150, 000.00 per infringement. See 17 U.S.C. § 504(c)(2).

In its order granting default judgment, the court stated that four factors would inform its determination of the appropriate amount of statutory damages. (1/31/14 Ord. at 15-16.) The factors are: (1) the infringer's profits and expenses saved because of the infringement; (2) the plaintiff's lost revenues; (3) the strong public interest in ensuring the integrity of copyright laws; and (4) whether the infringer acted willfully. See, e.g., P. Stock, Inc. v. MacArthur & Co. Inc., Civil No. 11-00720 JMS/BMK, 2012 WL 3985719, at *5 (D. Haw. Sept. 10, 2012); Controversy Music v. Shiferaw, No. C03-5254 MJJ, 2003 WL 22048519, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 20, 2003); Original Appalachian Artworks, Inc. v. J.F. Reichert, Inc., 658 F.Supp. 458, 465 (E.D. Pa. 1987); Rare Blue Music, Inc. v. Guttadauro, 616 F.Supp. 1528, 1530 (D. Mass. 1985); Milene Music, Inc. v. Gotauco, 551 F.Supp. 1288, 1296 (D.R.I. 1982). The first two factors are largely analogues of each other so the court will analyze them together. The balance of factors counsels in favor of granting Getty maximum statutory damages of $300, 000.00.

a. The Camps' Profits and Expenses Saved, as well as Getty's Lost Revenue, Support a Heightened Statutory Damages Award

The first two factors-(1) the infringer's profits and expenses saved and (2) the plaintiff's lost revenues-are relatively straightforward inquiries. However, these factors are generally given less weight than the others because of the inherent uncertainty in calculating an infringer's profits and a plaintiff's lost revenue. Milene Music, 551 F.Supp. at 1296. Indeed, "most courts that have pondered the issue do not attach great weight to ...


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