20 August 2020CopyrightMuireann Bolger

US federal court may bar 'copyright troll' Liebowitz

Attorney  Richard Liebowitz, an alleged “copyright troll”, could be barred from practising at the  US District Court for the Northern District of New York, following the court’s recommendation on Tuesday, August 18 .

Judge Lawrence Kahn has called for Liebowitz’s removal from the roll of attorneys who can practise in the Northern District after fining him for inflating costs in a copyright lawsuit over a photograph. Liebowitz has filed more than 1,000 copyright infringement complaints on behalf of photographers and been subject to sanctions and disciplinary action in multiple jurisdictions.

In July 2019, Adlife Marketing & Communications Company filed a copyright infringement action against Buckingham Brothers, for printing a photograph of pork in its weekly advertisements for its food products.

In the suit filed by Liebowitz, Adlife sought $30,000 in statutory damages for willful copyright infringement. Judge Kahn, however, held that Liebowitz “employed misleading citations and frivolous assertions in an attempt to recover an unjustifiably high amount of statutory damages and attorney’s fees”.

The court concluded that, at a minimum, “to state a claim for statutory damages and attorney’s fees, the plaintiff must allege the date infringement commenced and the date of registration, because these dates are necessary”, which Liebowitz had failed to do. He added that the company failed to adequately state a claim for statutory damages and attorney’s fees, and that while Adlife alleges that it registered the photograph with the  US Copyright Office but fails to include the effective date of the copyright registration as required.

The court also found that Liebowitz has used misleading citations in an attempt to recover an unjustifiable high hourly rate of attorney’s fees.

Judge Kahn said: “After reviewing Liebowitz’s long history of misconduct and failure to improve his practice…..there is no sanction short of disbarment that would stop Mr Liebowitz from further misconduct.”

He added: “There is a strong public interest in shining a bright light on Liebowitz’s extraordinary record of misconduct and in ensuring that both courts and his clients, current and future, are aware of that history” so that they can be vigilant in scrutinising Liebowitz’s conduct.

More specifically, Liebowitz continued to request attorney’s fees and statutory damages at rates that he has been directly advised are unreasonable and legally baseless, said Judge Kahn.

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More on this story

2 December 2020   Attorney Richard Liebowitz, who has gained notoriety as an alleged “copyright troll”, has been temporarily barred from practising at the US District Court for the Southern District District of New York.