The $64,000 question: should you ignore Ron Coleman’s client?

No.

Defendant Nyarko turned a deaf ear on Plaintiff Burch’s demands that Nyarko pay Burch a licensing fee for the use on Nyarko’s website of four photos Burch took in Ghana. In fact, Burch claimed that Nyarko got pretty angry when Burch asked him for payment. So Burch sued for copyright infringement, and won.

Nyarko ignored the suit as well, so the court entered a default judgment. Then it came time to prove up the damages. This was all done on paper. Burch submitted some documents showing that he’d lost some revenue through the unauthorized use, and his attorneys submitted a declaration talking about how much Burch had spent on fees and court costs.

The court could have awarded up to $600,000 in statutory damages, because the copyrights in the photos were registered in time. So in a certain sense, you might consider Nyarko lucky when the court slapped him with a judgment of about $64,000, reflecting an award of $60,000 in statutory damages, plus attorney’s fees and costs.

The court looked at a number of factors to arrive at the amount of the award. Part of the basis was the fact Nyarko hadn’t been cooperative in the dispute. Another reason was because of the lost revenue Burch suffered. And the fact that the court found it necessary to deter others from ripping off other people’s works probably played some part in it as well. If there’s one thing to learn from the case, it’s to not be too flippant when an able attorney’s client tells you to pay up.

Burch v. Nyarko, No. 06-7022, 2007 WL 1732401 (S.D.N.Y. June 15, 2007).