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‘Copyright Troll’ Faces Disbarment at SDNY for Bad Behavior

June 26, 2020, 8:43 PM

“Copyright troll” Richard Liebowitz must pay $100,000 as a sanction and face the SDNY’s grievance committee after a well-documented history of misconduct, a federal judge in New York said Friday.

The grievance committee will decide whether Liebowitz should be disbarred from practicing within the district, Judge Jesse M. Furman said for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Hefty fines and responsibility for large attorneys’ fees awards haven’t successfully deterred Liebowitz’s widespread misconduct, Furman said.

Since 2017, Liebowitz has filed 1,280 lawsuits in the Southern District of New York, more than any other lawyer, the court said.

“In that same period, he has earned another dubious distinction,” the court said. “He has become one of the most frequently sanctioned lawyers, if not the most frequently sanctioned lawyer, in the District.”

Judges at the SDNY and in other jurisdictions have “spent untold hours addressing” Liebowitz’s history of violating court orders and dishonesty, the court said.

The SDNY has previously ordered Liebowitz into firm management courses. He’s also worn out his welcome at the Eastern District of North Carolina, where he’s maxed out his allotted number of special appearances in cases on that court’s docket.

Liebowitz made a name for himself by filing copyright infringement suits on behalf of photographers who say their work has been reposted by media outlets without permission.

In Friday’s case before Furman, Arthur Usherson demanded thousands of dollars in damages because a band’s Facebook page had posted a picture he had taken of Leon Redbone in a tribute to the singer-songwriter’s recent passing.

Multiple SDNY judges have characterized Liebowitz as a “copyright troll” who wants to force settlements out of defendants instead of protecting his clients’ intellectual property.

Usherson’s claims against Bandshell Artist Management fizzled out after it became clear the photograph hadn’t ever been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, Furman said Friday. Yet Liebowitz managed to violate at least six court orders and lie under oath before the dispute was resolved, he said.

In addition to referring Liebowitz to the grievance committee, Furman ordered him to pay Bandshell $80,000 in attorneys’ fees. He also owes the court $20,000 for falsely alleging that Usherson’s photograph was properly registered and for failing to conduct a reasonable investigation into that registration after being put on notice, Furman said.

McGuireWoods LLP represented Bandshell Artist Management.

The case is Usherson v. Bandshell Artist Mgmt., S.D.N.Y., No. 19-cv-06368, 6/26/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Porter Wells in Washington at pwells@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

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