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Court Orders ‘Copyright Troll’ Into Firm Management Course

May 8, 2020, 9:07 PM

Copyright lawyer Richard Liebowitz found himself on the receiving end of sanctions from not one, but two federal judges this week.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered Liebowitz on Friday to pay $3,000 in civil sanctions and to complete firm management courses after failing to follow “two simple and clear instructions” in a copyright infringement case he filed against Barstool Sports Inc. on behalf of Angel Chevrestt.

“Mr. Liebowitz is familiar with both instructions,” Judge Valerie E. Caproni said for the court. They’re the same instructions for every copyright case filed before her, and she’d sanctioned Liebowitz in prior cases for failing follow them, she said.

Liebowitz is well-known for filing a wide variety of lawsuits on behalf of photographers who claim their work is reposted by media publications or to social media feeds without permission. He’s been accused of filing claims not on the merits, but to force settlements, leading multiple Southern District judges to refer to him as a “copyright troll.

Liebowitz was previously hit with a contempt citation for lying to another judge at the Manhattan-based district court, at which time his attorney had recommended psychological help and a course on small law firm management, according to the court’s opinion.

“While both may be helpful, psychological help is best obtained because the patient wants help,” the court said on May 8. It’s unclear if Liebowitz wants said help, but “management training is in order,” the court said.

Liebowitz has until September to take an approved course that must include information on “how to maintain systems so that court obligations are tracked and obeyed,” the court said.

Liebowitz didn’t respond to a request for comment.

‘Legal Lamprey’ Liebowitz

The sanctions from Manhattan follow a Thursday ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois that ordered Liebowitz to pay $20,000 in civil sanctions and attorneys’ fees after “an example of the worst kind of lawyering.”

Consequence Holdings Inc. “conceded early on” in the case that it used Jesse Ward’s photograph without his consent, Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel said.

But Liebowitz filed the lawsuit in the wrong venue and then didn’t follow local rules for civil procedure, costing Ward his “opportunity to advance what appears to have been a meritorious claim,” the court said.

Consequence never “advanced any good reason” for why it didn’t ask for Ward’s permission or offer payment before using his work, the court said. It noted that misuse of intellectual property has become an “especially pernicious” problem for freelance photographers in the internet age.

“Aggressive plaintiffs’ attorneys such as Liebowitz, then, can be said to represent the fetid backwash of online media providers’ own persistent and willful disregard for intellectual property norms,” the court said.

Consequence lost its bid for attorneys’ fees, though, with the court citing Consequence’s own bad behavior over the course of litigation and a hope that “the experience of wrangling legal lampreys such as Liebowitz” will serve as a deterrent against Consequence’s further misuse of intellectual property.

Dan Booth Law LLC represented Consequence. Herrick Feinstein LLP represented Barstool Sports. Liebowitz Law Firm PLLC represented Chevrestt and Ward.

The cases are Chevrestt v. Barstool Sports, Inc., S.D.N.Y., No. 20-cv-01949, 5/8/20 and Ward v. Consequence Holdings, Inc., S.D. Ill., No. 18-cv-01734, 5/7/20.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com

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