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Netflix Sued for Showing Curacao Map in 2012 Bruce Willis Movie

Jan. 3, 2020, 6:56 PM

The producer and two streamers of a 2012 movie starring Bruce Willis and Rebecca Hall infringed the copyright of a map of Curacao shown in the film, a lawsuit filed in Texas federal court alleged.

Mapmaker Victor Baker accused producer Penguin Random House LLC of using the antique-style map in the background of several scenes in “Lay the Favorite” without permission, and Amazon Technologies Inc. and Netflix Inc. of distributing the infringement. Baker’s company, One Treasure Ltd., sells his maps as large, printed copies to tourists, his Jan. 2 complaint alleged.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, shows that filmmakers can risk lawsuits by displaying copyright-protected works in movie backgrounds. It also shows how continued distribution can create liability. The three-year statute of limitations for copyright infringement has long passed since the film’s creation, but continuing to sell an infringing product can create new claims.

Baker waited nearly eight years to sue because he first saw the movie, and his map, several months ago, his attorney Justin Michael Welch of Blazier Christensen Browder & Virr, PC said.

“He has a lot of maps, and gets ripped off all the time,” Welch said. “He’s just trying to make sure people don’t use his stuff for free.”

Baker registered his rendition of the Caribbean island nation with the U.S. Copyright Office in 2009, according to a registration attached to the complaint. Copyright owners can be eligible for statutory damages of up to $30,000 for each infringement if they registered before the infringement, and up to $150,000 if the infringement is deemed willful.

Random House’s film wing “is very aware” that it needs to obtain permission to use intellectual property in movies, making it liable for the $150,000 maximum, Baker said in the complaint. Both Amazon and Netflix also knew or acted in reckless disregard of his rights when they streamed and distributed discs of the movie, he alleged.

Baker will seek a fair market license fee for the map and any profits from the infringement if he can’t get statutory damages, according to the complaint.

The comedy-romance about sports gambling, which also stars Joshua Jackson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Vince Vaughn, had a budget estimated at $26.3 million and a box office gross of $1.6 million, according to IMDB.com.

Causes of Action: Copyright infringement.

Relief: Damages, injunctive relief, attorneys’ fees, and costs.

Response: Random House, Netflix, and Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.

Attorneys: Blazier, Christensen, Browder & Virr PC.

The case is Victor Baker v. Penguin Random House, L.L.C., W.D. Tex., No. 20-004, complaint filed 1/2/20

To contact the reporter on this story: Kyle Jahner in Washington at kjahner@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebecca Baker at rbaker@bloomberglaw.com; Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com

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