Designer Skin LLC v. S & L Vitamins, Inc., et al.
Christopher Scanlon v. Gil Kessler, et al.
No. 97 Civ. 1140, 1998 U.S. Dist. Lexis 10201 (S.D.N.Y., July 10, 1998)
The defendant organization posted on its website two photographs taken by plaintiff at events sponsored by the organization. Plaintiff charged that this posting, without authorization, constituted copyright infringement. The court agreed, finding both that plaintiff owned the copyright in the photographs in question and that the defendant organization had copied the same without authorization by posting the pictures on its website.
Plaintiff sought statutory damages for this infringement under 17 U.S.C. §504(c)(1), in lieu of any damages actually caused by the infringement. Under Section 504(c)(1), the court has discretion to award damages of up to $100,000 if it determines that the infringement was willful. Finding that defendant's infringement was not willful, the court awarded plaintiff the minimum damages available under the statute, $500 for each infringement, for a total award of $1000. Contributing to the court's determination was its finding that the defendant organization did not know who took the photographs at the time they were posted on its site, plaintiff's prior authorization of defendant's use of other photographs he had taken, and apparent confusion between the parties over the organization's policies concerning appropriate use of photographs taken at organization events.