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Court orders Katz to pay legal fees after failed copyright suit

California readers may be interested to learn that a district court has ordered real estate mogul Raanan Katz to pay the legal fees of a woman he sued for copyright infringement after she published an unflattering photo of him on her blog. Katz, who is part-owner of the Miami Heat, must pay $155,000.

The case is the latest example of someone attempting to use copyright law as a "right to be forgotten," which means to remove unwanted content from the Internet. In 2012, Katz purchased the rights to the third-party photo which features him sticking his tongue out after the woman posted it on her blog with critical commentary. He then sued the woman for copyright infringement.

A district court rejected Katz's claim, finding that the woman's republication of the photo constituted fair use. After Katz appealed that decision, a federal appellate court confirmed it, stating that the woman did not "materially impair" the market for Katz's photo. In fact, the court found that there was not potential market for it.

In August, the district court granted the woman's request to recover her attorneys' fees under copyright law's discretionary fee-shifting provision. In its ruling, the court wrote, "It is crystal clear that Plaintiff's motivations pursuing this lawsuit were improper. Instead of using the law for its intended purposes of fostering ideas and expression, Plaintiff obtained the photograph's copyright solely for the purpose of suppressing Defendant's free speech."

California residents who have questions about intellectual property laws covering written works, performance art, artwork or software may benefit by consulting with an attorney. Legal counsel could provide essential guidance on the best ways to protect against copyright infringement.

Source: Forbes, "You Can't Buy A Copyright, Just To Bury It," Eric Goldman, Sept. 21, 2015

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