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Completed Case Roundup

Tying Up Loose Ends: Creative Commons Licenses, Copyrighted Credentialing Exams, and Counterfeit Textbooks

Over the last several years, we have reported on a number of cases that have reached quiet settlements or otherwise fizzled out without us acknowledging their end. Here, we round up final updates on a few of those cases:

Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, P.C. v. Higbee et al

We previously reported on this case here. This dispute concerned an image shared under a Creative Commons license, which was allegedly used by the law firm Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, P.C. (the "Plaintiff") in an article produced without complying with the attribution requirements of the license. Nicholas Youngson, (the photographer who created the image), Youngson's company (RM Media, Ltd.), and Higbee & Associates (another law firm) (collectively "defendants") reached out to the Plaintiff, claiming that failure to comply with the license was copyright infringement and seeking a settlement of $5,280 while threatening a lawsuit for damages of up to $150,000.

Photo by RockYourCradle on Pixabay

The Plaintiff brought suit to seek a declaratory judgment that the use was not infringement, arguing that Defendants had obscured the need to comply with the license's terms and were now acting as copyright trolls by trying to prey on a good-faith, unsuspecting user. It would have been helpful for users of Creative Commons–licensed works to have a court weigh in on the consequences of not complying with the terms of a license, specifically, whether such on omission can trigger significant monetary damages in an infringement case. Unfortunately, though, the court never reached the merits of the case. In March 2020, the court filed a Memorandum of Decision & Order dismissing the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction; although the parties satisfied the diversity element of federal subject matter jurisdiction (being from different states), the amount of money at stake in the case did not exceed the statutory minimum of $75,000.

National Federation of Professional Trainers v. Carrington College

We previously reported on this case in late 2018. The National Federation of Professional Trainers ("NFPT") had filed suit against Carrington College ("Carrington"), claiming that Carrington had made and distributed unauthorized copies of NFPT's copyrighted Certified Personal Trainer credentialing exam. NFPT sought damages as well as illegitimate profits stemming from the alleged infringement, and Carrington countered by filing a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim and for lack of personal jurisdiction. The case ground onward for two years without significant developments, but it seems that the parties eventually reached a settlement. In September of 2020, they filed a joint Stipulated Dismissal with Prejudice, with both parties to bear their own fees and costs.

Pearson Education, Inc. v. Doe

We previously reported on this case in late 2019. Like several cases we have addressed in the past, this case involved some of the world's largest academic publishing houses attempting to halt the production and distribution of allegedly counterfeit textbooks. These counterfeits pose several problems: their existence and sale violate the copyrights and trademarks of publishers, their low prices undercut the market for legitimate books, and their shoddy quality damages the reputations of the legitimate publishers in the eyes of unsuspecting buyers. The parties responsible for creating and distributing counterfeit books are often difficult to track down, but the publishers here were apparently able to identify some specific individuals and businesses and hold them accountable once they defaulted in the litigation. On April 22, 2021, the court issued an Amended Order specifying the damages that various parties would be required to pay to the publishers, including higher amounts in cases where the evidence suggested that the infringement was willful.