On September 4th, 2019, Bodker, Ramsey, Andrews, Winograd & Wildstein attorney Stephen Bush achieved a huge victory for his client in Federal District Court, obtaining an order on Summary Judgment in which Judge Amy Totenberg issued an award of over half a million dollars. Representing an Atlanta-based entrepreneur and her business, victims of a public smear campaign by the defendant, a well-known PR professional, Stephen began proceedings back in 2016 after his client lost her entire business due to false allegations. After years of pushing forward on the case, the Court finally issued its award.
The bulk of the case, and by extension the majority of the damages awarded, revolved around defamatory statements and actions taken by the defendant during and after the business relationship between the parties back in 2015. In addition to defamation claims, the case also involved a breach of the agreement between the parties, as well as claims under 17 U.S.C. 512, also known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Under the DMCA, the owner of the copyright in a work can petition an online medium, such as Instagram or YouTube, to take down a post that violates the owner’s right in the posted work. This was implemented in order to protect those mediums from liability for allowing users to create posts, and to prevent the need for Instagram, YouTube or any other medium to look into every post created. Once a petition to take down a post is filed, the online medium removes the post in question, leaving the individual who created the post to then dispute the takedown action, claiming that they are in fact the true copyright owner. If such removal process is abused by an individual who is not the true copyright owner, the creator of the post can potentially have a claim for damages as compensation for the lost revenue and expenses incurred in reinstating the posts that were fraudulently removed.
While not a significant portion of the award granted by the Court in this case, the damages awarded under the DMCA are important due to how new the DMCA laws are and lack of case law on the issue of damages stemming from abuse of the take down procedures.