The Cost of Sharing : Copyright is Very Real

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Sharing digital copyright protected files, whether it is design templates, digital papers, Photoshop actions, business contracts or something else is illegal and is punishable in a court of law. It does not matter if you live in a different state than the copyright owner or; if you shared with one person or thousands. It also does not matter if you are sharing them in an “underground” message board, a “private” Facebook group, a “members only” forum, or somewhere else. Sharing digital copyright protected files is illegal.

Let’s start at the beginning…

In the winter of 2011 I was out to dinner enjoying a date night with my husband when my phone started exploding with Facebook messages and emails.

The first person to contact me was my good friend Robyn, owner of Paperie Boutique.

It seemed there was someone illegally sharing Robyn’s “Fit to Print” collection of digital business templates. Once everyone started investigating deeper they found my files and files from other well-known designers in the industry.

You can see the “Permanent Record” that Robyn has posted online here: http://paperieboutique.com/stolen/

The person responsible for all of this illegal sharing of copyright protected files identified herself. She was very smug about the whole ordeal and had the audacity to say:  “I bought the files from you. They are mine to do whatever I want with.” Unfortunately, that thought is VERY incorrect.

Permanent Record - Defendant(Please click image to read/view full size.)

On top of stealing and illegally sharing my files, part of Ms. Davis’ little clique on this “underground forum” had created a profile using the name of my other business. They then tried to say that I was using this same site to illegally request and share digital files!

We had a brief exchange of words which I ended by letting her know she would be hearing from my attorney.

In April of 2013 we finally filed our formal complaint. Our complaint was against Ms. Brittany Davis as an individual, Candid Memoirs Photography – the business she owned in her home state of Missouri, her mother, Jackie Davis, and her mother’s business – Davis Creations. Her mother and her mother’s business became involved when we determined that Brittany’s business was set up as a DBA under her mother’s LLC, essentially making them the same company and making her mother liable for her illegal actions.

In the time between discovering that she was illegally sharing my files and filing our formal complaint, Ms. Davis relocated from Missouri to Florida. She closed her photography business and started up a new business in her new location. Because she is not in the state of Ohio the judge allowed her to telephone into the courtroom for the first hearing as well as the second hearing.

After revealing to the court during the second hearing that she was not covered by any type of business or home owner’s insurance at the time of this incident she failed to appear for any subsequent hearings and failed to respond. I was awarded a default judgment on June 26, 2014.


Our initial request for damages was an amount that the court had never seen before – at least for a case of this type. While internet copyright infringement is a relatively new arena for the courts, it is still a very real and very serious issue. Ms. Davis had purchased 105 digital files of mine with a total retail value of $418.95. These files were downloaded illegally 19,928 times. Therefore, we requested a total of $8,348,835.60 in damages. (Equation being: retail value of items ($418.95) x number of downloads (19,928) = total).

Permanent Record - Illegal Downloads(Please click image to read/view full size.)

The judge was more comfortable awarding an amount equal to the ACTUAL LOSS OF REVENUE SUFFERED versus the potential total loss of sales due to illegal downloads. The judge awarded me $210,000.00 on August 7, 2014.

Damages Awarded(Please click image to read/view full size.)

You can see the complete court docket and details here:  http://cpdocket.cp.cuyahogacounty.us/

Simply do a Civil Search by Company Name using “Sassy Designs”.

Now, the battle is not over. I still have to collect these awarded damages from Ms. Davis. There will be a few more court hearings in my future. I’m not sure she is even aware yet that she was served a heaping pile of justice – she did not show up to the hearing on August 7th.

I mentioned previously, Ms. Davis has since moved from Missouri to Florida. She has a new business and maybe some of you have heard of it. Heaven forbid some of you may have even purchased something as there is speculation that the items she is selling… I think you can finish the rest. Her new business name is Seasalt Paperie, which she recently changed to Seasalt & Co. I refuse to link directly to her website or Facebook pages – for obvious reasons.  This woman is a fraud and thief.

She knew what she was doing was wrong, yet she did it anyway. She thought she was entitled to do whatever she wanted regardless of copyright or terms of use for the items. She knew she was being sued for her lawless behavior, yet she didn’t show up to court. Not defending yourself is a pretty hard admission of GUILT.

I know there are people sharing files all of the time. I also know that each share of a copyright protected file, and each violation of a designers’ terms of use is illegal. Simply saying “Oh, I didn’t know!” does not make it okay or get you a pass. It is very sad to me that every other designer that was affected during this particular incident chose to NOT to take it to court. I do understand that each of them had their own reasons and I can respect and appreciate that. I think that most feel that it is a battle too big to fight. The key is that we need to fight together – not alone. I do still believe that there is way more good in this world than evil. If the good teamed up the way the evil does the battle would be much easier to handle.

I sued Ms. Davis because what she did was wrong. I sued Ms. Davis because she violated laws. I sued Ms. Davis because she knowingly violated my terms of use.

So, again – the lesson here is very simple. Sharing digital copyright protected files, whether it is design templates, digital papers, Photoshop actions, business contracts or something else is illegal and is punishable in a court of law. It does not matter if you live in a different state than the copyright owner or; if you shared with one person or thousands. It also does not matter if you are sharing them in an “underground” message board, a “private” Facebook group, a “members only” forum, or somewhere else. Sharing digital copyright protected files is illegal. Illegally sharing digital copyright protected files will be punished in a court of law.

 


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