Online picture leads to copyright infringement lawsuit

A New York photographer is suing a Mount Pleasant, Texas, media company for copyright infringement for allegedly publishing a photograph without permission.

Jeff Bachner of Brooklyn, N.Y., filed suit against East Texas Broadcasting Inc. in the Tyler Division of the Eastern District of Texas earlier this year. The case was transferred to the Texarkana Division on Tuesday.

The suit alleges that East Texas Broadcasting published a copyrighted photograph of "Jon Lovitch, who has held the title for creating the largest gingerbread village by the Guinness world record," which was owned and registered by Bachner, a professional photographer.

Bachner's complaint, filed on his behalf by New York lawyer Richard Liebowitz, accuses East Texas Broadcasting of unlawfully publishing the photo on its website,, Nov. 21, 2017. The photograph allegedly accompanied an article titled "What national day is today?"

"East Texas did not license the photograph from plaintiff for its article, nor did East Texas have plaintiff's permission or consent to publish the photograph on its website," the complaint states.

Bachner's complaint asserts that he is entitled to damages and the defendant's profits, or alternatively, to statutory damages up to $150,000 per work infringed. The complaint also asks for court costs and attorney fees.

Before the case was transferred to Texarkana, East Texas Broadcasting filed a response to Bachner's complaint with the help of Texarkana lawyer Bob Weber. The response includes a general denial of Bachner's claims though it admits that East Texas Broadcasting admits to running an article with the photograph attached as an exhibit to Bachner's complaint.

"East Texas denies that the photograph and article were prominently featured on its website," the complaint states.

East Texas admits in its response that it did not directly license the photograph from Bachner.

"East Texas would show that it received the photograph and article from Real News Public Relations and assumed it had authority to re-publish as it had on prior occasions when receiving materials from Real News Public Relations," the complaint states.

East Texas argues that it did not publish Bachner's photo in a "transformative manner" or for commercial advantage or to make a profit.

"In fact, East Texas had only 14 visits or 'hits' to the website featuring the photograph and article," the response states.

The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Robert Schroeder III and has been referred to U.S. Magistrate Judge Caroline Craven. No hearings are currently scheduled.

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