Thrown Out of Court: Aiden Patrick (deceased, 4-years-old) v. Volusia County

Judge Rouse Throws Out Case Against Volusia County

SUMMARY JUDGMENT ORDER DOWNLOAD HERE ->  Aiden Patrick Case Dismissed

Two Four Year Old Children Killed in 2010 on Volusia Beaches

Before Erin Joynt was run over on Volusia beaches by a lifeguard, a pair of 4 year old children were killed on the beach.  They were run over by citizen vehicular traffic, as Volusia County has a longstanding tradition of allowing people to operate vehicles on the beach.

Aiden Patrick, the 4-year-boy struck and killed on July 18, 2010, was struck by a truck.  His parents filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the county and driver of the truck. Continue reading

Red Bull Class Action Settlement – Submit a Claim Form and Get $10… next year

Red Bull LawsuitClick here to file a Claim Form online

What is a Class Action?

A class action is a lawsuit in which a person sues another party on behalf of all other people who are in a similar position. The individuals who actually bring the lawsuit are referred to as the Class Representatives, while all of the other people who are in a similar position as the Class Representatives are referred to as the Class or Class Members.

You usually see them when corporate America has gone too far, promised too much, delivered too little or had a problem with a good or service many people bought or used.

We are not affiliated with this class action lawsuit.

Me v. Red Bull?

Sometimes class actions can be a little silly or frivolous.  You can read the Complaints made against Red Bull, the energy drink here, as this one is a little of both:

Plaintiffs brought these lawsuits, alleging that Red Bull’s Marketing and labeling misrepresents both the functionality and safety of Red Bull beverages- basically over the marketing campaign saying Red Bull “gives you wings.”  Fact is- you will neither grow wings now will it is much more than little boost.  It provides no more energy than a cup of coffee or a caffeine pill, according to the lawsuit.

Red Bull denies any and all wrongdoing or liability, and maintain that its marketing and labeling have always been truthful and accurate.

Do I Receive Money?

If you have consumed a Red Bull in the last 12 years, yes.  It is on the honor system. The Settlement Class includes all persons who made at least one purchase of Red Bull products in the United States between January 1, 2002 and October 3, 2014.

How Do I Receive Money?

If you are a qualified Settlement Class Member and submit a Claim Form, you may choose to receive one of the following two benefit options:

  1. A cash reimbursement (in the form of a check) of $10.00; or
  2. Free Red Bull products (either Red Bull ® Energy Drink or Red Bull ® Sugarfree, as selected on the Claim Form) with a retail value of approximately $15.00 (the “Product Option”).

Complete Claim Form Here:

These pages haven’t been working, so you can Complete this – Long Form Notice.

And then WAIT a YEAR!

The Court will hold a hearing on May 1, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. to decide whether to approve the settlement. If the Court approves the settlement, after that there may be appeals. Payments will be distributed within 150 days after the Court grants final approval of the settlement, pending any appeals.

So it may be a year before you get your $10.  No interest.

Want More info:

wings lawsuitContact:

Energy Drink Settlement
c/o GCG
P.O. Box 35123
Seattle, WA 98124-5123

Toll-Free: 877- 495-1568
Email: energydrinksettlement@gcginc.com

 


We invite you to review our verdicts, our accolades and awards, what clients have to say about us and to give us a call for a free consultation. Our lawyers will sit down with you personally. John represents clients in Florida, Georgia and Alabama with passion and compassion and is a Board Certified Expert in Civil Trial Law according to the Florida Bar.

verdicts: http://www.knowthelawyer.com/notable-verdicts-and-settlements/

accolades: http://www.knowthelawyer.com/accolades-and-awards/

testimonials: http://www.knowthelawyer.com/reviews-and-testimonials/


If injury or trouble finds you, call us at 904-444-4444 .

5 Myths About the Michael Dunn Trial for the Murder of Jordan Davis

Myth #5.  The trial is a waste of taxpayer money because Dunn is already going to serve life in prison.

Michael Dunn was convicted by a jury of three counts of attempted murder and one count of shooting into a occupied vehicle.  Upon sentencing, Dunn faces a POTENTIAL minimum of 60 years in prison.  However, these convictions are fully subject to an appeal.  Michael Dunn’s appellate clock starts only after Dunn is sentenced and the judgment becomes final.  Cory Strolla has indicated a desire to appeal the prior trial based on certain evidentiary and procedural rulings.  No verdict is appellate proof- especially in criminal prosecutions, as the right of the criminal defendant to a fair trial, and whether that happened, is something the courts scrutinize.  Further, there were some key rulings in the first trial excluding or allowing witnesses and evidence which could be given a secondary look.

If Dunn is found guilty in a separate proceeding, defended by a separate lawyer, the odds that at least one of the two guilty verdicts is upheld drastically increase, which completely eliminates losing one judgment to appeal and Dunn going free. This trial is significant.

Myth #4.  Stand Your Ground has “NOTHING” to do with this trial.

People like to say “Stand Your Ground” has “NOTHING” to do with this trial. They are referring strictly to the immunity statute, which allows a Defendant to affirmatively seek immunity in cases of self defense.  Section 776.012, Florida Statutes, states:

A person is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. A person who uses or threatens to use force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat before using or threatening to use such force.

(2) A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. A person who uses or threatens to use deadly force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground if the person using or threatening to use the deadly force is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be.

And Section 776.032, Florida Statutes, holds:

A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.
The enactment of Stand Your Ground laws did more than merely add immunity from prosecution.  It took away a duty to retreat in public and empowered one’s subjective fear to entitle lethal action to be taken.

Make no mistake, Stand Your Ground empowered Dunn and gave him the right to kill- if only in his own mind.  He did not have to retreat and could use irrational and unreasonable facts to support use of lethal force.  Stand Your Ground laws caused Jordan’s murder.

Further, the jury instructions carry Stand Your Ground’s entitlement to kill all the way through a trial.  Before deliberations, a jury is read:

If (Defendant) was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

This is far different from the jury instruction read to Florida juries BEFORE the legislature’s enactment of Stand Your Ground:

The defendant cannot justify the use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm unless he used every reasonable means within his power and consistent with his own safety to avoid the danger before resorting to that force. The fact that the defendant was wrongfully attacked cannot justify his use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm if by retreating he could have avoided the need to use that force.

Let’s not pretend that this law does not devalue human life.

Myth #3.  Jordan Davis was out of the vehicle

Not one single person saw Jordan out of the vehicle that night, except Michael Dunn, despite several witnesses who looked towards the car.  The evidence is clear based on the trajectory of the bullets that Jordan Davis never left the vehicle.  The lack of property damage to either vehicle entirely contradicts Davis was out of the vehicle.  The trajectory of the bullet holes are consistent with the testimony that Jordan was fully in the vehicle.  ALL of this evidence is completely inconsistent with Davis being out of the vehicle.

Myth #2.  The vehicle Jordan Davis was in left the scene for a prolonged period of time.

Michael Dunn fired 3 shots while the Dodge Durango was stationary, killing Jordan.  Dunn fired three shots while the vehicle was backing up, just missing Tevin.  Dunn missed the vehicle and then got out of his vehicle and landed three more shots into the back of the fleeing vehicle, just missing the driver’s head. He was intending to kill everyone in that car.  If the occupants had stayed there, they would all have been killed at close range.

The Durango drove approximately 100 yards and was stopped for a matter of seconds to a few minutes while the front seat occupants got out to check on the rear occupants.  At all times, witnesses around the area on the busy Black Friday observed the boys.  There was a cop in the immediate area doing a DUI stop.  The boys immediately also called 911 from the parking lot.

They never left the immediate area and only left the gas station to avoid getting shot and killed. Despite this, some want to characterize the boys as having left the overall scene.  Let’s not forget that it was Dunn who never called police, fled the scene and was only found because a good Samaritan captured his tag number.

Myth #1.  Michael Dunn cannot be convicted of murder in the first degree / Angela Corey overcharged Michael Dunn.

There are two ways in which a person may be convicted of first degree murder.  One is known as premeditated murder and the other is known as felony murder.

To prove the crime of First Degree Premeditated Murder, the State must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. Jordan Davis is dead. (UNDISPUTED)
  2. The death was caused by the criminal act of Michael Dunn.  (UNDISPUTED)
  3. There was a premeditated killing of Jordan Davis.

So, let’s look at the word, “premeditated.”  According to the Standard Jury instructions which are the law of Florida:

“Killing with premeditation” is killing after consciously deciding to do so.  The decision must be present in the mind at the time of the killing.  The law does not fix the exact period of time that must pass between the formation of the premeditated intent to kill and the killing.  The period of time must be long enough to allow reflection by the defendant.  The premeditated intent to kill must be formed before the killing.

The question of premeditation is a question of fact to be determined by you from the evidence.  It will be sufficient proof of premeditation if the circumstances of the killing and the conduct of the accused convince you beyond a reasonable doubt of the existence of premeditation at the time of the killing.

Michael Dunn said, “you are not going to talk to me like that,” reached 4-5 feet for his gun, opened his glove box, pulled out his gun, took his gun out of its holster, pointed it directly at the center mass of Jordan Davis and fired it three times, then fired it 4 more times, then got out of his car and fired it three more times.  There was an intent to kill Jordan Davis and Dunn’s expression plus his actions gave time for forethought enough for a jury to decide whether this was 1st Degree Murder or a lesser charge.

A grand jury indicted Michael Dunn for first degree murder.  As such, this was not merely Angela Corey deciding to seek 1st Degree Murder.

CONCLUSION: Justice has not yet been done.

Michael Dunn still has a chance to appeal the prior verdict, he was merely found guilty of attempted murder (not murder) despite actually ending Jordan Davis’ life that night and Jordan Davis’ life mattered.  Jordan Davis was murdered.  Justice has not yet been done.


We invite you to review our verdicts, our accolades and awards, what clients have to say about us and to give us a call for a free consultation. Our lawyers will sit down with you personally. John represents clients in Florida, Georgia and Alabama with passion and compassion and is a Board Certified Expert in Civil Trial Law according to the Florida Bar.

verdicts: http://www.knowthelawyer.com/notable-verdicts-and-settlements/

accolades: http://www.knowthelawyer.com/accolades-and-awards/

testimonials: http://www.knowthelawyer.com/reviews-and-testimonials/


If injury or trouble finds you, call us at 904-444-4444 .

Jacksonville, Florida Civil Rights Law Firm Fights Police Misconduct

This page has been moved to http://www.knowthelawyer.com/police-misconduct/. We apologize for the inconvenience.


We invite you to review our verdicts, our accolades and awards, what clients have to say about us and to give us a call for a free consultation. Our lawyers will sit down with you personally. John represents clients in Florida, Georgia and Alabama with passion and compassion and is a Board Certified Expert in Civil Trial Law according to the Florida Bar.

verdicts: http://www.knowthelawyer.com/notable-verdicts-and-settlements/

accolades: http://www.knowthelawyer.com/accolades-and-awards/

testimonials: http://www.knowthelawyer.com/reviews-and-testimonials/


If injury or trouble finds you, call us at 904-444-4444 .

 

 

Florida Lawyers Protect People from Unsafe Premises

This post has been moved to http://www.knowthelawyer.com/negligent-security/. Sorry for the inconvenience!


 

We invite you to review our verdicts, our accolades and awards, what clients have to say about us and to give us a call for a free consultation. Our lawyers will sit down with you personally. John represents clients in Florida, Georgia and Alabama with passion and compassion and is a Board Certified Expert in Civil Trial Law according to the Florida Bar.

verdicts: http://www.knowthelawyer.com/notable-verdicts-and-settlements/

accolades: http://www.knowthelawyer.com/accolades-and-awards/

testimonials: http://www.knowthelawyer.com/reviews-and-testimonials/


If injury or trouble finds you, call us at 904-444-4444 .

 

Our Appellate Decisions and Lobbying: Changing Laws, Protecting People

Our Appellate Decisions: Changing Laws, Protecting People

appeal2After a trial is over, sometimes important issues warrant an appeal. Appeals to Florida’s courts of appeals and Supreme Court provide us with an opportunity on behalf of our current clients to fix laws that have proven unfair, ambiguous or unsafe for our community.  It can make the community safer as a whole.  Sometimes Legislators just get wording wrong or have political or conflicted motivation when drafting laws. In fact, we have been known to take cases that many would deem losing cases in order to correct what we view as unjust laws.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2XtZg3-L00

Bullying Cases

appealIn Paris Cannon v. Melisia Thomas (Aria Jewett), which can be downloaded here, we argued against bad law. The Court agreed, although it put the blame on the legislature. As we said in the above interview, children shouldn’t have to be beat up two, three or four times before finding protection under the law. (Dist. Ct. App. 1st Dist. 2014).

 

Insurance Companies Being Unfair

appeal3In Essex Ins. Co. v. Underwood, 2012 Fla. App. LEXIS 4674 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 5th Dist. Feb. 27, 2012), we argued against an insurance company which was denying coverage to a victim of its insured’s negligence.  Our argument is located here –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcSC55tpQnw

We won at trial, prevailed upon appeal and settled the case before a trial on damages.

 

Other cases

Other appellate cases: Boatright v. Smith, 905 So. 2d 127 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1st Dist. 2005); All Fla. Pipe & Supply, Inc. v. Green, 977 So. 2d 580 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1st Dist. 2008); Nall v. Burrows Interiors, Inc., 840 So. 2d 228 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1st Dist. 2003).

 

Michael Dunn v. Jordan Davis

legisWe also have fought poorly written or bad laws on the Legislative level.  John has been invited to speak before the Florida Legislature to make a presentation on Stand Your Ground, civil rights and gun laws.  Working on behalf of parents such as Ron Davis and Lucia McBath, it is John’s honor to try to change laws and make people aware.

flaJohn has also attended and supported clients speaking before the U.S. Senate and other government officials.

Feet on the Ground

That is not all.  Sometimes the changes in law start with awareness and solidarity with clients on the ground.  Our team has joined families all over the county to walk with them figuratively and literally.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ek0joMC2uEM


We invite you to review our verdicts, our accolades and awards, what clients have to say about us and to give us a call for a free consultation. Our lawyers will sit down with you personally. John represents clients in Florida, Georgia and Alabama with passion and compassion and is a Board Certified Expert in Civil Trial Law according to the Florida Bar.

verdicts: http://www.knowthelawyer.com/notable-verdicts-and-settlements/

accolades: http://www.knowthelawyer.com/accolades-and-awards/

testimonials: http://www.knowthelawyer.com/reviews-and-testimonials/


If injury or trouble finds you, call us at 904-444-4444 .

 

 

 

What to expect Saturday in the Jordan Davis case?

At the close of eleven days of trial, there was a point today where it seemed we finally are near verdict.  Justice is spelled one way, but defined many different ways.  Conviction of Michael Dunn for the murder of Jordan Davis is one of the keys to justice.  Will that come tomorrow?

The jury asked a question tonight which spawned much discussion- the jury insinuated they may be a little hung up on only one of the five counts by asking, “Can we not agree on one count and reach a verdict on other counts.”  One.  We weren’t given guidance if this was ONE juror’s question or the ENTIRE jury’s.  We also weren’t given guidance if this was a question involving whether to convict or acquit or merely a disagreement as to degree of wrong.  Yet, off we go mind-reading what this question means and who and how many asked it.

Mind Reading

The most logical plausible scenario is that the jury has made some decision of guilt on charges two, three, four and five- consisting of three attempted murder charges (one for each teenager who survived) and one for merely firing his gun- four felonies.  Even Dunn said he found it hard to explain this “second volley” of shots.  In one interview, he said he stepped out several feet before firing.  In another, he ducked behind cover.  The jury asked for the video/audio from that night and likely have listened to the timing of gunshots over and over again.  The final three shots were flush in the rear of a retreating vehicle.  If that is true, attempted murder convictions may be forthcoming.

Michael Dunn will therefore serve the rest of his life in jail and two of my clients will receive partial justice. Dunn’s actions will be deemed reprehensible at law and not self defense. And yet- no one feels safe.  No one is satisfied.  If the jury draws the line at Dunn getting out of the car, it sets a dangerous precedent.  It says that words can be legally fatal.  The jury says that young black boys cannot get the benefit of the doubt against a clear liar.  The jury allows lies to substitute for reasonable doubt.  The jury calls Michael Dunn a mere “attempted murderer,” and not a “murderer.”  At least for now.

Ray of Hope

But then there was a ray of hope.  Instead of expressing deadlocked disagreement before going home, the jury said they will try again to hurdle this wall tomorrow.  They didn’t quit.  They didn’t take the easy way out.  They asked to go to bed and start fresh tomorrow.  It could take mere hours or more days, but there are people fighting for Jordan Davis in that jury room.  They aren’t giving up and taking the easy way out. Hopefully, they are discussing impact angles and weighing witness credibility, asking questions about evidence and doing what is right.

What happens next?

Assuming this question means what some think it means, before this jury can throw up its hands on Count I- the murder of Jordan Davis -there is more legal wrangling that may happen- the jury first tells the judge in some way it cannot reach a verdict as to the charge.  The jurors must look at each other and not be able to find an answer on whether Jordan Davis died from 1st Degree Murder, 2nd Degree Murder or Manslaughter or whether this was a case of self defense.

The Court cannot coerce this decision.  In an effort to prevent jury coercion by trial judges, the Florida Supreme Court crafted a jury instruction commonly referred to as an “Allen charge,” which “allows a jury to continue deliberations, even after it has announced its inability to do so, where there is a reasonable basis to believe a verdict is possible, while cautioning jurors that they should not abandon their views just to get a verdict or to accommodate the majority.”  The deadlock instruction is also referred to as a “dynamite charge” for its “ability to blow apart deadlock.”  It dates back to a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Allen v. United States, 164 U.S. 492 in 1896. The Allen charge embodied in Florida Standard Jury Instruction 3.06 provides:

“I know that all of you have worked hard to try to find a verdict in this case. It apparently has been impossible for you so far. Sometimes an early vote before discussion can make it hard to reach an agreement about the case later. The vote, not the discussion, might make it hard to see all sides of the case.

We are all aware that it is legally permissible for a jury to disagree. There are two things a jury can lawfully do: agree on a verdict or disagree on what the facts of the case may truly be.

There is nothing to disagree about on the law. The law is as I told you. If you have any disagreements about the law, I should clear them for you now. That should be my problem, not yours.

If you disagree over what you believe the evidence showed, then only you can resolve that conflict, if it is to be resolved.

I have only one request of you. By law, I cannot demand this of you, but I want you to go back into the jury room. Then, taking turns, tell each of the other jurors about any weakness of your own position. You should not interrupt each other or comment on each other’s views until each of you had a chance to talk. After you have done that, if you simply cannot reach a verdict, then return to the courtroom and I will declare this case mistried, and will discharge you with my sincere appreciation of your services.

You may now retire to continue with your deliberations.”

Justice Delayed will NOT be Justice Denied

If justice doesn’t come tomorrow for Jordan Davis, specifically, it will come.  We will not let justice delayed mean justice denied.  If convicted of Courts 2 through 5, Michael Dunn will leave the court room as a 4-time convicted felon, certain to spend the rest of his life in prison.  More and more will come out about Michael Dunn and expose him for who he really is.  Much of this did not make an appearance in this case, but will in the next one.  Another trial will occur as to Count 1.  We will continue to fight.

We hope the jury sees finds the answers it needs.  Our heads are high. This jury is going through it in great detail. We cannot express enough gratitude for their sacrifice.  We pray for its resolve.


We invite you to review our verdicts, our accolades and awards, what clients have to say about us and to give us a call for a free consultation. Our lawyers will sit down with you personally. John represents clients in Florida, Georgia and Alabama with passion and compassion and is a Board Certified Expert in Civil Trial Law according to the Florida Bar.

verdicts: http://www.knowthelawyer.com/notable-verdicts-and-settlements/

accolade: http://www.knowthelawyer.com/accolades-and-awards/

tests: http://www.knowthelawyer.com/reviews-and-testimonials/


If injury or trouble finds you, call us at 904-444-4444 .

 

George Zimmerman Tangles with Copyright Law

George Zimmerman Tangles with Copyright Law

By

The Painting on top of the Picture…

pictureinpictureWhat is this all about?

As Tina Chen reported for ABC News,

——-

George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who was acquitted of killing teen Trayvon Martin, has been selling his artwork connected to the famous case online.  But now he’s under fire for using an Associated Press image as inspiration for one painting, without permission.

Photographer Rick Wilson says he was shocked and angered to find that his photograph of Florida prosecutor Angela Corey was “ripped off” by Zimmerman.

Wilson told ABC News that he finds the use of his photo “extremely disrespectful, if not illegal.  George Zimmerman is not a professional artist, what he is in this situation is just a scam artist,” Wilson said.

 

The AP image Wilson took has been widely distributed across the Internet and in newspapers. It was taken when prosecutor Angela Corey was announcing that she was pressing charges against Zimmerman in April 2012.  Zimmerman’s painting appears to be a duplicate of the photo, done in orange and red.

———————-

The story was also well detailed by the Orlando Sentinel.

Rick Wilson

RashadRick Wilson called me Wednesday morning, upset his image was being used for political commentary by George Zimmerman.  And now his name was associated with his scandal.  Rick is a friend who I met when he shot a series with me and NFL running back Rashad Jennings for the radio show jordanjetI hosted for a couple years called Courts & Sports.  Thereafter, Rick and I ran into each other when he shot photos of Ron Davis, Jordan Davis’ father, for Jet Magazine.

rashad5He is a very talented photographer.  He has been featured in a chapter of a book and has a long career of the photographic arts.  Read more about Rick here- http://tinyurl.com/3t3rsev.

Artists such as Rick capture a moment in time.  Often, hours of work go into establishing a shot, not to mention the enormous investment that goes into equipment and training.  Split second decisions are made during the shoot.  Finally, during production of the image, there are hundreds of personal touches that make a photo truly that artist’s image.  rashad3The courts have unquestionably upheld that a photograph is a copyright protected piece of property even if it only remains a digital image. It is owned by the artist and/or anyone for whom the artist is working.  In this case, that is the Associated Press- or AP.

Here is the official AP licensed photo.  As you can see, the AP granted rights “for editorial use only.”  The photo was from State Attorney Angela Corey’s press conference announcing second-degree murder charges against George Zimmerman on April 11, 2012.  You can purchase additional rights and uses from the AP, but Zimmerman did not.

CoreyCopy

Copyright law

Copyright law is a complicated body of law.  Many different levels of protection exist.

Copyright is automatic.  However, a photographer can register the copyrights of his/her photographs with the U.S. Copyright Office prior to the infringement (or within 3 months of the first publication of the photo). If the photographer fails to Register, a copyright owner may recover only “actual damages” for the infringement (pursuant to 17 U.S.C. 504 (b)), instead of statutory damages.  According to the law, “the copyright owner is required to present proof only of the infringer’s gross revenue, and the infringer is required to prove his or her deductible expenses and the elements of profit attributable to factors other than the copyrighted work.”  Courts tabulate these damages based on normal license fees and/or industry standard licensing fees, as well as any profits the infringer made from the infringement.

It is certainly better to Register. If a photo is timely registered before an infringement, the Rights owner will be eligible to receive HEIGHTENED statutory damages of up to $150,000 for a willful infringing use.  See 17 USC §504(b) and (c).  Legal fees and costs also may be recovered from the infringer.  See 17 USC §505. The text of the law is located here- http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/504.

Including a copyright notice is actually not required for copyright protection, but it is a good idea.  It serves as a reminder that the work is protected, as does some restriction from the ability to “right click,” “screen grab” or otherwise “capture” the photo.  All of these measures add not only to the notice to the infringer that the photograph is protected, but show his/her efforts were deliberate misappropriation of the image from the rightful owner.

It is very important for copyright owners to take steps to protect their works, including lawsuits. Prosecution of unauthorized uses are a must in order to protect rights.  Before filing a lawsuit, there are a host of remedies, including sending cease and desist letters and otherwise trying to achieve respect of the photographer‘s copyright.

Shepard Fairey

obama_hope-300x300Before George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, an AP photographer, Mannie Garcia, took a photo of then-Senator Barack Obama while at an event with actor George Clooney in 2006.  Faced with the possible landmark election of American’s first African-American President, Shepard Fairey used the photo on posters that he emblazoned with the word “Hope.”  Once caught, Fairey argued that his conduct actually popularized a photo that no one would have otherwise cared about and that his use of the mundane photo constituted “fair use” under the law. The AP determined that Fairey used Garcia’s image.

Like Rick Wilson, Garcia was a freelance photographer.  Like Rick Wilson, the AP hired Garcia to take photographs of the event where he took the misappropriated photo.  AP Images syndicates photos to nearly every paper in the country.  The AP’s news content is seen by half of the world’s population on any given day- thousands of papers, plus its plugged into by magazines, blogs and television media. The AP makes money through the granting of permissions of usages of its photos.  Once in awhile, there is an image that wins the lottery and provides awards, prestige and financial windfall. Regardless of how popular the image is, the AP is still entitled to credit and compensation.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0147e18242f8970b-500wiLike Rick Wilson’s depiction of Angela Corey, the purpose of the photo of Obama was to illustrate a news story, not for art.  Fairey did not intend to make the poster for a news story. He also did not intend parody.  Even if he did, it would have been parody of Obama, not parody of the AP photographer’s work.  Thus, it would not constitute an exception.

Fairey sued seeking an affirmative determination that his use was fair.  Many, including Fairey, argued that the Obama poster was transformative, saying “the poster that resulted was no longer a straightforward news photograph of Obama, but a stylized, blue pencil drawing that conveys an entirely different feel, a different Obama and which mimics the propaganda posters of the mid-20th century.”  The AP’s counterclaim in 2009, asserted that “[the poster does] not alter any of the distinctive characteristics that make the Obama photo so striking.” In fact, it was much more “transformative” than Mr. Zimmerman’s depiction of “Angie.”

Had Shepard Fairey paid a fee to the AP instead, he likely could have obtained permission to use the photo. Instead, contentious litigation resulted.  Ultimately, Mr. Fairey agreed that he would never use another AP photo in his work without obtaining a license from the AP.  The parties agreed to work together going forward with the Hope image and share the rights to make the posters and merchandise bearing the Hope image and to collaborate on a series of images that Fairey will create based on AP photographs.  The parties have agreed to additional financial terms which remained confidential.

A separate suit arose out of the use of the image in clothing. The AP contended the T-shirt company sold almost a quarter million pieces of clothing between March 2008 and September 2009, bearing an image that copied the Obama photo.  It also resolved.  Don Juncal, president of Obey Clothing, said: “The Associated Press has an impressive archive of work provided by talented photographers. We look forward to working with those photographers, as part of our long-standing relationship with Shepard Fairey, to produce and market apparel with the new images that will be created. We have collaborated with other photographers and artists in the past, and hope that will be a successful endeavor for all parties.”

This wasn’t the first or last time this matter has gone to the courts.  More details about this cans other cases are located here- http://lawreview.vermontlaw.edu/files/2012/02/13-Rosenfeld-Book-2-Vol.-36.pdf.

How did Zimmerman do it?

DontsueThis all goes back to a guy named Jeff Sonksen. Last year, the Seminole County Board of County Commissioners named Jeff Sonksen Seminole County’s “Artist of the Year,” largely for his work painting a 400-ft. fence of various murals. At some point, Sonksen encountered George Zimmerman and has said in media interviews that he taught Zimmerman to paint by projecting an image onto a canvas, admitting he does little “free hand.”  In fact, Sonksen has even acknowledged the legal liability of some of his own work on his Facebook page, saying about a drawing of Mickey Mouse, “Tell Disney not to sue me please.”

Unlike the Obama photo in some respects, the Zimmerman “painting” is a virtual replica of Rick’s photo. It was done by either projecting Rick’s AP photo and painting it or by printing the AP photo on canvas and then painting over it. Frankly, similar work could have been generated by overlaying layers of color via photoshop.  We won’t know exactly how he did it until someone forensically examines the paining.

What is next?

Mr. Zimmerman has been sent a letter by the AP and Mr. Wilson, asking him to stop any dissemination of this painting in any way.  The point is to stop this misappropriation and to have Mr. Zimmerman obey the copyright laws of the United States.  We will follow and support the AP in every way, while preserving Mr. Wilson’s rights, as well.  As this matter develops, we will continue to keep the public apprized.  It is a very important, landmark case for the AP and artists like Mr. Wilson.


We invite you to review our verdicts, our accolades and awards, what clients have to say about us and to give us a call for a free consultation. Our lawyers will sit down with you personally. John represents clients in Florida, Georgia and Alabama with passion and compassion and is a Board Certified Expert in Civil Trial Law according to the Florida Bar.

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A Few Points from a Worried Mind About Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman (and Our Nation)

An original civil rights pioneer, Abraham Lincoln, often said “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

We, as a country, were founded on freedom- freedom to do, say and act how we wish.  It was a system of ideals – a literal Constitution- that stemmed from oppression and longing for expression.  But that very freedom was tucked inside Pandora’s Box.  Because my free expression and your free expression (or desire to avoid my expression) may contrast. Our grandfathers may not have valued each others’ rights, but that doesn’t mean that we have to hold on to that dowry of hate.  We cannot hold on to that.  Pandora’s box of freedom is open and making everyone upset, some people crazy and dividing this nation further.  As KRS-One rapped, “Self destruction, (we)’re headed for self destruction.”

Even though some hold sacred the Constitutional Right to the violent ‘defense of self’ guaranteed by the Second Amendment, other Amendments were drafted to provide rights to women and minorities- to force peace and quality.  It means our forefathers were wrong sometimes, too.  Even Thomas Jefferson thought the Constitution of this nation should be redrafted every generation or so.  Yet, some now use those very Second Amendment guarantees to define freedom in America. Lincoln would undoubtedly define that as- “faltering.”  We cannot impinge or insult one another and use the Second Amendment to bail ourselves out of mere free or misunderstanding.  We cannot be violent mice waiting for our tail to be stepped on to teach the great elephant a lesson.

What if -and this is just a hypothetical- George Zimmerman is as much of a “wanted man” as his own family and legal counsel claim.  And what if -to continue that hypothetical- someone he considers menacing (a black child with candy, soft drink and a possible bad attitude, perhaps) comes at him in his car or in a store- fist in the air.  Can he shoot and claim he was standing his ground or was in defense of self?  And do it again?  And do it again?  Where is the line of defense of self and reason?  Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the world where the Stand Your Ground killer is not only legal, but he (or she) is festering among us.  ‘Dexter’ could run four more seasons if the writers dare approach the laws of lethal force and Stand Your Ground in Florida.

I respectfully ask -so what- that you agree Michael Dunn was wrong to kill Jordan Davis.  It won’t bring Jordan back– a college bound kid with a more potential than Dunn ever had.  It is time to stop the faltering.  Or it is time to give up on some freedoms.  Or just to find some common thread of kindness.  We are headed towards self destruction.  I don’t need you to agree, I need you to act.

As for Zimmerman, the jury has spoken.  Yet, the jury had a -still- unanswered question before it spoke- a question I still ask -why didn’t anyone explain manslaughter?  When you drive recklessly and kill someone, it is arguably manslaughter.  When you act carelessly with a firearm, it is arguably manslaughter.  When you kill someone with the intent to simply pull the trigger, it -legally- is manslaughter.  And it was never argued.  And I don’t believe it was self defense for any of about 50 reasons located here.  The Prosecutors’ silence to omit manslaughter is only made louder by their desire to go on every talk show and justify their failures.

My only request, you have trial in less than two and a half months of a murderer who never had a hair harmed, ever called the police, who just went to his hotel and ate pizza after shooting ten times in a car, killing Jordan Davis- Because Stand Your Ground told him he could.  And this nation falters under bad attitudes and worse laws.  Get to work, please.  Justice depends on it.