FilmOn founder Alki David’s copyright lawsuit against CBS (NYSE: CBS) and CNET may be getting cut down to size-a not-very-big size. The judge overseeing the case asked David and his co-plaintiffs to come up with a list of their artistic works that they say were infringed because CNET distributed Limewire file-sharing software. They did so, and the list isn’t long-it includes exactly one movie, directed by David, and five songs made by some of David’s co-plaintiffs.
Even six infringed works can amount to sizeable copyright damages, since awards can range up to $150,000 per infringed work. But if the judge is interested in seeing some evidence about the market for these works, it’s hard to imagine he’ll allow damage figures like that to ever be awarded. And of course, the plaintiffs might not win at all.
David has a history with CBS. His company, FilmOn, was sued by CBS and other major U.S. television networks after he started broadcasting TV over the open internet without a license. A federal judge quickly shut down FilmOn’s unauthorized broadcasts.
But David seems to have kept a grudge against CBS. He’s accused CBS of hypocrisy. David’s theory is that because CBS owns CNET-which was the main distributor of the Limewire file-sharing software-CBS has made a major contribution to online piracy. (Limewire’s software has now been banned and the service was shut down by a court injunction-but it was perfectly legal to use Limewire until last year, as long as the use didn’t break copyright law.) While he originally floated the idea of a class-action lawsuit against CBS, his current suit has several named plaintiffs but is not seeking class-action status.
CBS told Wired.com, which reported on this filing earlier today, that it is “confident that we will prevail” in the lawsuit. Lawyers for David didn’t return calls.
Limewire and its founder recently agreed to pay the major record labels a $105 million settlement to remedy the copyright infringement that Limewire was found to have illegally encouraged. The idea of piling on to Limewire while it was on the ropes legally isn’t actually a bad one, from a strictly economic viewpoint-the music publishers did it with some success, after all.
But with a list of one movie and five songs-and the movie isn’t exactly an Academy Award winner-David and his lawyers don’t have a lot to work with here.
Interestingly, several of the plaintiffs named in the complaint have no works listed at all, including De’Angelo Holmes, Anthony Round, Corey Johnson, and Jonathan Shinhoster. Those plaintiffs may have to drop off the case if they can’t produce valid copyright registrations (or pending copyright applications).
The full list of works follows. Only Fishtales is registered at the copyright office; the others have their registrations pending. (Not having a registration number yet doesn’t mean one can’t file a lawsuit.)
» Fishtales, a movie directed by Alki David
» She a Star, a song by Denton Bendross
» Run Da Yard, a song by Jeffrey Thompkins
» Topless, a song by Diamond Smith, Spectacular Smith, Joseph Smith, and Emmanuel DeAnda (a.k.a. Pretty Ricky)
» Tipsy in Dis Club, a song by the same artists as Topless.
» Sex Drive, a song by Dennis Round.