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Bogus Takedown Notice Lands $150k Settlement In Australian Court 115

Posted by timothy
from the let-the-dingos-eat-her dept.
Fluffeh writes "Richard Bell, an Australian Film Maker, on a fellowship in New York, produced and directed approximately 18 hours of raw footage for a film with the help of an assistant called Tanya Steele and paid her for these services. Ms Steele, through her American lawyers, sent letters to Mr Bell and his agent claiming that she owned the copyright in the footage and demanding that the trailer be removed from the Internet. She also caused the Vimeo website to remove the trailer. In response, Bell went to the (Australian) courts, which declared him the owner of the copyright in the film, and deemed Steele's threats "unjustifiable". Bell then asked for damages. These were granted in the latest judgment because Bell had lost the opportunity to sell some of his works, which typically cost tens of thousands of dollars, as a result of Steels' threats. The Australian judge awarded over $150,000 in damages plus another $23,000 costs against her."
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Bogus Takedown Notice Lands $150k Settlement In Australian Court

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  • refreshing! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by v1 (525388) on Friday April 06, 2012 @08:36PM (#39603617) Homepage Journal

    Now THAT is how copyright law is supposed to work! So refreshing to see it actually properly applied.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 06, 2012 @09:10PM (#39603813)

      Actually what's more refreshing is that for a change, a foreign court was granted jurisdiction in America, rather than the other way around. And no-one got to be deported in the process!

      • by jamstar7 (694492)
        Not to worry, the chick can turn around, sell 'her' copyright to a studio here in the States, then that studio will take the guy to court and bankrupt his great great grandkids.
        • by c0lo (1497653)

          Not to worry, the chick can turn around, sell 'her' copyright to a studio here in the States, then that studio will take the guy to court and bankrupt his great great grandkids.

          Following this judgment, she has nothing that she owns to sell. I bet the studios will stay quite far from her.

          • by jamstar7 (694492)
            Except that the judgement was in Australia, and she can still press 'her' copyright claims here in the US.
          • by gl4ss (559668)

            well.. tell that to youtube. it's still blocking blackfellas guide to nyc.

            you see, you don't actually need to own the copyright to sell the copyright! all you have to do is convince the buyer that you have the copyright. and you can takedown just about anything by just saying you have copyright.

            • by c0lo (1497653)

              well.. tell that to youtube. it's still blocking blackfellas guide to nyc.

              you see, you don't actually need to own the copyright to sell the copyright! all you have to do is convince the buyer that you have the copyright. and you can takedown just about anything by just saying you have copyright.

              I only see that youtube blocks it, but not acting as a buyer. Do you have info that youtube paid something to Tanya Steel? If so, may I kindly ask you to table it?

      • Actually what's more refreshing is that for a change, a foreign court was granted jurisdiction in America, rather than the other way around. And no-one got to be deported in the process!

        i dunno, throwing in a few deportees in the other direction might help bring about a sense of proportion about the merits of copyright law uber alles.

      • The US are planning an invasion as we are typing this!

    • Umm, but.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Weezul (52464) on Friday April 06, 2012 @09:33PM (#39603897)

      Try this against sound exchange. lol

      Fine, copyright law works between two nobodies. Ain't never seen it "work" whenever anyone big got involved.

    • Re:refreshing! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dahamma (304068) on Friday April 06, 2012 @10:19PM (#39604073)

      Yeah, they rule against some random person with no money or political influence, but not the mega-corporations that are doing the REAL damage. So brave of them...

      • Re:refreshing! (Score:4, Informative)

        by Eskarel (565631) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @08:34AM (#39605851)

        Actually, our version of the MPAA and RIAA got their asses handed to them when they tried to claim one of the local ISPs was responsible for infringement by its users. There have been political rumblings to try and change that situation, but nothing much has come of it. For all that we get a few loony ideas out of the government every once in a while(like the filter which has sort of disappeared into the ether since its grand architect got shafted and the balance of power in the senate stopped relying on the religious right for a vote) the courts are actually pretty good over here.

        Oddly enough, for a country with no official bill of rights or even codified freedom of speech, we have a lot more freedom down here than the US does. Our government is slightly more repressive, but they also keep our corporations much more in line so we don't have the oligarchy the US has and which the bill of rights doesn't protect you from. On balance folks have more rights here, even if none of them are written down.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          It's not "our version" of the MPAA and RIAA. AFACT is a front for the MPAA and that's a fact.

          • It's not "our version" of the MPAA and RIAA. AFACT is a front for the MPAA and that's a fact.

            That's probably true, As Far As Anyone Can Tell.

          • by Eskarel (565631)

            By our version I meant ARIA, and I believe it's AMPA, which are yes, just local branches of the RIAA and MPAA.

            Point still stands.

        • On balance folks have more rights here, even if none of them are written down.

          It does not matter if they are "written down" (e.g., codified into law) or not, if the people themselves aren't actively involved in policing their government and its policies. That's ultimately is what this is about: Americans need to start becoming political again, start paying attention, and make our politicians pay for what they've done.

          • by Eskarel (565631)

            Americans need to realize that the US constitution specifically states that it does not enumerate every single right that the people hold.

            Instead you have the Tea Party who believe in some sort of strict interpretation of a document they've probably never read and don't understand. Ironically enough, a strict interpretation of the constitution forbids a strict interpretation of the constitution.

    • Re:refreshing! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 06, 2012 @10:37PM (#39604135)

      It's worth noting that if there were no copyright law then Tanya Steele wouldn't have been able to cause damage in the first place.

      If a person has a gun and goes around shooting people for fun and, one day, is shot by one of their targets, then it's natural to feel a low-level sense of justice but I wouldn't go around saying "Now that is how guns are supposed to work".

      • by rHBa (976986)

        If a person has a car and goes around running people over for fun and, one day, is run over by one of their targets, then it's natural to feel a low-level sense of justice but I wouldn't go around saying "Now that is how cars are supposed to work".

        FTFY.

      • by Pigeon451 (958201)

        What a ridiculous statement. Copyright law in some form is required. Otherwise people could go sell other peoples pictures, movies and music without ever paying a cent to make it, with no compensation to the original artists.

        Only on slashdot would this get modded up...

        • Copyright laws was invented to deal with plagiarism, in a age where just going to the next town was a extremely horrible and long adventure. If somebody claimed to be the author of your book, and sold it, he could also claim all the honour, awards, and money.
          Copyright laws is still needed to deal with this, but the 1800's copyright laws are overengineered for a problem it is no longer adressing.

    • Re:refreshing! (Score:4, Informative)

      by starworks5 (139327) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @12:44AM (#39604581) Homepage

      Actually its not!

      His 'evidence' consisted of sworn statements of his buddies, and the presumption that he would have sold more paintings. Furthermore the Australian court case said that she hadn't pursued it in court, however she actually filed a lawsuit in NYC, who knows if she or he actually served each other however.

      • Re:refreshing! (Score:5, Informative)

        by starworks5 (139327) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @01:04AM (#39604629) Homepage

        I suspect he is a complete liar
        here are the paintings he claims are up to $60,000 a piece (what a joke)
        http://www.kooriweb.org/bell/art.html
        http://www.milanigallery.com.au/artwork/her-thous-shalt-not
        I've had way better pieces custom made (oil on canvas portraits) for a fraction of the price
        here are his real market prices
        http://www.findartinfo.com/search/listprices.asp?keyword=113297
        And then he claims in one website to have spent $80k on legal services, the court found he only spent $23k on lawyer fees at a rate of $500 /hr

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          he's not a complete liar.

          sure, his paintings look like crap. the film shakes and the trailer is boring. but the skill isn't the point, it's the message that he's aboriginal. I wouldn't pay for that but many people have and he's been making a lot of works apparently, not surprising that a lot of them don't cost that much.

          if anything, that findartinfo seems like a fraud. no fucking way paying four bucks a day for browsing, what do they think they are? the best porn site on the net?

          • However what he claims is that her job was "unsatisfactory", and that it had to be finished by someone else. So what likely happened was that his footage looks like shit, and no amount or post production was ever going to change that. However he stole the footage that she had edited and sent for review, and maybe made some last minute tweaks to it, and never paid the complete balance for the work. I've had similar things happen to me before, where I would explain that you just cant convert an image 4:3 to a

        • by aristedes (732532)

          I will not comment on your superior art knowledge and ability to price artwork over the internet. However I rather like his work. This one is particularly interesting: http://www.milanigallery.com.au/artwork/little-johnny [milanigallery.com.au] (although the context is probably not obvious to anyone outside Australia).

          However, you are wrong about the way legal fees are calculated by Australian courts. They have a schedule of fees which can be claimed by the victor in a case. This schedule is fixed and has little to do with the a

        • by Hentes (2461350)

          The difficult thing in fine art is not creating the works but selling them to the upper class. Everyone can paint a few lines with text on it, but it takes a real artist to sell them for thousands.

        • Re:refreshing! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by hairyfish (1653411) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @07:08AM (#39605623)

          here are the paintings he claims are up to $60,000 a piece (what a joke) http://www.kooriweb.org/bell/art.html [kooriweb.org] http://www.milanigallery.com.au/artwork/her-thous-shalt-not [milanigallery.com.au] I've had way better pieces custom made (oil on canvas portraits) for a fraction of the price

          Since when has art been valued with any sort of logic? I can take you to any gallery in any country and show plenty of art that "isn't worth it".

        • by amix (226257)
          You do realize, that the very list, you mentioned, has objects he sold around USD 20.000 ? He is one of the most popular/famous Australian contemporary artists. That sets his price.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      This is an example of the courts throwing things the other way every once in awhile to keep everyone guessing and everyone knowing they are still a player.

      This is not snow rolling down a hill in avalanche conditions.

    • Now THAT is how copyright law is supposed to work! So refreshing to see it actually properly applied.

      Not really. If you go back to the original decision [austlii.edu.au], you find that Tanya Steele never appeared in court, never communicated with the court, and the plaintiff totally swears that he mailed her two letters demanding that she appear in Australia, to which she never responded. This was a default judgement, and those almost always get reversed if the defendant later appeals. Bell may still win eventually, but this judgement is just a rubber stamp and has no actual precedential value.

      Additionally, there are juri

  • Just goes to show (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 19thNervousBreakdown (768619) <davec-slashdot@l ... t ['per' in gap]> on Friday April 06, 2012 @08:36PM (#39603619) Homepage

    Don't file bogus lawsuits unless you're a big corporation suing somebody too poor to sue back.

  • by thomasinx (643997) on Friday April 06, 2012 @08:38PM (#39603635)
    A settlement involves an agreement between two parties. Nothing of the sort happened here. The Australian court said this woman had to pay the money. Thats a "judgment". Its quite irritating that immediately after this verdict, the relisted trailer on YouTube got blocked by the same person again...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 06, 2012 @08:44PM (#39603669)

      If I were Mr. Bell, at $150,000/pop, I would let her block my YouTube account as many times as she wanted.

      • by sl149q (1537343) on Friday April 06, 2012 @09:43PM (#39603939)

        DMCA takedowns should have a built-in cost to the issuer. Issue a cheque for $X when the notice is sent. $X is returned if they subsequently prove the copyright is valid.

        $X does not have to be very large (even a couple hundred dollars) as its just meant to defray the costs of processing the takedown iff it was not valid. And to make massive numbers of invalid notices costs something (currently the only cost is their lawyer to draft and issue them.)

        • by Anonymous Coward

          So what happens when the target just changes to an outside-the-USA host to avoid filing counter-claim to the DMCA? The person who reported the violation is left without their contact info to pursue further legal action... (as I see it, the main purpose of the DMCA is to get access to the infringer's legal name/address, which they must provide to legally get the contnet back online). Plus, what about copyright holders who can't afford to keep paying this theoretical DMCA takedown cost when it gets eaten?

          I sp

        • by Haedrian (1676506)

          So normal people who get infringed on copyright need to take a loan or something similar (I don't have a couple hundred dollars which I could lose against better lawers) - but large companies who make billions a year - they just might be able to afford it. Cost of doing buisiness.

    • This is why it's important that intermediaries such as YouTube honor a proper DMCA Counter notice, and reinstate the material until a court orders otherwise.

      • by russotto (537200)

        DMCA is worse than useless. Mr. Bell would have to accept US jurisdiction (the Australian judgement is useless)... and the video would remain down for the duration of the case.

        • Agreed. But right now, it's the bad law we have, and until it's repealed or replaced, we have to live with it.

          • by russotto (537200)

            Agreed. But right now, it's the bad law we have, and until it's repealed or replaced, we have to live with it.

            Which just means losing, over and over and over again.

            It's not going to be repealed. It'll only be replaced by something worse.

            • So, your solution is to keep the bad law we have AND have it implemented poorly as well?

              I have no idea what you're arguing for/against. I simply pointed out that under DMCA, it's important that intermediaries honor all proper counter notice claims by reinstating the material until a court rules otherwise.

              • by russotto (537200)

                I'm saying it's a waste of effort or worse to jump through the DMCA's hoops when you can't win anyway. End of the day, the video remains taken down because you can't answer in US court (because you're in another country, or because the other guy has better lawyers)

                • Which doesn't happen if they are required to honor a proper counter notice, which is exactly what I stated in the first place. A proper counter notice should result in the material being restored until a court rules otherwise. Then you don't have this silly BS of it being taking down a second time unless a court has already ruled.

                  • by russotto (537200)

                    Nope, the DMCA states exactly the opposite: a proper counternotice allows the service provider to restore the material until they are notified that a lawsuit will be filed. Once they are notified the lawsuit will be filed, the material goes down and stays down until the court rules otherwise.

                    • by LocalH (28506)

                      Yeah, but it would be up to her to file suit again, and given the Australian case, I'm pretty sure that could be used, not as binding precedent but of proof that Bell indeed is the copyright holder. At this point either she has a ton of money that she wants to burn or she's just trying to screw him over for whatever reason (maybe she wanted to fuck and he rebuked her? Pure speculation, but it wouldn't surprise me if it were true). Either way, she'll end up getting burnt and he should prevail, given that he

                    • Which goes right back to what I originally said about how it SHOULD work.

    • From the top links from Google's video search:

      Blackfella's Guide to New York - The Age [theage.com.au]

      Blackfella's Guide to New York - Brisbane Times [brisbanetimes.com.au]

      Blackfella's Guide to New York - The Sydney Morning Herald [smh.com.au]

      Apparently they all come from the same source, but well, let's look if Miss Tanya Steele now have the courtesy of showing herself in australian courts if she wants it removed from their servers.

      • by Coren22 (1625475)

        The work was performed in New York, the defendant was in New York, and the original video server was in New York. Care to explain how Australia is the venue?

        According to TFA, this is a breach of contract dispute, the guy in Australia took the work and didn't pay, he then filed a counter suit out of jurisdiction, and failed to actually notify the defendant.

    • A settlement involves an agreement between two parties. Nothing of the sort happened here. The Australian court said this woman had to pay the money. Thats a "judgment". Its quite irritating that immediately after this verdict, the relisted trailer on YouTube got blocked by the same person again...

      Not really... If you dig a bit deeper, you find that the original decision [austlii.edu.au] was a default judgement because Steele failed to fly all the way to the other side of the world to appear in Australia... First, she may never even heard of the suit - Bell swears that he mailed papers to her, but he apparently has no signed receipt or any other documentation that she received them. Second, Australia has no jurisdiction over her - she lives in New York and has never been there. Additionally, all the events occurred

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 06, 2012 @08:48PM (#39603691)

    While we're at it....

    Noted woo-woo and anti-vaccination crank, Meryl Dorey of the AVN (Australian Anti-Vaccination Network), uses blizzards of fake DCMA takedown notices to harass and annoy people criticising her harmful propaganda, and gets away with it, ostensibly because despite being American, she's out of reach of the US courts, because she lives in Australia.

    Does this mean that karma will catch up with this idiot too?

    • by stephanruby (542433) on Friday April 06, 2012 @11:00PM (#39604199)

      Does this mean that karma will catch up with this idiot too?

      Not necessarily. In your case, her victims would have to prove that they lost money as a result. Did they?

      In this case of Steele vs. Bell, I know that everyone is making light of the amount of money he won, but this guy Bell really didn't have any problem proving that he was already making $150,000 selling his paintings in just a few of months, so the amount he was awarded is probably just a very conservative estimate of what he could have earned if she had not prevented him from appearing at an art show, and blocked the online promotion of his movie showcasing his story.

  • One of the comments to the Techdirt FA links to a lawsuit [rfcexpress.com] Steele filed against Bell in US Federal Court last December. Unfortunately, it costs money to get much in the way of details, but apparently it hasn't been resolved yet.
    • One thing I'm wondering is...

      As Bell is Australian, did he have the right to operate a business in the US on his visa? This is one of those questionable issues facing foreign startups a lot. If he couldn't legally operate a business in the US, who's responsible for and owns the video footage? I assume Steele considers herself the American partner who actually has all those rights? IANAL and all that.

      • by e9th (652576)
        All that's needed to drag this thing out until someone goes broke/dies is for the US court to decide that the copyright belongs to Steele.
      • by tibit (1762298) on Friday April 06, 2012 @10:22PM (#39604095)

        A visa is a document that entitles you to cross the border, nothing more, nothing less. It doesn't need much to do with what's your immigration status once you're in the country.

        You can own and operate a business in the U.S. even without a visa -- obviously, because a visa is to cross the border and that's it. You can also own and operate such a business without having any immigration status. Heck, you can even without ever having to set foot in the U.S. None of it is illegal. Now, being employed by or rendering services for said U.S. business while also being on the U.S. soil, that's what requires appropriate status with DHS (fka INS).

        • A visa is a document that entitles you to cross the border,

          Strictly speaking a visa is a document that helps you present yourself to an immigration officer at the border. There's a presumption that he/she will let you cross the border, but no entitlement.

      • Tanya, is that you??

      • did he have the right to operate a business in the US on his visa?

        He wasn't operating a business in the US. He was selling no product and offering no service while in the US. Besides, one can operate a business without any visa.

      • He was an artist on a fellowship in new york. The statement of a fellowship tends to suggest he was paid by some organisation, which means he probably came in on a j1 or j2 visa status. This is a short term working visa for visiting artist, academics and performers. Ie if you are on a sabbatical to a us university from europe, or you are a touring musician or an artist working as an artist in the states you get one of these types of visa fairly easily.

  • by jaca44 (2557600)
    I could swear I've seen this earlier, like a week ago? Maybe my jet lag is worse than I thought!
  • I just don't get it? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Grayhand (2610049) on Friday April 06, 2012 @09:25PM (#39603867)
    I come out of the film industry and my saying is "some one always gets greedy". I told this to my expartner on my last film and he claimed that wasn't the case. Just to prove my point he stole the film literally from my home and to this day it's gone unfinished and is effectively worthless. I've seen it happen time after time that some one involved gets greedy and often the films get shelved because of it so no one benefits. The oddest thing it tends to be the person least involved that thinks they deserve it all which is what happened to me. On my previous film an actor sued the distributor because he thought he should get a share of the profits in spite of the fact the film broke even and his contract didn't grant him profits. He lost the first lawsuit and got a $25,000 judgement against him so what did he do? He sued a second time and lost again. It's shocking how greedy people get when they think they can make a quick buck.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Clare Torry was awarded half copyright and something in "an undisclosed settlement" for her contribution in Pink Floyd's A Great Gig in the Sky even though she initially did it as work for hire and was paid 30 for it years earlier. The PF case is a little different and that Clare was eventually awarded the 1/2 copyright, this case sounds like the performer is just assuming she has 1/2 copyright.

      http://www.freelanceuk.com/news/1006.shtml [freelanceuk.com]

      • by wisty (1335733)

        It sounds like Clare Torry *claimed* half the rights, but settled for "an undisclosed sum".

    • I come out of the film industry and my saying is "some one always gets greedy". I told this to my expartner on my last film and he claimed that wasn't the case. Just to prove my point he stole the film literally from my home and to this day it's gone unfinished and is effectively worthless.

      It sounds like you *both* got greedy, otherwise one of you would have just given the right to the other to keep on working on the film and publish it (promising not to sue him/her).

      Not that there is anything wrong with that, greed is actually a very natural and understandable human emotion under some circumstances.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Greed: An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.

        Wanting to get paid for your work is not greed.

        • Greed: An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.

          Wanting to get paid for your work is not greed.

          I was just trying to point out that "greed" is a label we reserve for others, not ourselves.

          And whether or not payment was deserved or not, I do not know, I do not know the back-story, I just find it odd that the poster (I was replying to) told his ex-partner that someone always gets greedy. Greedy people (myself included) always think that others are greedy. It's a self-justification they give to themselves for taking from others.

          And accusing someone of greed is by no means proof that the person making the

  • by Anonymous Coward

    False copyright claims happen all the time in the USA.

    I've even had my own work removed due to someones copyright claim. And the lawyer told me i'm mostly SHIT OUT OF LUCK all the way around.

    So a penalty for false claims only happens when its some individual and not a company shotgunning all content they can find?

    • by hemo_jr (1122113)
      Sounds like you have a lazy lawyer.

      You have the right to sue for actual and punitive damages. And if you use copyright math, those damages can be astronomical.
  • from the let-the-dingos-eat-her dept.

    The plural of dingo is dingoes, not dingos.

    • by NoMaster (142776)

      Both the OED and Macquarie (the standard dictionary of Australian English) list both -oes and -os as acceptable for the plural form.

      • by Xtifr (1323)

        The facts are not relevant to the true grammar nazi! It's more important to look smart than to be right. Anyway, the running-dog lackey dictionaries are all in the pay of the evil liberal prescriptivists, and don't follow the proper definitions that I learned from some random guy or mis-educated high-school teacher.

    • by Eskarel (565631)

      It's also not a particularly funny joke anymore as she's been acquitted and all indications are that the current re-examination will list the kid's cause of death as a dingo attack.

      It was a joke because it was believed to be a lame excuse to cover up a murder, this is no longer believed to have been the case.

  • Australian Federal Court Awards Damages To Artist For False Copyright Claim [slashdot.org]
    Posted by Soulskill on Fri Mar 30, '12 10:08 PM
    from the it's-a-start dept.
    New submitter BarryHaworth writes
    "In a decision handed down earlier this month, the Australian Federal Court awarded damages to Aboriginal artist Richard Bell over a false claim of copyright infringement. The claim related to a take-down notice claiming copyright infringement from film footage used in a trailer for a film being made by the artist. The c

  • $150,000 for blocking http://media.smh.com.au/entertainment/trailer-park/blackfellas-guide-to-new-york--trailer-3148656.html [smh.com.au] ???

    It looks like something made by a sincere but completely untalented college freshman.

  • Duplicate Post (Score:2, Informative)

    by gravis777 (123605)

    This exact same story was posted Wednesday, almost word for word:

    http://slashdot.org/submission/2008151/bogus-takedown-notice-lands-150k-settlement-in-australian-court [slashdot.org]

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