Court Awards $12,500 For 'Emotional Harm' From Bogus Copyright Lawsuit

from the it's-something dept

Almost a year ago, we wrote about a somewhat complex set of cases involving a woman named Shirley Johnson, who posted videos to YouTube that were critical of the New Destiny Christian Centers and Paula White Ministries. Paula White did not take kindly to this criticism and sued Johnson… for copyright infringement (though, the details suggest that the decision to sue actually came from White’s son, Brad Knight, and White agreed to it at Knight’s suggestion). This was because Johnson used video clips and images in her own videos. This seemed like a pretty clear copyright abuse case as it was obviously filed to stop criticism that involved fair use, and not for any legitimate purpose. The case was dismissed, but Johnson countersued for “malicious prosecution.” As we noted in our article from last September, Johnson then also filed a separate lawsuit for a DMCA 512(f) abuse claim. If you don’t recall, 512(f) is the (mostly toothless) part of the DMCA that bars “misrepresentations” in DMCA claims. So, there are two parallel cases going on, brought by Johnson (representing herself, without a lawyer), against Paula White and her various entities, for filing a bogus copyright claim against Johnson.

That case around 512(f) is still going as far as I can see. However, the malicious prosecution case has now concluded with the court awarding Johnson $12,500 for the “emotional harm” from the bogus copyright claim. Of course, before this happened, as the court itself says (and I’m not joking): “all hell broke loose.” That is directly from the court’s ruling back in January, which details a convoluted mess of discovery fights and bad behavior. It’s not at all worth going into what a complete and utter mess it became, but feel free to check out that link if you want. The short summary, though (quoting the court) is that Paula White Ministries “have exhibited a patent disregard for the Court’s discovery orders and processes” and “maintained that they did
not have to comply with discovery, demonstrating a preordained belief that they were above this process.” Given that, the court gave a default judgment in favor of Johnson. Default judgments usually occur when one party fails to show up. In this case, the court just decided to do this because of what appears to be outright frustration with Paula White Ministries. The judge literally said “been there, done that” in the ruling:

The Court now finds that the interests of justice require default judgment as the
only effective remedy. Motion Defendants willfully failed to comply with the Court’s
discovery orders. Lesser sanctions would be ineffective. Indeed, the Court balks at
Motion Defendants’ suggestions to allow Johnson additional discovery, impose more
monetary fines, or again push back the litigation calendar. (Doc. 171, p. 3.) Been there,
done that—to no avail. Motion Defendants have made clear their refusal to comply with
discovery orders, and they “richly deserve[] the sanction of a default judgment.” See
Malautea, 987 F.2d at 1542. Their willful disregard of discovery orders has prejudiced
Johnson and brought this action to a standstill for eighteen months. Motion Defendants’
obstreperous conduct warrants the sockdolager of default. See Nat’l Hockey League, 427
U.S. at 643 (“[T[he most severe in the spectrum of sanctions must be available to the
district court in appropriate cases.”); Adolph Coors, 777 F.2d at 1543; (upholding default
judgment when the defendants refused to turn over crucial documents from the get-go,
claiming privilege, and the district judge “exhibited great sensitivity” to the defendants’
concerns)

Given that, Johnson then moved for monetary awards. And here, while the judge is clearly pissed off at Paula White Ministries and its actions in this case, it found little basis for most of Johnson’s requests. It agrees to the reimbursement of $1,207.93 in costs by Johnson, but rejects most of the other requests for damages, including nominal damages (there were none) and punitive damages for lack of sufficient evidence. But what is interesting, is that the court did award the $12,500 for emotional harms — though that number is limited because Johnson apparently did not seek medical treatment for the harm:

Johnson’s testimony about the mental anguish she suffered from the Copyright Infringement Action was credible. Specifically, Johnson testified about the lack of sleep, diminished enjoyment in various hobbies, and overall worry about the litigation and its consequences on her life. The Court finds that Johnson, as an individual unfamiliar with the legal process, credibly suffered emotional harm from the Copyright Infringement Action. But as Johnson did not seek medical treatment and her symptoms have abated, the Court finds a minimal award for these damages appropriate. Thus, the Court awards Johnson $12,500.00 for these damages.

So, the interesting news here is an actual award of damages in response to a bogus copyright filing. But, the cases all seem like a complete clusterfuck due to both sides doing all sorts of things you shouldn’t actually do. Despite the somewhat amusing expressions of exasperation from the judge, Roy Dalton, in the case, he actually seems to have done a pretty good job separating out what actually happened and coming to a reasonable conclusion.





Filed Under: , , , , , , ,
Companies: new destiny christian centers, paula white ministries

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Court Awards $12,500 For 'Emotional Harm' From Bogus Copyright Lawsuit”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
19 Comments
Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: "the interests of justice"

Actually, I’m going for the whole sentence:

“Motion Defendants? obstreperous conduct warrants the sockdolager of default.”

Ka-Booom ! Such condemnation in 9 words.

For the etymologists amongst you there’s a nice write up on the history of “sockdolager” at http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-soc1.htm

Anonymoussays:

In the interests of saving time and effort all around, I’ll go ahead and post the obligatory comment pointing out that:

(1) Mike is supporting, and obviously in the pay of, the devil, in these viscious and repeated attacks on New Destiny Christian Centers and Paula White Ministries.

(2) This is clearly an unimportant subject: after all, NDCC does NOT regularly feature as one of the most hated companies in America, and isn’t even owned by Google. Why would anyone waste time reading the ranting of a federal judge about this?

(3) As an aside, US judges, like all Americans (except of course executive officers of entertainment ogilopolies), are corrupt and evil. Not to mention bigoted, because there’s nothing worse than a bigot. Except an American.

(4) And something rabid-polecat insanely incoherent about Natural and Artificial parsons.

Thank you for your attention.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

Wrong Wrong Wrong!

You have included some ‘all caps’ words, but not nearly enough for me to believe that you are indeed the credible nut job you purport to be. You spelled most everything correctly and you used neither ‘libtards’ nor ‘sheeple’. Your rant is, well… not a rant at all. Worst of all, you used bullet points instead of the tried and true three page long word wall.

You sir or madame are a fraud!

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Report this ad??|??Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...
Older Stuff
12:25 Australian Privacy Commissioner Says 7-Eleven Broke Privacy Laws By Scanning Customers' Faces At Survey Kiosks (6)
10:50 Missouri Governor Doubles Down On 'View Source' Hacking Claim; PAC Now Fundraising Over This Bizarrely Stupid Claim (45)
10:45 Daily Deal: The All-in-One Microsoft, Cybersecurity, And Python Exam Prep Training Bundle (0)
09:43 Want To Understand Why U.S. Broadband Sucks? Look At Frontier Communications In Wisconsin, West Virginia (8)
05:36 Massachusetts College Decides Criticizing The Chinese Government Is Hate Speech, Suspends Conservative Student Group (71)
19:57 Le Tigre Sues Barry Mann To Stop Copyright Threats Over Song, Lights Barry Mann On Fire As Well (21)
16:07 Court Says City Of Baltimore's 'Heckler's Veto' Of An Anti-Catholic Rally Violates The First Amendment (15)
13:37 Two Years Later, Judge Finally Realizes That A CDN Provider Is Not Liable For Copyright Infringement On Websites (21)
12:19 Chicago Court Gets Its Prior Restraint On, Tells Police Union Head To STFU About City's Vaccine Mandate (158)
10:55 Verizon 'Visible' Wireless Accounts Hacked, Exploited To Buy New iPhones (8)
10:50 Daily Deal: The MacOS 11 Course (0)
07:55 Suing Social Media Sites Over Acts Of Terrorism Continues To Be A Losing Bet, As 11th Circuit Dumps Another Flawed Lawsuit (11)
02:51 Trump Announces His Own Social Network, 'Truth Social,' Which Says It Can Kick Off Users For Any Reason (And Already Is) (100)
19:51 Facebook AI Moderation Continues To Suck Because Moderation At Scale Is Impossible (26)
16:12 Content Moderation Case Studies: Snapchat Disables GIPHY Integration After Racist 'Sticker' Is Discovered (2018) (11)
13:54 Arlo Makes Live Customer Service A Luxury Option (8)
12:05 Delta Proudly Announces Its Participation In The DHS's Expanded Biometric Collection Program (5)
11:03 LinkedIn (Mostly) Exits China, Citing Escalating Demands For Censorship (14)
10:57 Daily Deal: The Python, Git, And YAML Bundle (0)
09:37 British Telecom Wants Netflix To Pay A Tax Simply Because Squid Game Is Popular (32)
06:41 Report: Client-Side Scanning Is An Insecure Nightmare Just Waiting To Be Exploited By Governments (35)
20:38 MLB In Talks To Offer Streaming For All Teams' Home Games In-Market Even Without A Cable Subscription (10)
15:55 Appeals Court Says Couple's Lawsuit Over Bogus Vehicle Forfeiture Can Continue (15)
13:30 Techdirt Podcast Episode 301: Scarcity, Abundance & NFTs (0)
12:03 Hollywood Is Betting On Filtering Mandates, But Working Copyright Algorithms Simply Don't Exist (66)
10:45 Introducing The Techdirt Insider Discord (4)
10:40 Daily Deal: The Dynamic 2021 DevOps Training Bundle (0)
09:29 Criminalizing Teens' Google Searches Is Just How The UK's Anti-Cybercrime Programs Roll (19)
06:29 Canon Sued For Disabling Printer Scanners When Devices Run Out Of Ink (41)
20:51 Copyright Law Discriminating Against The Blind Finally Struck Down By Court In South Africa (7)
More arrow