Thinking about Court?

February 17, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

CuriousCurious Thinking About Taking Someone to Court?

Sometimes no matter how hard you try you are not able to get the result that you want with an individual or company. The event may be a egregious event such as an after discussion and paying for an individual to work at an event and once there that individual refuses or demands more money than agreed upon leading to the event coming to a grinding halt. It could also be less serious but just as annoying as an individual chronically late on payments due you. Yet another example may be that you hire and pay someone for a specific concept and once they arrive they decide that they do not like that concept, but want to work on one of their own.  Did someone infringe on your copyright?

Some things to think about:

  • How clearly did you communicate, in writing, to your contact person?
    • If you are working with a model, did you send concept images?
    • How clear were you on payment, hours, location?
    • What was your backup plan in case of inclement weather? 
    • Have you read and understand any communication that they sent you?
  • Who are you Communicating with?
    • A business.. are you speaking, writing to the correct decision maker?
    • An individual.. what references or background do you have on this person?
  • Copyright?
    • Did you register your images with the copyright office?
    • If you claiming copyright infringement, this will likely end up in Federal Court (expensive). 


When deciding which path to take, a civil or small claims court could be your best bet. Depending upon the state that you live claims could be limited to as little as $2,500 or in some cases up to $10,000. There are advantages to small claims court such as not having to hire an attorney unless you happen to be suing a corporation, in which case an attorney is almost always necessary. Suing a company may draw a trial out for months or even years before a settlement is made. On the other hand, if you are suing an individual, just the process of going to court may induce the person to settle with you quickly.

The Small Claims Enforcement Act (CASE) is pending approval before congress as an alternative to the very expensive and lengthy process of moving through the federal court system in cases of copyright infringement. This is actually a board (vs court) to review copyright cases. This act was approved as of October 2019. Time will tell if this is an effective process to resolving disputes effectively CASE.  Small claims courts will sometimes accept arguments such as 'theft of property or services' in matters of lawsuits regarding photographic images but results vary dramatically depending upon the laws in individual states.

Some states have mandatory arbitration boards before anyone can even appear before a judge. If this is the case, you and those whom you may be suing will sit down before an impartial arbitrator and he or she will try to get all parties to come to an agreement. If an agreement is reached, the courts will enforce any settlement.

Most of us want to avoid the potentially complex legal court system but if all else fails remember to keep GOOD records of ANY and ALL communications with clients regardless of how well you may think that you know them. This includes any social media screen shots that you may have made with a client. Remember that you can always get advice from an attorney without necessarily hiring that person to represent you. If the case is complicated, suing a company, or certainly if you are headed to the federal court system you will need representation.  






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