The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is not the only group on the warpath trying to crack down on copyright violators. Just ask executives at Legg Mason
. The Baltimore-based money management firm said it is taking a $17.5 million pretax litigation charge in its fiscal second quarter to pay a newsletter publisher from which it illegally copied research.
, a small North Palm Beach, Florida publisher of stock market statistics, brought the suit against Legg Mason Wood Walker and its holding company, Legg Mason, Inc. in United States District Court in December of 2001. Lowry's Reports claimed that Legg Mason was offering copies of its Lowry's Market Trend Analysis through its intranet to some 1,300 Legg Mason stockbrokers and favored clients. Legg Mason had only purchased one license for the material, claimed Lowry's.
Under Federal copyright law publishers are able to claim up to $150,000 in damages for each infringement of a copyright. Legg Mason purchased one $700 subscription annually over ten years.
On Friday a jury in federal district court handed down a verdict in favor of the publisher along with an award of $19.8 million, including $19 million in copyright damages.
A Legg Mason spokesperson said that the firm is "shocked at the extent of the damages awarded to Lowry's by the jury" and that the damages are "grossly excessive."
However, Lowry's president, Paul Desmond
, said he believes this case is vitally important to the survival of his firm since its only source of income is paid subscriptions.
"The survival of all small publishers is at stake", said Desmond, "due to the general disregard of copyright laws and the increasing ease with which thousands of illegal copies can be made and distributed with just a few clicks of a computer mouse."
"Our only chance of survival is to aggressively protect our copyrights and to try to raise the public's awareness of the very costly consequences of copyright violations," he added.
Lowry's attorney is Thomas W. Kirby of the Washington, D.C. office of Wiley Rein & Fielding LLP.
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