This 1997 Federal Court opinion involved multiple major Hollywood movie companies suing a video rental company for copyright infringement. The movie “3 Ninjas Knuckle Up”, copyright held by Columbia Tristar, is listed as involved in the litigation.

video city

COLUMBIA PICTURES INDUSTRIES, INC.; BUENA VISTA PICTURES DISTRIBUTION, INC.; DISNEY ENTERPRISES, INC.; METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER PICTURES, INC.; PARAMOUNT PICTURES CORPORATION; TRISTAR PICTURES, INC.; TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX FILM CORPORATION; UNITED ARTISTS PICTURES, INC.; UNIVERSAL CITY STUDIOS, INC.; WARNER BROS., A Division of TIME WARNER ENTERTAINMENT COMPANY, L.P.; COLUMBIA TRISTAR HOME VIDEO; LIVE HOME VIDEO, INC. (LIVE AMERICA INC.); TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX HOME ENTERTAINMENT, INC., Plaintiffs,
v.
DOMINGO LANDA, individually and d/b/a VIDEO CITY and MOVIE TRAK; JASON FRANK, individually and d/b/a TAKE TWO VIDEO; and SYED AHMED, individually and d/b/a VIDEO CITY, Defendants.


Columbia v. Landa
Case No. 96-1340
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE CENTRAL DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
974 F. Supp. 1

Decided – June 26, 1997

Judge Joe Billy McDade writing for the Court explains:

Plaintiffs, numerous motion picture producers and distributors, filed this action against Defendants, three movie rental store owners, on July 11, 1996. The named Defendants include Domingo Landa, d/b/a VIDEO CITY and MOVIE TRAK, Jason Frank, d/b/a TAKE TWO VIDEO, and Syed Ahmed, d/b/a VIDEO CITY. 1 Plaintiffs Amended Complaint [Doc. # 33] alleges that Defendants illegally duplicated and distributed motion picture videocassettes in violation of 17 U.S.C. § 106 (Copyright Infringement) and 5 U.S.C. § 1125(a) (Trademark Infringement).

An extensive array of movies videocassettes were seized from the defendants, and “3 Ninjas Knuckle Up” appears first in the list because the number three is first alphabetically.

The Court, granting Plaintiff’s motion for Summary Judgment, finds that there was copying and orders damages and permanent injunction relief. Interesting, despite finding that Defendant’s “illegal activity” was “pervasive” and with “total disregard for copyright law”, there is no finding as to willful infringement. Such a finding could have increased the liability tremendously but:

In the instant action, Plaintiffs do not seek a finding that the infringing acts of Defendants were willful. (See Doc. # 61 at p. 8). Rather, Plaintiffs insist that an award against Landa and Frank in the amount of $ 1,000 per infringement is just and proper.

The Court agrees, and so with 207 infringing video cassettes, the defendants owe $207.000. And in 1997, I am sure that sounded like a huge award for a copyright case.

But contrast with the future (err. the present), the more recent cases, where similar Plaintiffs have taken a more aggressive position on digital content. For example see Sony BMG v. Tenenbaum and of course, the prosecution of NinjaVideo.

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