Court Excoriates ‘Copyright Troll’ Lawyer and Adds $100,000 in Sanctions

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Copyright lawyer Richard Liebowitz has, once again, been sanctioned by a New York federal court. In a scathing order, the court sums up the attorney's 'deplorable record' which includes violating court orders and lying under oath. For his most recent wrongdoings, Liebowitz must pay over $100,000 in sanctions and also risks his right to practice in the district.

Richard LiebowitzOver the past several years, independent photographers have filed more than a thousand lawsuits against companies that allegedly use their work without permission.

As many targets are mainstream media outlets, these can be seen as David vs. Goliath battles. However, the nature of these cases is described as classic copyright-trolling by many.

The driving force behind this copyright crusade is New York lawyer Richard Liebowitz. While many of the photographers have a legitimate claim, the lawyer’s antics were increasingly criticized both in and outside of court.

Liebowitz’ misconduct and sanctions

Since then, a lot has happened. While copyright infringement remains a problem for photographers, Liebowitz has mainly made a name for himself through his controversial practices. Courts have sanctioned the attorney for various types of misconduct, reaching a new milestone late last week.

A scathing order issued by US District Court Judge Jesse M. Furman leaves little to the imagination, starting with some background information on Liebowitz’s young but troubled career.

The attorney passed the bar in 2015 and filed his first copyright case a few months later. Since 2017, he has filed numerous complaints. What stands out just as much, however, is the number of times courts have sanctioned him for misconduct.

“In that same period, he has earned another dubious distinction: He has become one of the most frequently sanctioned lawyers, if not the most frequently sanctioned lawyer, in the District,” Judge Furman writes.

Judge Furman order sanctions against Richard Liebowitz

The Judge notes that the attorney was repeatedly chastised and warned by courts, where other judges described him as “a copyright troll,” “a clear and present danger to the fair and efficient administration of justice,” and an “example of the worst kind of lawyering.”

Some of these descriptions also appear to apply to the present lawsuit, which again spiraled out of control.

Usherson v. Bandshell

The case in question was filed on behalf of photographer Arthur Usherson and accused Bandshell Artist Management of using one of his photos without permission. As the case progressed, however, the attorney’s questionable practices took center stage.

Liebowitz violated at least six court orders and repeatedly lied to the Court, even under oath. In addition, he falsely claimed that the photo’s copyright was registered when the lawsuit was filed, which turned out not to be true.

In a 54-page order (pdf), Judge Furman goes over each of these issues and ultimately reaches the conclusion that, given the attorney’s “deplorable record,” steps should be taken to suspend the attorney’s ability to file new cases.

Sanctions and a Potential Ban

This decision is ultimately up to the Grievance Committee of the court, which received a copy of the order. This could eventually lead to a ban on practicing in the Manhattan Federal Court, as Daily News notes.

However, that doesn’t mean that there’s no punishment. Judge Furman ordered Liebowitz and his law firm to pay sanctions totaling $103,517.49. On top of that, the attorney must send a copy of the opinion to all of his current clients.

This is not the first time the attorney has been sanctioned and whether this order will change anything remains to be seen. That said, given his track record, future cases will likely find themselves under a magnifying glass.

TorrentFreak reached out to Mr. Liebowitz for a comment on the order but we have yet to receive a response.

Photo credit: Liebowitz image by”King of Hearts” (CC BY-SA 4.0)


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