Court rejects asset sale to pay judgment in photo infringement case

By John Sammon | Nov 19, 2018

SAN JOSE – The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California recently rejected a stock photo company's motion to assign rental income or force the sale of property to pay damages in lawsuit that alleged copyright infringement.

The plaintiff in the suit, Jim Erickson of Erickson Productions Inc.,a stock photography and video company in Petaluma, California, sued the defendant Kraig Kast in September 2013 for allegedly copying Erickson’s photos and using them for his business, court filings in the Nov. 9 federal court decision said.

Trial in the case began on April 12, 2015, and a jury found Kast guilty of copyright infringement and awarded damages of $450,000 to the plaintiff. 

In September 2015 Kast appealed the judgment in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.  

The plaintiff then moved to amend the judgment to include trusts and corporate entities allegedly controlled by Kast or his fiance, Mariellen Baker, and filed a motion requesting that rents from properties owned by the defendants be used to satisfy the damage award or to force the sale of one of the properties.

After review in October 2017, a judge entered an amended judgment against Kast granting the plaintiff attorney fees and costs and added, as part of the judgment, trusts and corporate entities allegedly controlled by Kast including one titled "Black Oak Trust." A new total amended figure in damages of $636,168 (plus interest) was awarded the plaintiff.

Kast filed a second appeal with the appeals court challenging the move and in November 2017 filed for a stay of the amended judgment. 

Both appeals remain pending.

The Nov. 9 district court opinion concluded that it was not authorized to award rental funds from Black Oak to the plaintiff because Baker was a listed as a trustee of the entity and not Kast. Kast had earlier resigned as a trustee.

“Baker as a trustee of Black Oak Trust was not a party to the copyright infringement lawsuit,” the court opinion stated. Adding nonparties to the judgment would unacceptably expand its scope, the court concluded.

The district court denied the motion of the plaintiff to assign rental income or sell property of the defendant to award damages. The court also enacted a stay of the case until the two appeals are resolved.

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