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Lowry's Reports wins $20 million in copyright violation suit.

This victory for newsletter and specialized information publishers follows a lull in copyright infringement lawsuits--perhaps coincident with the December 1999 death of master litigator David Swit and the 1998 sale of Todd ("If there's anything to be learned from this, it pays to sue your customers") Sedgwick's Pasha Publications.

On October 3 a jury in a Baltimore, Maryland federal court found that Legg Mason, a financial services firm, had willfully violated the copyrights of Lowry's Reports Inc., which publishes a newsletter covering stock market conditions.

The jury awarded Lowry's just under $20 million.

Legg Mason expressed its "shock" at the extent of the damages and its belief that those damages are "grossly excessive." Thomas W. Kirby, lead trial counsel for Lowry's responded, "This just shows that, contrary to their claims at trial, Legg Mason still does not 'get it,' and that the jury was right that deterrence and punishment were needed."

The heart of the infringement was Legg Mason's daily posting of Lowry's newsletter on its firm intranet, known as "Legg Works," where all of its brokers had access, and its systematic circulation of electronic copies within a Legg Mason group that provides marketing strategy to brokers. Since at least 1988 Legg Mason had used fax and other means to circulate the newsletter to its brokers.

Legg Mason argued that what occurred was a good faith mistake by low-level employees caught up in a technological transition. Lowry's responded that the fault lay, not with those employees, but with corporate decisions that gave them technology that made infringement likely and easy without first training them in how to use technology legally.

Lowry's sought and the jury awarded a special copyright remedy known as special damages. U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. instructed the jury that if it found that Legg Mason had knowingly or recklessly disregarded likely infringement of Lowry's copyrights, copyright law permitted it to award up to $150,000 in "statutory damages" for each issue of Lowry's newsletter covered by registered copyright.

The jury awarded $50,000 for each infringement that occurred before Lowry's gave notice of infringement to Legg Mason and $100,000 for each work infringed after notice.

Big boost to newsletter pub.lishers

This victory is a important one for specialized information publishers seeking to protect their products from copyright violation, and the industry garnered a further boost by the jury decision's prominent coverage in The Washington Post on October 7.

Lowry's Reports Inc. is a six-person business and Lowry's Market Trend Analysis is written by its long-time owner, Paul Desmond.

631 U.S. Highway One, #305, North Palm Beach, FL 33408, 561-842-3514, fax 561-842-1523,
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Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Oct 16, 2003
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