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Corporate Officer Can Be Personally Liable for Copyright Infringement

Blue Nile logo

In Blue Nile v. Ideal Diamond Solutions, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington held that co-defendant Larry Chasin, founder and an officer of defendant IDS, was personally liable for infringement of plaintiff Blue Nile’s copyrighted images, even though Chasin claimed he had no role in putting infringing images on websites and he did not know the images were infringing.

Blue Nile is an online jewelry and diamond retailer. Chasin founded and operated IDS to create websites for brick-and-mortar jewelers to help them compete online. The websites included some of Blue Nile’s copyrighted images.

The court held that Chasin was personally liable for copyright infringement because:

  • Copyright infringement is a strict liability tort – there is no corporate protection, there is no need to prove knowledge or intent, and all individuals who participate are jointly and severally liable.
  • Alternatively, Chasin was vicariously liable because he controlled IDS and the websites and benefited financially from the infringing activity.

Bottom line: Don’t assume that forming a corporation will protect you against al personal liability.

Check out all posts about copyright infringement.

Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law  +1 510 547-0545  dana [at] danashultz [dot] com
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