Richard Bell is once again alleging copyright infringement for unauthorized use of a photograph of the downtown Indianapolis skyline. This complaint is nearly identical to complaints he has previously filed. In some of those cases, the court has awarded Mr. Bell statutory damages of $2,500. However, the ruling in each of those cases was a default judgment because the defendants failed to answer and defend the allegations. On multiple occasions the court has granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. District Judge Tanya Pratt has, on multiple occasions, called out Mr. Bell for improper practice:
In his pleadings, Mr. Bell has alleged, but has not shown, that he is entitled to relief. His complaint contains formulaic labels and conclusions, but not facts. For example, the complaint under his copyright claim generically alleges that all-originally, twenty-two in total-Defendants: downloaded the Indianapolis Photo; willfully, recklessly, and falsely claimed that it owned the copyright to the photograph; published the photograph for commercial use; engaged in unfair trade practices and competition; and willfully engaged in these acts with oppression, fraud, and malice. . . . While providing specific facts is not necessary in a complaint, Mr. Bell is required to do more than recite legal conclusions of conduct with generic applicability to various defendants. . . . Legal conclusions are not afforded the assumption of truth. . . . [T]he Court will not afford the assumption of truth to the legal conclusions in Mr. Bell’s complaint. Neither does the Court find any factual allegations that are not legal conclusions, which could entitle him to relief and satisfy the standard of review.
Bell v. McCann, No. 1:13-CV-00799-TWP, 2014 WL 900961, at *2 (S.D. Ind. Mar. 7, 2014)
When looking to Mr. Bell’s motivation for filing this action, the Court finds that Mr. Bell’s motivation is questionable. Mr. Bell has filed a multiplicity of suits in this Court, each involving the same or similar infringement allegations. In many of these copyright infringement suits, Mr. Bell has improperly joined several defendants, thereby saving him extensive filing fees. In this case alone, Mr. Bell sued forty-seven defendants and then quickly offered settlements to defendants who were unwilling to pay for a legal defense. In some of Mr. Bell’s lawsuits, the district court determined that the improperly joined defendants should be severed, and severance was granted. Further, in this case, Mr. Bell lacked any evidentiary support for his claims against Mr. Lantz. The Court is persuaded by Mr. Lantz’s argument that the motivation of Mr. Bell in filing this action appears to be an attempt to extract quick, small settlements from many defendants instead of using the judicial process to protect his copyright against legitimate infringing actors. . . . In this case, Mr. Lantz took a stand against a plaintiff who was using his knowledge and status as a practicing attorney to file meritless suits and to attempt to outmaneuver the legal system.
Bell v. Lantz, No. 1:13-CV-00035-TWP, 2015 WL 3604174, at *2 & *3 (S.D. Ind. June 8, 2015)
After a cursory search, it appears that Mr. Bell has been awarded statutory damages of $40,000 ($2,500 x 16) from default judgments. In Bell v. Lantz, quoted above, Mr. Bell had to pay Mr. Lantz’s attorney’s fees, totaling $33,974.65.
Richard N. Bell v. Find Tickets, LLC
Court Case Number: 1:15-cv-00973-JMS-MJD
File Date: Friday, June 19, 2015
Plaintiff: Richard N. Bell
Plaintiff Counsel: Richard N. Bell of Bell Law Firm
Defendant: Find Tickets, LLC
Cause: Copyright Infringement and Unfair Competition
Court: Southern District of Indiana
Judge: Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson
Referred To: Magistrate Judge Mark J. Dinsmore