This copyright lawsuit involves a painter attempting to stop an online merchandise platform from using his artwork on customizable products. The Defendant t-shirt website, like thousands of other sites, sells blank apparel that can be customized with a user-uploaded image or text.
Per the Complaint (below), the John Doe defendants (1-11) have, via separate registered accounts, been uploading a digital copy of one of Plaintiff’s paintings since 2018 and using the online platform to create unauthorized products which they presumably then sell elsewhere. Plaintiff’s counsel first contacted the Defendant website in April 2020 about the unauthorized use of Plaintiff’s artwork, seemingly with no acceptable resolution or cessation.
In lawsuits such as this with numerous John Doe defendants, the first and most difficult hurdle for the Plaintiff will be to discover the identity of the John Does. The similarity in the John Doe’s account names on the t-shirt platform seem to indicate that it’s just one source (an individual or small group) that is repeatedly ordering new product. I wouldn’t expect any response to be filed by the John Doe Defendants, who will likely disappear altogether, and probably a long road of discovery for the Plaintiff perhaps eventually leading to a default judgment against the determined “guilty” party.
The vicarious infringement and contributory infringement claims against the online t-shirt website will be interesting to follow. Presumably, having been put on notice of the unauthorized use in April 2020, the t-shirt website might be expected to take more action to prevent future infringements of the same image. But how closely do they (or should they be expected to) patrol user-submitted images for infringement? It seems like the t-shirt printing and shipping process would be almost completely automated following the user submission, with no copyright verification step in between.
Stay tuned for updates.
Thomas v. ooShirts, Inc. et al.
Case Number: 1:21-cv-02519-TWP-MJD
File Date: Friday, September 24, 2021
Plaintiff: Andrew “Andy” Thomas
Plaintiff Counsel: Sean J. Quinn of SouthBank Legal: LaDue | Curran | Kuehn, Oliver Maguire of Evans & Dixon, LLC
Defendant: ooShirts, Inc., John Does 1-11
Cause: Direct Copyright Infringement, Vicarious Infringement, Contributory Infringement
Court: Southern District of Indiana
Judge: Tanya Walton Pratt
Referred To: Mark J. Dinsmore