CoinTelegraph faces copyright infringement suit after a photo allegedly went uncredited

Quick Take

  •  A Bronx-based photographer, John Curtis Rice, is suing CoinTelegraph for copyright infringement
  • CoinTelegraph allegedly ran Rice’s photo of Charlie Shrem in 2015 without crediting him, and the photo originally ran with a credit in the New York Post in 2013
  • There are couple issues in this case, including the fact that the three year statute of limitations on copyright infringement claims may not apply

Disclaimer: These summaries are provided for educational purposes only by Nelson Rosario and Stephen Palley. They are not legal advice. These are our opinions only, aren’t authorized by any past, present or future client or employer. Also we might change our minds. We contain multitudes.

As always, Rosario summaries are “NMR” and Palley summaries are “SDP".

[related id=1] Rice v. CoinTelegraph Media USA, Inc., Case №1:19-cv-5648 (S.D.N.Y. filed June 17, 2019)[NMR]

This week we have one of the first copyright infringement lawsuits related to crypto. The underlying subject matter concerns two of the bigger names in the industry. That said, as we’ve seen with many other cases around here, this case is a pretty standard copyright infringement lawsuit. Remember, just because you have new tech doesn’t mean you need new law. So, what’s going on here with Rice and CoinTelegraph?

John Curtis Rice is a Bronx based photographer who makes his money by licensing his photography to businesses and other interested parties. Way back in 2013 Mr. Rice licensed a photograph he took of Shrem to the New York Post for a delightfully titled story Coin of the Net realm. The Post credits Rice as the photographer on the article. The article is worth a quick read as it is a total blast from the past that includes that absolutely fantastic phrase “digital doubloons.” Digital doubloons. So good. In May of this year Rice registered his copyright in the photograph with the U.S. Copyright office., and now Rice is suing CoinTelegraph for willful copyright infringement.

For those of you that don’t know, which if you’re reading something called Crypto Caselaw Minute the odds of this applying to you seem to be about zilch, CoinTelegraph is one of the main blockchain/cryptocurrency focused media sites. CoinTelegraph ran an Op-ed on its website with a list of convicted criminals in the bitcoin space that included Shrem. Allegedly, as part of that list under Shrem’s entry was the photo from the New York Post without credit to Rice. The Op-ed ran in 2015. There is a three-year statute of limitations on bringing a copyright infringement lawsuit. It’s 2019. Wait, what?

So, there are a couple of things going on here. One, in March of this year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an individual bringing a copyright infringement claim must have registered the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office before they bring their claim. That explains the registration in May. Second, although there is three-year statute of limitation on bringing a claim, and the Op-ed originally published in 2015, the Op-ed is still on the website, although now there appears to be no image of Shrem in the Op-ed. Lastly, the plaintiff is alleging willful infringement in order to try and receive increased damages. Basically, they’ll have to show that the defendant acted recklessly in copying the picture. I’m very curious to see the defendant’s response in this suit.


The Block is pleased to bring you expert cryptocurrency legal analysis courtesy of Stephen Palley (@stephendpalley) and Nelson M. Rosario (@nelsonmrosario). They summarize three cryptocurrency-related cases on a weekly basis and have given The Block permission to republish their commentary and analysis in full. Part I of this week's analysis, Crypto Caselaw Minute, is above.


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