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Photographer Claims CVS/pharmacy Guilty of Copyright Infringement

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Birmingham, ALProfessional photographer Rob Fleming thinks no one should get a second run at his work without paying. As such, he recently instructed attorney Jamie Moncus to file a willful copyright infringement suit against CVS/pharmacy for allowing people to duplicate his work. "There are statutory damages available for infringement which can be pretty hefty and they are per act of infringement," says Moncus. "We have also asked for injunctive relief to retain their employees so this doesn't continue."

One of the largest pharmacy chains in the US, CVS/pharmacy employs 215,000 people and operates in 44 states across the country. Many of the stores, like the one in Demopolis, Alabama, where Fleming lives, have self-serve photo kiosks where customers can reprint photos.

To protect the rights of copyright owners, copyrighted photos require CVS staff to enter a code before the material can be duplicated.

Fleming makes his living doing wedding pictures, family portraits and graduation photos. When he first found out last year that the CVS/pharmacy in Demopolis was ignoring the rules and allowing his copyrighted material to be duplicated, he put the store on notice.

CVS representatives said they would fix the problem, but Fleming was sure it was still happening. So, he and Jamie Moncus decided to do a little sleuthing. "I guess you could call a sting operation," says Moncus from his office in Birmingham, Alabama. "Every single copyrighted photograph we took in there, they copied it."

According to the suit, CVS readily and without question or hesitation duplicated Fleming's professional photographs. The suit furthermore claims that CVS has developed a lucrative business model replicating copyrighted material to the detriment of Moncus's client.

The law deals harshly with theft of copyrighted material—and if the material knowingly reproduced, the law gets even tougher. "If the copyright infringement is willful, which in this case it is, the court has the discretion to increase the award for damages to a maximum of $150,000," says Moncus.

Jamie Moncus is an attorney with Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton in Birmingham, Alabama. His trial practice has been focused in the areas of personal injury, wrongful death, breach of contract, medical malpractice, product liability, class actions, as well as qui tam litigation under the Federal False Claims Act.

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