A federal court jury returned a verdict Tuesday awarding $6 million to the “Want Ad Digest” in Troy after finding that its startup competitor, “Display Advertising” of Watervliet, infringed on copyright protections by filling its publication with its rival’s advertisements.
The jury, sitting in U.S. District Court in Albany, found that “Display Advertising” and its president, Edward H. Spain, infringed on the “Want Ad Digest” some 8,027 times.
With the award calculated at the statutory rate of $750 per infringement, plaintiff’s lawyer Salvatore D. Ferlazzo, of the Albany firm of Girvin & Ferlazzo, said “the award became staggering.”
Spain, who represented himself at trial, could not be reached for comment.
Ferlazzo said his client filed suit after Spain ignored a letter asking him to stop taking and copying the advertisements published in “Want Ad Digest.”
Spain, who had once worked under contract with “Want Ad Digest” to procure advertising and split the commissions, started his own publication in 2008.
Ferlazzo said Spain began taking the advertising and publishing it as his own after initially proposing to pay for the service, a proposal that was rejected.
District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe ruled prior to trial that the advertising was owned by the plaintiff. The jury found that the advertising was sufficiently original to support a copyright infringement claim.
With the jury verdict, Ferlazzo said he will begin pursuing what he termed “collectibility issues.”
Key evidence in the trial supporting “Want Ad Digest,” Ferlazzo said, was testimony that Spain also took classified advertising published in The Daily Gazette and Times Union but ceased that practice after both newspapers notified him that it was unacceptable.
Ferlazzo said he also notified Spain to cease using the advertising, but the warning was ignored.
“This is a massive award,” he said.
In September of last year, Sharpe denied summary motions for dismissal filed by both sides. It was left to the jury to decide whether taking advertising violated copyright protections.