Can’t Litigate Copyright and Libel Case With Allegedly Infringed Photo and Allegedly Libelous Article Sealed

Start at Jacobs v. Journal Publishing Co.Wednesday, December 13, 2009 by Magistrate Judge Steven Yarbrough.):

Following the indictment of Plaintiffs for white collar crime, the Albuquerque Journal published an “Jacobs” article about the event online. Plaintiffs claim that the article contained defamatory material and cast them in a negative light. The “Cannes photograph” is included in the material. It shows Plaintiffs standing in front of two boats. Plaintiffs assert that the copyrighted photo was stolen from their house by James Thompson and Nichole Perez. The following newspapers and other internet sources include the Singapore [Straits] TimesThe Cannes photo was then used by the Sri Lanka Royal Turf Club’s Facebook page.

The plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining or preliminary injunction. This was to take the Jacobs article off the internet, and to stop the continued distribution of the Cannes photo. Plaintiffs requested to seal all exhibits that were attached to their motion. These included the Cannes photograph as well as the Jacobs Article. I temporarily ordered the documents sealed pending further briefing on the merits of the issue from all parties….

The exhibits that Doc. 2 which may include the Cannes photograph or the Jacobs article allegedly defamatory, depending on whether they are copyrighted. In analyzing this matter, I begin—as a court must—with the presumption that the public should have access to these records.

According to Defendants, both the article and photograph are of public interest. When the documents in question are the core of litigation, disclosure can be especially compelling. Look! Colony Ins. Co. v. Burke (10th Cir. 2012) (“[W]These documents can be used to decide litigants’ substantive legal rights. A strong presumption for access attaches .”). Plaintiffs argue, however, that the “.[c]”Opyright Infringement Favors Nondisclosure” They provide no evidence to support this claim.

Plaintiffs also argue that it is “in the public interest that Plaintiff Jacobs does not continue to suffer the violation of his copyright infringement by Defendants or by unsealed exhibits”—that is, it is in the publicInterest that plaintiffs may have TheirPrioritization of interests Plaintiffs don’t cite any evidence to support the notion that ordinary, unprivileged privacy of plaintiffs is somehow something in which the public might be interested. {“Case law recognizes a public interest to maintain strong protections over confidential information. However, neither party alleges that the information to be sealed in this case is privileged.} In fact, the court has ruled in other instances that define disclosure as in the public interest and it is characterized in opposition to privacy interests.

The plaintiffs do not cite anything that is unique, private, embarrassing or personal in these documents, which justifies sealing them. Plaintiffs may have an interest to restrict access to images that are copyrighted and defamatory articles, but the public nature of these documents makes this less likely. Plaintiffs claim that the continued harm to the “use” of the Cannes photo, along with false statements made in Jacobs’ article “continues.”[s]To cast the Plaintiffs into a false light.” Although it is true, “courts have not allowed their files to be used as a reservoir of libelous remarks for the press.” The mere fact that there are allegedly libelous statements doesn’t make it a reason to keep matters from the general public. Look! Parson v. Farley (N.D. Okla. 2018). It isn’t enough that this case concerns copyright infringement by itself to seal documents; there have been other instances of copyright violations that involved sealing records that dealt with trade secrets. This case, however, does not involve that.

Plaintiffs claim that information Plaintiffs want to seal is publically available from December 15, 2016 (Defendants counter). The Plaintiffs counter that this information was only made available by Defendants’ criminal acts. The plaintiffs don’t explain why this assertion is relevant to the legal standards. They also do not provide case law that would indicate how a court ruling regarding a motion for seal could have considered the circumstances in which the information became public. Courts have not opted to seal records that are publicly available.

The Court might seal a photograph of a person that shows them in private situations in private settings, especially if it was only possible to make the photograph public through criminal trespass, invasion of privacy, or other means. Even if the photo has been published publicly, such sealing could be justified as it would prevent further privacy invasions and harm. This case’s photograph does not portray individuals in a private environment or in a private circumstance. This photograph instead shows a couple smiling outside while two yachts are in the background. This photograph does not contain any private information.

The public’s rights to access and disclosure should be considered when weighing Plaintiffs’ interests in sealing documents against the public’s. These documents are critical to the lawsuit and have been available publicly for years. They aren’t privileged; they don’t contain trade secrets and they aren’t uniquely private or embarrassing. These reasons are why Plaintiffs did not have to meet the burden of sealing.