Professor Joel Beinin teaches in the history department at Stanford University and is outspoken in support of Palastinian objectives in Israel. Accordingly, David Horowitz compliled a booklet in which he describes Professor Beinin, and others, as supporters of terrorists--of Hamas in this case. Because Horowitz used the faculty portrait
of Beinin on the cover of the booklet Beinin has sued for copyright infringement.
This became the reason for a story
in the San Jose Mercury News. And while it is a copyright infringement case, the story provides much more background into Beinin's beef against Horowitz, going so far as to descibe the issue as follows:
"He's suing the book's publishers in what is the first counteroffensive by a professor against a growing campaign by conservative groups targeting left-leaning college educators."
Remember, the lawsuit
is about the unauthorized use of one photograph. The campaign part is a little farfetched but you could hardly blame a wild-eyed reporter after reading the gibberish attached to the actual charges. Beinin's lawyers have fun with a little agit-prop on behalf of their client, but through it all the following facts emerge; 1. Beinin only claims a registered copyright after the book is published. 2. Beinin does not answer whether he owned the basic, non-registered copyright before he discovered that it was used in a book not to his liking.
The upshot is that Beinin isn't likely to reap much of a payback because registering
the copyright after publication is significantly less rewarding. But then he gets the satisfaction that a large metropolitan newspaper is likely to print his version of events without asking him to provide evidence to substantiate the underlying charge.
Update: Beinin's photo was taken in 1997 by Palo Alto photographer Theodore Mock (complaint pg. 12
). It's most often the case that the creator of the photo is the holder of copyright, but it can be legally transfered and, in fact, Beinin's lawsuit claims that copyright was transfered to him from Mock. The first published use of the photo was April 10th 1998. It's doubtful that Mock, or anyone, registered the copyright prior to January 26, 2006. The book on which Beinin's photo appears was first published on February 7, 2005--more than 12 months after Horowitz published the booklet.
Why is that important? Unless copyright has been registered prior to the infringement or 3 months after, the claimant is only eligible for actual damages--no punative damages, or court costs, or unnecessary verbage about conspiracies against Mr. Beinin will be considered. According to widely used photograph pricing tables the photo is worth between $170 and $330. But the publicity--priceless.
Further update: Professor Beinin's attorney is Mitchell Zimmerman of the law firm Fenwick and West. According to his online biography Mr. Zimmerman specializes in copyright cases and has this to say about his approach:
"Mr. Zimmerman's practice focuses on counseling, litigation and conflict resolution involving copyrights..."
Would it be fair to ask if Professor Beinin was counseled on conflict resolution in order to avoid trial? Or is a show trial the whole point?