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Bell v. Taylor

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

June 29, 2015

RICHARD BELL, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CAMERON TAYLOR, et al., Defendants-Appellees

Argued April 1, 2015

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No. 1:13-cv-798 -- TanyaW. Pratt, Judge.

Richard N. Bell, Plaintiff - Appellant, Pro se, McCordsville, IN.

For Cameron Taylor, Taylor Computer Solutions, Insurance Concepts, Fred O'Brien, Shanna Cheatam, Defendants - Appellees: John W. Nelson, Attorney, Law Office of John Nelson, Carmel, IN.

Before WOOD, Chief Judge, FLAUM, Circuit Judge, and KENNELLY, District Judge.[*]

OPINION

Page 746

Flaum, Circuit Judge.

Richard Bell sued various defendants for copyright infringement, accusing each of impermissibly displaying a photo that he owns on websites promoting their respective businesses. Bell's complaint sought both damages and an injunction prohibiting future use of the photo. The defendants moved for summary judgment on the damages issue, arguing that Bell cannot demonstrate how they caused him financial harm and, thus, that he is not entitled to monetary recovery. The district court granted the motion, and Bell appealed. In addition to the summary judgment ruling, Bell contests the district court's denial of two motions to compel and a motion seeking leave to file a fourth amended complaint.

We have no jurisdiction to decide these issues. Although the court purported to issue a " final judgment" after ruling on the defendants' summary judgment motion, it did so in error; the issue of injunctive relief was never adjudicated. Because Bell's copyright claim was not entirely disposed of by the district court's summary judgment ruling, the judgment--by definition--was not final. Accordingly, an appeal in this case is premature until the district court resolves Bell's outstanding claims for injunctive relief.

Page 747

I. Background

Richard Bell, a lawyer and photographer, alleges that three small Indianapolis business owners (and the small businesses of two of those three defendants), violated federal copyright laws (and an Indiana theft statute) by publishing on the internet a photo that he took of the Indianapolis skyline without his authorization. Defendant Fred O'Brien has an insurance business (co-defendant Insurance Concepts) and, for a few weeks in 2011, operated a website (www.insuranceconceptsfinancial.com), where he allegedly displayed the photo. Defendant Cameron Taylor operates a computer business (co-defendant Taylor Computer Solutions), which he advertises on the web at www.taylorcomputersolutions.com. Bell alleges that he used the photo between January 2009 and April 14, 2011. Defendant Shanna Cheatham is a real estate agent, who marketed her services at www.shannasells.com. Bell alleges that her site displayed his photo between June 2008 and June 15, 2011. Bell attached his photo to the (operative) third amended complaint, which sought both monetary damages and injunctive relief.

In August 2013, the district court set a deadline for filing motions for leave to amend the pleadings. Nevertheless, Bell sought to amend his complaint (for a fourth time) nearly eight months after the cut-off. The impetus for Bell's motion to amend was his realization that defendant Taylor had not actually used the photo at issue (a photo of Indianapolis's skyline during the daytime); rather, Taylor's website displayed a different photo belonging to Bell--one depicting Indianapolis's skyline at night. Although motions for leave to amend are to be granted liberally, the district court denied Bell's motion, citing undue delay and his own carelessness as grounds for the ruling.

On May 2, 2014, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. In it, they argued that defendant Taylor was entitled to summary judgment, because she never displayed the photo about which Bell complained. And, as to all defendants, they argued that Bell was not entitled to damages; " even in the event [Bell] is able to establish ownership of the photo in question ... he is not entitled to economic damages based upon applicable law and the ...


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