On June 29, more about 2012, online the Palau Court of Appeals handed down a landmark copyright decision in favor of artists, symptoms poets, musicians, writers and performers in Roll ‘em Productions v. Alfonso Diaz, et. al., Civil Appeal No. 11-017 (Civil Action No. 08-209).
Roll ‘em Productions sued Senator Alfonso Diaz for airing a video it created for the Government which Diaz then aired on his television station, MBTV, without Roll ‘em’s permission. Diaz also cut Roll’em’s end credits from the video. When Roll ‘em invoiced Diaz for use of the video, Diaz threatened the life of the owner. The death threat resulted in Diaz being charged with verbal assault. Diaz sustained a misdemeanor assault conviction for this conduct on July 16, 2008.
The Appellate Court found that the Chief Justice misapplied the plain and unambiguous language of the Copyright Act when the three-judge panel found in favor of Roll ‘em. The Court explained that the “statue and sound public policy” demands that the artist retain the copyright to his work unless there is a written agreement executed. Here, there was no written agreement and therefore, Roll ‘em retained ownership of the video’s copyright. Diaz infringed on Roll ‘em’s copyright by airing the video on television without the copyright owner’s permission.
The amount of damages that Diaz will be required to pay for his unlawful conduct includes costs of suit and attorney fees, all of which will be determined at a trial set for November 30, 2012, just after the general election in which Diaz is again seeking a Senate seat.
Kassi Berg, the attorney for Roll ‘em Productions, said this is a long awaited victory as the case was filed back in 2008. Berg stated that the Appellate Court’s decision restored the original intention of the Copyright Act, as the Act was meant to protect the creative artist. Berg stressed that this result is a triumph for all of Palau’s writers, painters, sculptors, photographers, designers, composers, musicians, and videographers because the Court’s holding means that, in no uncertain terms, an artist owns the exclusive copyright to his work unless there is a signed agreement to the contrary. As for the damage award, Berg stated that the statute sets forth the damages available to the aggrieved party at 39 PNC 841, which include costs associated with infringement as well as attorneys’ fees.
Berg has also filed suit on behalf of Roll ‘em Productions against Senator Alfonso Diaz in another matter. In that separate case, Roll ‘em alleges violations including (1) Assault, (2) Defamation, (3) Intentional Infliction Of Emotional Distress, (4) Unlawful Communication With Foreign Government, (5) Abuse Of Power; (6) Harassment; (7) Unfair Business Practices; (8) Intentional Interference With Contractual Relations, and (9) Intentional Interference With Prospective Business Relations. The trial court has already found that Senator Alfonso Diaz “had engaged in a number of illegitimate tactics to drive Plaintiffs out of business” and found in a lengthy written opinion that Plaintiffs showed a “sufficient likelihood of success on the merits.” The Court issued an injunction against Senator Alfonso N. Diaz in April of 2009 which has remained in effect banning Diaz from defaming or interfering with Roll’em Productions’ business. The trial for this case is also set after the election on November 26, 2012.
This copyright infringement adds to the Palau Senator’s list of illegal conduct. Senator Alfonso Diaz was sentenced to serve 20 hours of community service, fined $100, placed under probation, and issue a public apology to Plaintiff Olkeriil Ngiralmau after being convicted on April 03, 2007 for assault and battery. Senator Alfonso Diaz was also found guilty of two counts of broadcasting recording violations.