Palau Court Freezes Senator’s Assets For Copyright Violation

On June 29, here 2012, online the Palau Court of Appeals handed down a precedent-setting copyright decision in favor of Roll ’em Productions/OTV and against Palau’s Senator Alfonzo Diaz. Roll ‘em Productions, Inc. v. Diaz Broadcasting Co., Civil App. 11-017.  The suit was filed as a result of Diaz airing a Roll ’em’s video without authorization and for his intentional cutting off of its end-credits (which acknowledged the video’s producers and song writers).  When Roll ‘em invoiced the Senator for use of the video and music, he threatened the life of its owner.  The death threat resulted in the Senator being charged and convicted of verbal assault.

The Appellate Court held  that Senator Diaz was liable for copyright infringement and by law, this entitles Roll ’em to a monetary judgment for its actual damages, costs, and attorneys’ fees. The amount of damages that Diaz will pay will be determined at a trial currently set for December 20, 2012.
During Senator Diaz’s failed re-election bid, he went on air and announced that if he lost the election he would move to Atlanta, Georgia.  After the election, reliable sources stated that MBTV employees were returning to the Philippines and that Diaz was moving his assets.  On November 15, 2012, Diaz in fact withdrew exactly $100,000 from one of his local bank accounts.
Thereafter, Kassi Berg, a Georgetown Law School graduate and an attorney for Roll ’em, immediately filed for emergency relief seeking a Temporary Restraining Order in order to prevent Diaz from disposing of or hiding his assets to avoid payment on this suit.  On November 16, 2012, the Court granted Berg’s request in an Order preserving the status quo.  On that same day, Diaz fired his lawyer, Salvador Remoket, who had been handling this case on his behalf since 2008.
On November 20, 2012, the Court entered a TRO against Diaz and a Writ to attach his property valued up to $50,000, the amount Roll ’em expects to collect in this copyright suit.  On November 21, 2012, Diaz hired new counsel and asked the Court to allow him to provide a $50,000 cash bond as security.  The Court modified its earlier TRO and Writ and agreed to freeze $50,000 in Diaz’s bank account.
Berg has explained that “the Appellate Court has given great significance to the Copyright Act by announcing in no uncertain terms that an artist forever owns the exclusive copyright to his artwork unless he/she signs a written agreement transferring ownership.”  “This,” she added, “is a victory for artists who create their work in Palau — for the writers, painters, sculptors, photographers, designers, composers, and musicians.”
Berg also advised that Roll ‘em Productions has another civil matter pending against Senator Diaz and that the damages in this other suit will likely exceed the amount of damages in the copyright suit.  In this larger case, Roll ‘em Productions is suing for (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 Court has already preliminarily found that Diaz “had engaged in a number of illegitimate tactics to drive Plaintiffs out of business” and that Roll ‘em has proved a “likelihood” that it will succeed in this matter.  The Court entered an injunction against Senator Diaz in April, 2009 that still remains in place.  This trial begins on February 5, 2013.