One Bad Apple (or Attorney)

Petapixel and others have warned about Richard Liebowitz, “one of the most prolific copyright infringement lawyers in the state of New York,” who has been fined and disparaged by several federal courts.

But when you look closely at the complaints against him, they have nothing to do with his being a copyright attorney except for the number of infringement cases he has filed. Instead, the violations have been for not showing up in court, not following court orders, and lying to judges. All of these infractions would get any attorney in trouble, especially if they are repeated and rampant.

Attorneys must abide by ethical rules. While they differ slightly by court, they are encompassed in the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Some of the Rules are imperatives, cast in the terms “shall” or “shall not.” These define proper conduct for purposes of professional discipline. Others, generally cast in the term “may,” are permissive and define areas under the Rules in which the lawyer has discretion to exercise professional judgment.   

For example, at the state level, the California Rules of Professional Conduct regulate professional conduct of attorneys licensed by the California State Bar through discipline. Unethical conduct is investigated by the California State Bar’s Office of Chief Trial Counsel. Complaints against attorneys come from many sources, including clients, court officers, insurance companies and other attorneys.   

The rules are similar at the federal level, such as these Guidelines for the Northern District Court of California. Every time an attorney is admitted to appear before a court, the attorney must agree to abide by these kinds of rules.

In sum, it doesn’t matter what area of law Liebowitz practices in, his conduct in court would get him into trouble. So don’t cast aspersions on all copyright infringement attorneys because of one bad apple.

Author: Carolyn Wright

Carolyn E. Wright, a/k/a the Photo Attorney®, is a recently-retired attorney whose practice was aimed squarely at the legal needs of photographers.