Wednesday, May 07, 2008

They Won't Admit It, But Indy Comes Out On Top

Nearly a full month after I first broke the news here, the Santa Barbara Independent announced yesterday that indeed both parties had signed off on the settlement of the copyright infringement suit that Wendy McCaw's News-Press had brought against it.

Back then I predicted that any statements issued by the parties about the details of the settlement would be "judiciously obtuse." I'm sorry to say that the Indy's statement did not disappoint in that regard.

The Indys' article on the settlement did not claim victory but rather said that the parties agreed to "put away their legal swords."

At a court hearing last October, the judge then assigned to the case, the late Edward Rafeedie, asked the News-Press' attorneys what the damage to their client was as a result of the copyright infringement.

I didn't hear an answer then and we will probably never hear one. One of the terms of the settlement was that the Independent would not challenge the judge's determination that they had indeed infringed the News-Press' copyright and another was that neither side would recover their attorneys fees from the other. If there were other terms and conditions to the settlement, nobody's saying.

Randy Campbell, publisher of the Independent, told Nick Welsh, "the case has been settled to the parties' mutual satisfaction and we've agreed not to comment further."

Well, if both parties are going to bear their own attorney's fees and forgo reimbursement from the other side, I'd say that's a victory for the Independent.

Why? Well, I can tell you with some confidence that McCaw's attorney, Stanton Stein, is probably charging in the neighborhood of $800 an hour. Even assuming that the Indy's attorneys are charging a comparable rate the Indy's legal fees are undoubtedly being covered by their insurance carrier. McCaw's fees are coming directly out of her (or her company's) pocketbook. (After all, insurance only covers you if you're sued. If you decide to sue someone else, you're almost always on your own. ) So as to that aspect of the case I'd say the Indy came out ahead.

Assuming for the sake of argument there was a payment of money by the Indy to the News-Press as compensation for the copyright infringement (and I'm not so sure there was) it was undoubtedly a small sum because otherwise McCaw would probably have insisted on the right to lord her victory over the Independent and would not have agreed to shut up about the fact that she got money out of the Indy in the settlement.

And as was the case with the attorney's fees, any monetary payment the Indy might be required to make is undoubtedly covered by insurance. So I'd give that point to the Indy as well.

So, when all is said and done, the only people who emerged from this with their pockets lined with money are some lawyers from the high rent district in L.A. And the only person whose name you or I might recognize who had to reach into her own pocket to line the lawyer's pockets was McCaw.

That's not much to show for 18 months of copyright litigation. And with both parties agreeing not to comment, Wendy can't even claim bragging rights.

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Local news inventory in Tuesday's News-Press: three local news stories, one column, one rewritten press release (announcing a new executive director at the non-profit support center), one news brief.

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I'm told that although the News-Press laid off 10 people last week, the paper is still hiring for its website

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Nice article in Wednesday's Daily Sound on the life and judicial career of Judge Joe Lodge who passed away on Monday morning.

An article on Judge Lodge also appears in the Daily Nexus. He taught very popular course on criminal justice at UCSB.

The Santa Barbara City Council adjourned in Lodge's memory Tuesday.