Message to freelancers: sue the Los Angeles Times at your own risk. An arbitrator has awarded the paper $266,000 to cover the costs of defending itself against a suit by the longtime Hollywood editorial photographer. I don't know if that wipes David out, should the Times seek to collect, but the dispute seemed so simple at the time.
The paper liked Strick and gave him a photo column, David Strick’s Hollywood Backlot, and a contract about 2007. The contract was dropped in 2010. He argued that the paper could no longer use certain photos he took under contract [see below for a clarification from Strick.] The Times disagreed. Strick sued in federal court, to the apparent surprise of even the retired judge who acted as arbitrator — the Times won. Now the ruling on costs, reported today by The Wrap:
"Judge Lichtman properly found that the Times was entitled to recover the substantial cost it incurred in defending against Mr. Strick’s meritless lawsuit, and recognized that the conduct of Mr. Strick’s counsel contributed to the high cost of this litigation," Kelli Sager, who represented the paper in the matter, told TheWrap in a statement....
"For reasons which remain inexplicable, claimant (Strick) chose to abandon and distance himself from the controlling licensing agreement as well as the agreed upon dispute resolution mechanisms contained therein," Lichtman wrote in his award decision. "Importantly, Strick did not just abandon the contract; rather, he affirmatively chose to pursue a path that would trigger the very relief that he now wishes to oppose. Strick repeatedly asserted that the claims he wished to pursue and those identified in the District Court action are copyright in nature and as such were not and could not have been intended to be part of the licensing agreement as those terms were written ... Again, the licensing agreement does not provide any restriction as to the nature of the disputes or controversies. Strick was free to pursue his claims of copyright infringement in the arbitration forum; however, he chose not to."
Strick plans to appeal, per The Wrap.
* Update from Strick: He emails to say the dispute is over work he uploaded to the Times' FTP site during the last six months of his contract. His position is the photos and stories only would have been available for use had the Times reupped his deal; the paper had a different view. "Basically, they were trying to get six months of my work for free, which was not my notion of an equitable situation," he writes.
Screen grab: David Strick website