January 4, 2022—A federal judge in Alabama has awarded CCO a nearly $1 million judgment for copyright infringement, as well as a permanent injunction against the two defendants involved in the misconduct.
On December 13, 2021, U.S. District Judge Terry F. Moorer of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, entered a judgment against Donald Childers (“Childers”) and his company, Alabama-based Nationwide Equipment Training, LLC (“Nationwide”), in favor of CCO. (The defendant is not related to Nationwide Crane Training, based in Nevada.) The court found the defendants liable for “willful” copyright infringement of certain CCO written examinations, resulting in statutory damages against the defendants, plus attorney’s fees. In addition, Judge Moorer issued a permanent injunction which, among other things, prohibits defendants from training any candidates for CCO exams.
“We are pleased with the Court’s decision,” said Thom Sicklesteel, Chief Executive Officer for CCO. “This decision strengthens our certificants’ confidence in the validity of our examinations and in their CCO certifications. The result also reinforces the value of our commitment to provide fair, valid, and reliable assessments to increase the safety of load handling equipment operations.”
Pattern of Willful Misconduct
The Court found that Childers and Nationwide engaged in a pattern of misconduct over a period of many years. Childers was found to have misappropriated the content of CCO’s secure exams through his direct acts, enlisted others to assist him, and persisted with such conduct, despite the fact that the Court twice held him in contempt. Based on these actions, the Court determined that Childers’ “conduct has been willful,” meaning that he acted with actual knowledge that his conduct infringed on CCO’s copyrights.
Because the copyright infringement was determined to be willful, the court exercised its discretion to increase the award of statutory damages, for a total of $975,000 in damages, plus attorneys’ fees.
In addition to awarding monetary damages, the court issued a permanent injunction against Childers and Nationwide, citing a pattern of willful misconduct and disrespect for the orders of the court. Among other things, the permanent injunction precludes the defendants or anyone acting on their behalf from “training, teaching, preparing, or otherwise assisting any candidate seeking certification through any CCO certification program.” The injunction also precludes defendants from “coming within 1,000 feet of any CCO written or practical exam administration at any time.”
CCO’s lawsuit against Childers and Nationwide was filed on September 30, 2020. The defendants responded to the original complaint, which cited numerous violations of federal copyright law. However, defendants failed to respond to an amended complaint with additional claims, and otherwise failed to respond to court orders in the case, eventually resulting in the entry of default judgments against them.
CCO Protects Its Intellectual Property
“The enforcement of intellectual property rights is an essential tool for ensuring the continued reliability of CCO’s examinations,” said John Zarian, General Counsel for CCO. “CCO works hard to ensure that its examinations properly assess and measure an operator’s knowledge. The magnitude of this judgment underscores the seriousness of copyright infringement and sends a clear message that courts will enforce the law. CCO will continue to vigorously protect its intellectual property from any infringement.”
For more information about copyright infringement and how to avoid it, see the NCCCO News article in the December 2021issue of American Cranes & Transport entitled “Protecting CCO Exams.”