During a Christmas week in which the news cycle was Omicron, Omicron, masks don’t work, vaccine mandates, Let’s Go Brandon, and Omicron, two Antifa “journalists” and their intrepid attorney made the wise decision to quietly dismiss a baseless copyright infringement lawsuit they’d filed against Andy Ngo 15 days earlier. While the suit’s filing was gleefully covered by The Intercept, The Daily Beast, and The Daily Dot, strangely, its dismissal only warranted updates by the same after one of Ngo’s attorneys, Harmeet Dhillon, tweeted about it.
Plaintiffs Grace Morgan and Melissa Lewis alleged that they were photojournalists covering Antifa events in Portland and that while they were putting their lives and health on the line Ngo was able to “sit behind a computer and steal [their] work” by utilizing a function where Twitter users can embed another user’s video in their tweet. While Ngo didn’t earn money from tweeting their videos, the duo claim he profited by the exposure.
In the instances in which Ngo tweeted Morgan or Lewis’s videos, his tweets contained the complete original video (so not edited to distort what was occurring), the name of the user who originally uploaded the video (which might or might not have been the person who actually shot the video), and a link to that user’s Twitter account.
As these screenshots show (archived version here), the accounts from which the videos were originally tweeted are clearly attributed.
In reality, Lewis and Morgan simply didn’t like that Ngo was tweeting their videos because Ngo isn’t down with the Antifa cause and his followers aren’t either, and they wanted to bully him by using the legal system. When Ngo would tweet their videos, they claim they were harassed by his followers, so they blocked him, believing that would prevent him from being able to embed their videos in his tweets. It didn’t, because one can simply log out and view a Twitter profile as long as it’s a public profile and copy the link to the video in the manner provided by Twitter.
And while the pair claim that quote-tweeting videos (versus embedding them in a new tweet) isn’t copyright infringement, what practical difference does that make? Either way, their name and a link to their Twitter account is shown on Ngo’s tweet, making it just as easy for Ngo’s followers or anyone else to send hate tweets to them in response.
Here’s what one of their attorneys said to The Intercept:
Larry Zerner, a Los Angeles copyright lawyer who is the lead counsel for Morgan and Lewis, told me in a phone interview that what Ngo had done, by reporting on the October 1 protest using his clients’ video to illustrate his tweets, was no different than one television network illegally using a rival network’s video in a news report, without permission or payment. “ABC can’t just take NBC’s video and say, ‘This is the news,’” Zerner said.
Using Zerner’s logic, anyone who uses the embed function on a Twitter video or hits “quote tweet” on a video so they can add their own commentary is illegally using someone else’s “journalism.”
The lawsuit contains more of Zerner and co-counsel Alan Lloyd Kessler’s jurisprudential brilliance.
Defendant has repeatedly taken the videos posted by Plaintiffs and reposted them on the internet without Plaintiffs permission or consent in violation of their exclusive copyrights.
Defendant has made a practice of illegally copying and uploading Plaintiffs’ videos onto his own Twitter account (“@MrAndyNgo”).
When he uploads Plaintiffs’ videos to his own Twitter account, Defendant includes a credit for Plaintiffs.
On October 2, 2021, Defendant illegally copied and posted the Morgan Video on his own Twitter feed.
“Illegally copying and uploading”? Ngo copied and pasted a URL into a tweet. That’s literally it. It’s also incredible that an attorney could type the words “Defendant includes a credit for Plaintiffs” in a Complaint and then sign that complaint knowing that no Twitter user anywhere has the technical ability to include or exclude such a credit.
The lawsuit continues:
As a result of this harassment, Plaintiffs have both blocked Defendant from following them on Twitter so he would be unable to see their Twitter posts and videos.
Despite the fact that Plaintiffs have blocked Defendant from following them on their Twitter accounts, Defendant continues to upload and post Plaintiffs’ videos on his Twitter account.
It is important to note that Defendant is not “retweeting” Plaintiffs tweets. Because Defendant is blocked from viewing Plaintiffs’ tweets, he is not able to “retweet” Plaintiffs’ videos. Defendant must be using one or more alternate Twitter accounts to obtain the raw video URL from Plaintiffs’ posted videos, then deliberately copying the video URL from Plaintiffs’ videos into his own tweets.
If that’s the standard — that if one blocks another Twitter user they believe is harassing them or whose retweets lead to harassment, that Twitter user is prohibited from copying a URL from the blocker’s account, pasting it into a new tweet, and hitting send, then I’ve got numerous people to sue.
And as far as the “harassment” they allegedly receive from Ngo’s followers, if they’re actually “journalists,” they’d understand that being subjected to “mean tweets” goes with the territory. One element of the harassment they claim they’ve received is being referred to as Antifa journalists, yet in the lawsuit itself they are each referred to as “antifascists” and “journalists.” So they admit/claim right there that they are Antifa journalists.
But are they really journalists? A colleague of Ngo’s at The Post-Millennial looked into the Plaintiffs’ backgrounds and found multiple instances in which they have been active protesters/rioters and calling for violence.
Lewis considers herself “a fighter” who takes active part in the protests-turned-riots. “Hey y’all, in interest of making protests more accessible can we please stop using strobe lights? As a fighter with epilepsy it makes it dangerous for me to take part. Photosensitivity affects many,” Lewis tweeted in June 2020 during Portland’s consecutive summer riots, adding “#ableism” and “#accessibility” hashtags.
Lewis also “instructed Antifa rioters during a declared unlawful assembly overnight on June 19, 2020, to head to the targeted Multnomah County Justice Center in downtown Portland, cheering ‘more bodies = more revolution!'” Then in August 2020 she tweeted a picture of a rioter with a Molotov cocktail in-hand, ready to launch, saying, “Sometimes good isn’t nice.”
In addition, Lewis is proudly linked to Portland Antifa leader Luis Marquez, who was sued by Ngo in June 2020 and has made numerous death threats against Ngo.
“I am going to chop the dude’s skull up and use it as a teacup,” Marquez, who has an extensive criminal history in Portland, threatened Ngo on an Antifa podcast last year. “I am going to feed people the body of Andy,” he continued the cannibalism fantasy.
On August 11, 2021, Lewis tweeted a selfie with Marquez captioned, “Look out fascists, two of your most hated antifascists are joining forces. Tremble. No fash in Portland for 8/22.”
She also openly advocated for people who might have footage of an Antifa member shooting a “right-wing activist” at the Washington state capitol during a September 4, 2021 medical freedom protest to “never release it” because the shooter might then be subjected to “doxxing and retaliation.” That doesn’t sound very journalistic.
The other Plaintiff, Grace Morgan, has admitted to escaping from police custody and distributing riot gear. In an October 2020 tweet that’s since been deleted, Morgan wrote:
“10 ballistic vests going out to BIPOC [black, indigenous, people of color] press in the next few days from the #PDXVestFund. 70 have been distributed to frontliners & medics, 120 more are still in transit. I’m not an organizer for this – just helping distribute this batch (which is spoken for).”
She’s also actively collected license plate numbers of those participating in “right-wing” rallies and given them to “the Pacific Northwest Youth Liberation Front (PNW YLF), a leading Antifa group that organizes, incites, and carries out violence in the Portland area,” according to The Post-Millennial.
Kessler, one of the attorneys in the case, is also a self-described activist who’s written negatively about Ngo.
Given who the Plaintiffs and the attorneys are, it’s clear that the lawsuit was always meant to be a nuisance and not a serious legal effort. It seems that sometime before December 21 there was a phone call between Zerner and Ngo’s legal team and whatever was said led to the Plaintiffs dismissing the suit. Oregon Live reported on Thursday, December 23:
A federal lawsuit alleging that an outspoken critic of Portland protests violated copyright law by sharing videos online has proven short-lived.
Lewis and Morgan on Tuesday voluntarily withdrew the Dec. 8 lawsuit.
Larry Zerner, the photographers’ Los Angeles-based copyright lawyer, said the possibility of refiling the litigation was “still being discussed” but confirmed the lawsuit has been dropped for now.
Harmeet K. Dhillon, an attorney for Ngo, called the suit “frivolous” and cheered the speedy decision, which she claimed in a tweet “was quietly dismissed after an honest discussion amongst counsel.”
Curiously, Kessler wasn’t mentioned in the article.
(DISCLAIMER: Harmeet Dhillon and the Dhillon Law Firm represented RedState Managing Editor Jennifer Van Laar in a lawsuit filed by former Rep. Katie Hill.)