Judge denies appeal in $1.4M textbook case

December 10, 2016 GMT

A federal District Court judge in Massachusetts has denied a Cerrillos resident’s appeal to throw out a default judgment in a lawsuit accusing him of copyright and trademark infringement and trademark counterfeiting in the online purchase and resell of books.

As a result, defendant Eric Hunting has to pay at least $1.4 million, not including possible interest. But Hunting said he is broke and cannot pay.

“I have no money, so there is nothing I can offer them,” Hunting said Monday.

District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr., in a Nov. 28 ruling, said Hunting’s arguments for appealing the judgment — including having a disability, no legal representation and no financial means to appear in court in Massachusetts — did not constitute “a showing of extraordinary circumstances justifying the requested relief.”

O’Toole also said that Hunting made no effort to defend himself or show up in court in Boston to argue his case.

Hunting buys textbooks online for various wholesalers around the country. These wholesalers send him lists of desired books, and he buys as many as he can in quantity.

Last year, the publishing giants Cengage Learning, McGraw-Hill and Pearson Education filed a lawsuit charging Hunting with breaking copyright and counterfeiting laws. The suit said Hunting and an employee have bought books, including fakes, at the lowest price possible and resold them for a substantial profit, cutting into the income of the textbook authors and publishers.

The District Court earlier this year ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, leading Hunting to ask for relief from that judgment on the grounds that he could not travel and defend himself because of his finances and his health. Hunting suffers from a respiratory disease and chemical sensitivity, which leads him to work mostly from his home and limits his mobility, he said.

Hunting denied most of the original charges, though he said some books he bought from a source in Colorado were found to be counterfeits. He said it is nearly impossible to tell a pirated book from a real one. He said the big publishers have been working to push out small businesses like his to get rid of competition.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Matt Oppenheim, an attorney for the publishers, said, “Nowhere in Mr. Hunting’s accusations against the publishers does he deny that he is responsible for buying and selling counterfeit books, nor can he deny it. He violated the law and a federal court has held him responsible. He needs to comport himself with the law going forward.”

Hunting said he started an online fundraising campaign on www.gofundme.com with the goal of netting $80,000 for legal help, but that effort only brought in about $1,000.

He said he is not sure if he can file a countersuit against the publishers or how he would finance such an action.

“I really don’t know what else to do,” he said.

Contact Robert Nott at 505-986-3021 or rnott@sfnewmexican.com.