Owners and operators of one of the largest flea markets on the East Coast have been found liable for copyright infringement for their vendors selling illegal copies of CDs and cassettes.

Owners and operators of one of the largest flea markets on the East Coast have been found liable for copyright infringement for their vendors selling illegal copies of CDs and cassettes.

Columbus Farmers Market LLC and Columbus Flea World LLC, operating the Columbus Farmers Market in Burlington County, N.J., repeatedly ignored the RIAA's outreach—and then demands—to stop the widespread sale of pirated product for nearly ten years, the RIAA says. Multiple letters from RIAA officials were sent to the management of the market in recent years. In one of three state and local law enforcement raids, 26 separate vendors were arrested for selling various types of counterfeit merchandise, and more than 14,500 illegal CDs and cassettes were seized.

The RIAA initiated a suit filed by the major record companies in 2003 for secondary copyright infringement—contributing to the direct infringement by the vendors. The federal court in New Jersey granted a summary judgment Friday (March 31) in favor of the labels, while denying a motion for summary judgment against John Ackerman, Charles Pratt, Flea World LLC and Flea World Inc.

Damages, which will be determined at a later date, were limited by the court to no more than the maximum statutory amount for no more than 832 copyrights registered by the labels. The award could range from $500,000 to $125 million, the RIAA says.

“The court has spoken plainly that ignorance is no defense for flea markets which profit by turning a blind eye to piracy,” says RIAA chairman/CEO Mitch Bainwol. “We work hard to offer educational materials and training to flea market owners so that pirated CDs are not sold on the premises. When flea markets become pirate music bazaars, no one wins—those who create and bring music to the public lose out, as do consumers who get an inferior product.”

This ruling follows a similar decision in 2004 by a federal court in California. In that decision, the District Court for the Eastern District of California found that the owner and operator of the Marysville Flea Market was liable for the widespread copyright infringement occurring on market premises.

Attorneys for Columbus Farmers Market and Columbus Flea World could not be immediately reached for comment.