Photographer wins $1.2 million from companies that took pictures off Twitter

Fri Nov 22, 2013 5:39pm EST
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By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal jury on Friday ordered two media companies to pay $1.2 million to a freelance photojournalist for their unauthorized use of photographs he posted to Twitter.

The jury found that Agence France-Presse and Getty Images willfully violated the Copyright Act when they used photos Daniel Morel took in his native Haiti after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people, Morel's lawyer, Joseph Baio, said.

The case is one of the first to address how images that individuals make available to the public through social media can be used by third parties for commercial purposes.

"We believe that this is the first time that these defendants or any other major digital licensor of photography have been found liable for willful violations of the Copyright Act," Baio said in an email.

Lawyers for AFP and Getty did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan, who presided over the trial, had ruled in January that the two companies were liable for infringement.

An editor at AFP discovered Morel's photos through another Twitter user's account and provided them to Getty. The photos were then widely disseminated to Getty's clients, including several television networks and the Washington Post.

The trial was held solely to determine the amount of damages for Morel, based on whether the jury found that AFP and Getty willfully infringed on Morel's copyrights.   Continued...