Following on the heels of my entry regarding Leonard v. Stemtech, another American photographer has received another major jury award for copyright infringement. Earlier this year I wrote about AFP v. Morel, a case in which Getty and Associated French Presse (AFP) were found to have used photographer Daniel Morel's photographs of the aftermath of the Haiti earthquakes without permission. Morel originally shared the photos on Twitter, where another photographer found them and attempted to pass them off as his own. Eventually the photos ended up in the hands of Getty and AFP, and the agencies used and licensed the images without Morel's permission. One of AFP's more creative defenses in this case was that Morel's sharing of the images on Twitter had resulted in a broad license allowing AFP to use the images based on Twitter's terms of service. The court rejected that argument at the summary judgment phase.
Although Morel already prevailed on summary judgment as to direct copyright infringement, because he sought elevated statutory damages for willful infringement, a jury was left to resolve the intent of Getty and AFP in using Morel's images.
On November 22, 2013, the jury's verdict was announced. Holding that the infringement was willful, the jury awarded Morel the maximum in statutory damages allowed for the eight infringed images, $150,000 per image, for a total damages award of $1.2 million.
Extensive coverage of the trial is available on EPUK.
I'm not a big fan of statutory damages, but I can't say that I find this decision particularly irritating. What did stand out, however, was the headline. "Big Win for Photographers"? I only see one photographer. Isn't it a bit presumptuous to assume that this decision is considered a "big win" by all photographers?
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