Photojournalist gets $1.2 million in damages for images cribbed from Twitter

Photojournalist gets $1.2 million in damages for images cribbed from Twitter: A jury awarded photojournalist Daniel Morel $1.2 million on Friday afternoon, to be paid by defendants Agence France-Presse and Getty Images for infringing on Morel’s copyright.

Back in 2010, when a violent earthquake hit Haiti, Morel was one of the few photojournalists on the ground at the time of the disaster. He posted his images to Twitter, explaining that the images were available for purchase. However, a resident of the Dominican Republic named Lisandro Suero claimed the photos as his own and sold them to AFP. AFP licenses some of its photos to Getty Images, which made the photos available to its clients, including the Washington Post. When Morel discovered that his copyright had been violated, the two news agencies issued kill notices for the images, but not all of the photos came down, in part because some were still listed under the name “Lisandro Suero.”

When Morel hired a lawyer and began handing out notices of copyright violation, the AFP launched a preemptive lawsuit arguing that Twitter’s Terms of Service say that the company could actually take pictures from Twitter for free (that, of course, is not the case, as Twitter has taken a “you own your content” approach to social media).

In January, US District Judge Alison Nathan ruled that AFP and Getty Images did infringe Morel’s copyright. Now, almost a year later, a jury has decided the damages for the case, and they’re hefty. Morel’s award is actually the maximum that the jury could have awarded the photojournalist: a day rate of $275 times 1,000 for copyright infringement (coming to that total of $1.2 million), plus $400,000 for 16 violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act on 8 different photos. The jury found that “the corporations acted willfully in violating the copyright act and that they were not innocent in their actions,” wrote Photoforward.