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Twitter it or Not: Agence France Presse v. Morel Held in Favor of Photographer

Source: BJP online.

How could we have overlooked the first legal victory involving a Haitian photographer and his work taken from Twitter’s Tweet Pics?! We did not, we just forgot to tell you about it. Here it goes.

Earlier this year, Judge Alison Nathan, ruled that Agence France Presse (AFP) and The Washington Post infringed copyright of Daniel Morel, freelance photographer who uploaded his, now iconic, images of the Haiti earthquake onto Twitter via TwitPic (host for photo and video sharing on Twitter). The convoluted story of Morel’s photographs being misattributed and reproduced in the days following the Haiti disaster is fascinating in and of itself. Morel’s quest to punish those who used his work is almost as formidable as the revenge of the Count of Monte Cristo against those who wronged him.

The judgement came down three years after, almost to the day, of the earthquake that created the scenes Morel captured. He happened to be in Haiti on January 12, 2010 and he documented many of the disaster areas. Images were uploaded through TwitPics to Twitter. They were re-Twittered by Lisandro Suero. Agence France Presse, through its employee, Vincent Amalvy, the Director of Photography for North America and South America, found and included Morel’s photographs in its own photostream for distribution to news sources. During the process, Morel’s photographs were attributed to Suero, and licensed to the Getty Images for furthermore distribution. They were picked up and printed by a number of the prominent newspapers, including the Washington Post. On January 13, 2010, Morel’s exclusive distributor Corbis, Inc began the efforts to undo all that happened the day earlier including re-attributing the images and issuing take down requests. On January 14, 2010, AFP issued a “Mandatory Kill” request to remove Morel’s images in light of the unauthorized use of his images. Getty did not remove Morel’s images labeled as by Suero until February, 2010

Agence France Presse preemptively sought a declaratory judgment against Morel that his copyright was not infringed but he was engaged in commercial defamation alleging violation of his rights. Morel counter sued AFP, Getty and The Washington Post.

In a 57 page opinion, the court found in favor of Morel on the claim of direct copyright infringement but refused to grant Morel’s motion for summary judgment on whether AFP, Getty and The Washington Post acted willfully, as well as whether the media companies violated Morel’s rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. To be continued…

Source: Reuters; Agence France Presse v. Morel, 2013 U.S. Dist. Lexis 5636 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 14, 2013).