Jury rules against AFP/Getty, awards photographer $1.22M for Haiti photos


posted Monday, November 25, 2013 at 1:07 PM EST


When the devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, photographer Daniel Morel was one of the first on the scene, uploading his images to Twitter of the destruction. However, the images were picked up by Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Getty Images, and then distributed and licensed without his permission. Morel's long running legal suit against the two agencies has just been resolved, with a jury awarding him $1,220,000 in damages, the maximum amount allowed for the eight infringing photographs.

After Morel posted the images, they were reposted on Twitter by another user claiming the work as his own, before AFP and Getty took hold of them. From there, they were used by the Washington Post, CBS, ABC and CNN, and others, who settled with the photographer out of court.

A judge ruled in January of this year that AFP and Getty were liable and had willfully violated the Copyright Act, this trial was to determine the amount owed. AFP had requested the amount be $120,000, but instead the jury opted for the maximum amount possible. Morel's counsel released a statement, saying:

"Particularly satisfying to Mr. Morel are the jury's findings that these major agencies violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and willfully violated the Copyright Act when they wrongfully downloaded, misidentified, and licensed his iconic images of the immediate aftermath of the catastrophic 2010 Haiti earthquake. We believe that this is the first time these defendants or any other major digital licensor have been found liable for the willful violation of a photojournalist's copyrights in his own works. Mr. Morel hopes that no other photojournalist who puts himself or herself in harm's way will have to suffer through the same three and a half year ordeal that he experienced at the hands of these defendants."

Getty released a statement saying that it was "disappointed" with the ruling. Originally, after Morel objected ot his images being used in this manner, AFP filed suit against him to seek a judgment that they had not infringed his copyright. The organization claimed that Twitter's Terms of Service allowed them to use his images after they were posted. The judge disagreed.

Morel's work in Haiti won him World Press Photo awards in 2011.

(image by Brian Turner on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons.)