AFP v Morel case to be judged in September

The long-awaited trial by jury in the Agence France-Presse v Daniel Morel copyright case will start in September, BJP has been told

Olivier Laurent 21 March 2013

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Three years after Daniel Morel entered litigation against Agence France-Presse and Getty Images over the unauthorised distribution of some of his images, a trial date has been set.

On 16 September, a jury will be asked to rule on some of the outstanding claims in what could become a landmark case for photographers.

The legal entanglements started in mid-2010 when Agence France-Presse sued freelance photographer Daniel Morel accusing the freelance photographer of engaging in an “antagonistic assertion of rights” when he complained that some of his images of the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake had been used without authorisation.

When the disaster hit, Morel was in Port-au-Prince. According to a counter-claim the photographer filed against AFP, Morel spent most of that day photographing. With the help of a friend, he created a Twitter account in the username PhotoMorel, where he posted, through the Twitpic service, 13 images he had taken. Morel accuses AFP of distributing and selling his images without prior permission, and has countersued, alleging that AFP had violated the Copyright Act of 1976, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Lanham Act. Morel also brought those claims against Getty Images, which has a worldwide distribution deal with AFP, and a range of other media organisations, including The Washington Post, all of which also used Morel’s images without authorisation.

Earlier this year, a judge found that Agence France-Presse had indeed infringed on the photographer’s copyright. Yet, the judge refused to rule on whether the infringement was wilful and whether Getty Images played a role in that infringement, calling for a jury to decide on these facts. If successful, Morel could win up to $1.4m in damages.

That jury will meet for the first time on 16 September. BJP will continue to follow the case closely.