Mavrix Photo, a Los Angeles and Miami-based celebrity photography agency, is suing the Daily Mail for copyright infringement, alleging that the newspaper has used up to 10 of its images without authorisation.
In court documents seen by BJP, Mavrix says the Daily Mail, with the assistance of its online picture editor, Elliot Wagland, has "a history of copyright piracy conduct. Indeed, the pattern and practice of Defendants is to ignore the demand of photo agencies or photographers to agree to rates before use and to simply take the pictures and use them without compensation or to then offer token compensation."
Mavrix, which "captures and authors certain valuable celebrity images and offers them for license to entities, including [the Daily Mail]" with the mention "Fees must be agreed prior to publication", alleges that "despite prominent warning that under no circumstances could the images be used in print media without agreeing to fees first, and that under all circumstances the images could not be used on the Daily Mail Online website, [the Daily Mail] nonetheless used the images on its online website and/or its hard-copy publication".
Mavrix alleges that the Daily Mail has used images of Pamela Anderson, Robbie Williams, Devon James, Roger Daltrey, Halle Berry, Olivier Martinez and Kate Hudson on several occasions without authorisation. For all its images, Mavrix claims it has registered its copyright.
Mavrix is now requesting a trial by jury and statutory damages equal to $150,000 per infringement as well as attorneys' fees and "any such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and appropriate."
At the centre of the case is the Daily Mail's online picture editor, who, Mavrix alleges, is one of the Daily Mail employees it has dealt with in the past.
It's not the first time that Wagland has been at the center of a copyright infringement case. Last May, the Daily Mail's website published three images shot by Emily James of Just Do It. The images, published on Twitpic, were shot at the St Vincent polling station in Dalston on election day, "where large numbers of people were unable to vote because the high turnout," according James, who raised the issue with BJP.
While her images were used, after authorisation and payment, by other networks and print titles, James claims the Daily Mail failed to contact her before publishing them. So, she says, "we wrote them an invoice. We took the standard rate per picture recommended by the National Union of Journalists, £130, and multiplied it by three for use without our knowledge, consent, or permission."
Upon receiving a £1170 invoice, Wagland answered, according to James, that he couldn't pay "the amount you have requested, these images were taken from Twitpic and therefore placed in the public domain." He added: "We are more than happy to pay for the images but we'll only be paying £40 per image."
After BJP reported on the infringement, the Daily Mail has moved to reaffirm that it was not the newspaper's policy "to breach photographers' copyrights," and that, a spokesman says, it will be "happy to look into individual cases."
However, as recently as last month, the Daily Mail was forced to issue another apology to a photographer after it used his images without authorisation.
In fact, the Daily Mail has even been accused of distributing photographers' images without authorisation, as highlighted by one case BJP reported on in June. In all these cases, the Daily Mail has refused to comment on the record.
BJP's requests for comment on Mavrix's claims have yet to be responded to.
UPDATE: The obvious disregard for copyright from the picture editors at Daily Mail is symptomatic of a wider problem among all Associated Newspapers' current and former titles. Back in 2009, BJP reported on the Evening Standard, which was still under the Associated Newspapers umbrella, syndicating photographers' images without authorisation. Read our full report here.
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