Daniel Morel vs. Agence France Presse and Getty Images – Trial and DMCA Claims

Grizzly Growl on Log - Copyright Carolyn E. Wright

As previously reported, the trial of Daniel Morel vs. Agence France Presse and Getty Images started last week at the Thurgood Marshall US Court House, 60 Centre St., Manhattan before Federal District Court Judge Alison Nathan.  Jeremy Nicholl has been providing daily posts from the trial on the EPUK (Editorial Photographers UK & Ireland) website.  Thanks, Jeremy!  Closing arguments were today so a verdict is expected soon.

A ruling earlier in the case is helpful to photographers, especially with respect to Digital Millennium Copyright Act claims where the infringer provides false, removes, or alters copyright management information (see 17 USC 1202 (a) and (b)). The court ruled:

[T]here is other evidence from which a jury could conclude AFP distributed the Photos-at-Issue with false, altered, or removed CMI and did so with the requisite intent. For example, Morel has presented evidence that the Photos-at-Issue were credited to, among others, “DANIEL MOREL/AFP/Getty Images,” “Lisandro Suero/AFP/Getty Images,” “Daniel Morel/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images,” and “AFP/Getty Images/Daniel Morel.” Morel contends that distributing the Photos-at-Issue with these credits also violated the above provisions of the DMCA because including “AFP” and “Getty” in the caption likewise provides false and altered CMI about the ownership of the Photos-at-Issue. See 17 U.S.C. §1202(c)(3). Although AFP has presented declarations suggesting that these captions are not “intended to provide any information about copyright ownership,” there is evidence that the caption does, in fact, convey information about copyright ownership. In fact, Judge Pauley has already held in ruling on the motion to dismiss in this case that “Morel’s allegations that AFP labeled his photos with the credit lines ‘AFP/Getty/Daniel Morel’ and ‘AFP/Getty/Lisandro Suero’ are sufficient to plead falsification of CMI.” Agence Fr. Presse, 769 F. Supp. 2d at 304. Moreover, the evidence also suggests that AFP and Getty added their watermarks to at least some of the Photos-at-Issue, which is facially suggestive of ownership. [Citations omitted].

We’ll see how the jury decides this. Congrats to Daniel Morel for fighting for his rights!


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