Press Release – Haitian Photographer Daniel Morel Heads to Trial in New York Federal Court Against Media Giants AFP and Getty Images

The trial of Daniel Morel vs. Agence France Presse and Getty Images is set to begin with jury selection on November 13, 2013 at the Thurgood Marshall US Court House, 60 Centre St., Manhattan before Federal District Court Judge Alison Nathan.

Daniel Morel, the well-known photojournalist, took dramatic, award-winning photographs in Haiti during the first moments following the January 12, 2010 earthquake that devastated his native country.  An AFP editor took many of the photographs off the internet and distributed them through AFP’s “feed” and through Getty Images’ electronic distribution network and website.  The photographs were ascribed to “Lisandro Suero,” who was in the Dominican Republic at the time of the earthquake, and credited to “AFP/Getty Images.”  As a result, Mr. Morel’s misattributed images were sold to AFP and Getty Images customers around the world, frequently appearing on the front pages and websites of major newspapers and other publications.

On January 14, 2013, Judge Nathan found that AFP and Getty Images violated the US Copyright Act and infringed Mr. Morel’s copyright when they took Mr. Morel’s photographs off the internet, misidentified them, added their own names to the credit lines, and licensed them to their world-wide clients — all without getting Mr. Morel’s permission.  The jury in the upcoming trial will decide whether AFP and Getty Images acted “willfully” in their misuse of Mr. Morel’s photographs and in their mistreatment of him in the months following their infringements.  The jury will also set the damages that AFP and Getty Images will have to pay Mr. Morel for their persistent misconduct.

The legal battle started in unusual fashion in 2010.  After Mr. Morel complained to AFP, Getty Images, and their customers that the media companies had licensed the photographs without his permission, AFP sued Mr. Morel for “commercial disparagement,” sought to strip him of any copyright protection in his photographs, and requested compensatory and punitive damages against the photojournalist.  Judge Nathan dismissed the claim that Mr. Morel forfeited his copyright in the photographs by posting them on Twitter.  In a landmark ruling, Judge Nathan held that “Twitter’s terms of service did not give the news agency a license to publish the images without Morel’s permission.”

The trial, which is expected to last a week, is open to the public.

Mr. Morel is represented by Joseph T. Baio (jbaio@willkie.com) and Emma J. James (ejames@willkie.com) of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP.

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