Photo Montage Artist Settles with Mountain Light; Muench Drops Copyright Suit

Mountain Light Photography has accepted a $2,600 settlement offer from Thomas Barbèy, and Muench Photography has withdrawn its infringement claim against the photo montage artist, according to court records in the case.

Muench and Mountain Light filed a joint claim of copyright infringement against the Las Vegas-based artist, alleging unauthorized use of two separate photographs. The case was filed in US District Court in Los Angeles.

Barbèy created an image that he titled “Rhinal Congestion” (it shows multiple rhinos in a snowscape), allegedly using parts of an image owned by Muench called “El Capitan in Winter, Yosemite National Park.” Barbèy was also accused of using a photograph called “Quadruple Falls at Dawn, Glacier National Park,” shot by the late Galen Rowell of Mountain Light Photography, to create a photo montage titled “Pitcher Books.” (Photos here).

Mountain Light accepted Barbèy’s settlement offer of $2,600–including $1,600 in damages and $1,000 for attorney’s fees–along with Barbèy’s promise to stop marketing the “Pitcher Books” image. (Mountain Light had no possibility of winning statutory damages in court because it had not registered the “Quadruple Falls” image prior to the alleged infringement).

Despite offering payment of $1,600 for damages, Barbèy said in court papers that his offer was not to be construed as an admission of liability for infringement, or an admission that Mountain Light had suffered any damages.

Meanwhile, Muench’s attorneys have filed notice with the court that Muench Photography was dismissing its claim against Barbèy.

Attorneys gave no explanation for dismissing the claim, and they were not immediately available for comment. Muench Photographer was also not immediately available for comment.

Barbèy has admitted use of the Muench and Mountain Light Images in comments he has posted to the PDNPulse blog. He said he created the montages “well over a decade ago.”

His attorney told PDN last week that the claims against Barbèy were without merit. The attorney said Barbèy would successfully defend against them on fair use grounds, and by invoking the statute of limitations for copyright claims.

Related story:
Self-Proclaimed Photo Montage Virtuoso Is Sued for Stealing Photos

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3 Responses to “Photo Montage Artist Settles with Mountain Light; Muench Drops Copyright Suit”

  1. Cees Says:

    Thanks for the update PDN.

  2. Marc Muench Says:

    I am surprised by Barbey’s blatant use of Galen’s and my images. If your a published photographer, CHECK HIS SITE to make sure part or all of one or more of your images are not included in his!

  3. Jim Says:

    “Despite offering payment of $1,600 for damages, Barbèy said in court papers that his offer was not to be construed as an admission of liability for infringement, or an admission that Mountain Light had suffered any damages.”

    Of course. Infringers like him are always completely innocent. They just settle out of the goodness of their hearts and to make the “big misunderstanding” go away.

    The reality is, if you have to steal someone else’s art in order to make your own “art”, then you’re no artist at all.