A jury has awarded photographer Daniel Morel $1.2 million in damages after deciding that Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Getty Images willfully violated his copyright. The award is the maximum amount of statutory damages possible under the law. AFP and Getty Images were also found liable for 16 violations of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. The verdict was read in Federal Court in Manhattan this afternoon, Morel’s attorney, Joseph Baio confirmed.
Throughout the trial, which began on November 13, attorneys for Getty Images and AFP had argued that the distribution of Morel’s images was not willful infringement but the result of mistakes. Lawyers for AFP and Getty Images had suggested an award of $275,000. That amount was based on a photographer’s day rate of $275 multiplied by 1,000, attorney Joseph Baio told Rangefinder’s Lindsay Comstock.
The case began in 2010 when Morel alerted AFP and Getty Images that they were distributing his exclusive images of the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti without his permission; Morel received no payment for the use of his images. A Federal Court judge ruled in January that AFP, which originally distributed his images, had infringed his copyright. The jury trial that was to determine whether or not the infringement was willful, and what statutory damages should be awarded to Morel.
Lindsay Comstock at Rangefinder reports that Morel’s lawyer described the photographer as “delighted” with the verdict, while the defense was “dumbfounded.”