The case so far
Briefly summarizing the case so far, photographer Daniel Morel posted some photographs on Twitter. Agence France Presse (“AFP”) copied eight of those photos, and provided them to Getty Images (US), Inc. (“Getty”), which then distributed the works to various infringing third parties. Getty continued to distribute the photographs, despite receiving a “kill notice” from AFP on the photos, and in 2010 Morel brought suit against AFP and Getty (as well as other news agencies). On motion for summary judgment, the court held the defendants liable for copyright infringement. Agence France Presse v. Morel, 2013 WL 146035 at *58 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 14, 2013). After appeal, the case reverted back to the District Court, and a federal jury ruled that AFP and Getty were liable for, and thus ordered to pay Morel, statutory damages in the amount of $150,000 per photo, for a total of $1.2 million, the maximum statutory penalty available to Morel under the Copyright Act. Agence France Presse v. Morel, Civil No. 10-02730 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 22, 2013).
Since the federal jury’s award, AFP and Getty moved for judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial, disputing the jury’s finding that their infringement was “willful,” which significantly increased the amount of damages available to Morel under the Copyright Act. On August 13, 2014, the District Court denied the motion, holding that the evidence on the record did not show a “seriously erroneous” verdict or a “miscarriage of justice” by the jury, and thus upholding the verdict and the (large) award.
As we have stated before, this case illustrates the potential harshness of federal penalties for copyright infringement. It also serves as an example of the potential liability a company can face under the Copyright Act, despite attempts to alleviate infringement through corrective action after the fact.
Read the District Court’s most recent opinion.
Justin Haddock (email@example.com / +1 512 536 3024) is a lawyer in Norton Rose Fulbright’s Austin intellectual property practice.