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In AFP v Morel Judge Denies Attorney Fees to Morel Trial Lawyers, Grants Lien by Former Lawyer

March 24th, 2015 by and tagged , , , , , ,

******************* UPDATE 03-24-15 ***********

In a surprise decision the trial court judge in the case denied Morel’s application for attorneys’ fees for his trial lawyers but granted the motion by his prior lawyer for her charging lien. “Briefly stated, Morel fought a fair fight and won. The fact that this was a close case on the merits, involving novel legal issues, persuades the Court that the purposes of the Copyright Act are not furthered by awarding fees and costs pursuant to § 505.”  Read decision AFP v Morel – attorneys fees 03-23-15

 

*************** UPDATE 10-05-14 ***************

On October 3, 2014, Morel’s lawyers filed a Memorandum of Law in Support of Daniel Morel’s Motion for an Award of Attorneys Fees and Costs against. Attorney Joseph T. Baio argued that as the prevailing party where the Court had already affirmed the damages that the jury had awarded, Mr. Morel is entitled to more than $2.3 million in fees and another approximately $200 in expenses. Additionally Mr. Morel’s previous attorney, Barbara Hoffman is seeking more than $700K in fees for her part of the case.  orm of a new trial on all issues.”

*************** UPDATE 01-29-14 ***************

On January 24, 2014 Morel’s lawyers filed a Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants’ Motion for a Judgment as a Matter of Law. Attorney Joseph T. Baio argued that the court should stop AFP/Getty’s “continuing four-year war of attrition against Mr. Morel” and  deny their request “to eradicate the jury’s findings across the board, slash the amounts they must pay Mr. Morel, or order a ‘do-over’ in the form of a new trial on all issues.”

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Getty Images and Agency France-Presse have filed documents requesting a landmark copyright infringement verdict rendered against the media giants be overturned.

In the motion challenging the verdict, AFP and Getty’s lawyers claim, among other things, that no reasonable jury could have found that their clients willfully committed infringement.  The motion also disputes the jury’s allocation of actual damages (damages directly traceable to the copyright infringement) claiming the $275,000 was excessive and not supported by sufficient evidence.  AFP and Getty are seeking a reduction in damages or a new trial so the issue can be reheard.

Last November a jury essentially threw the book at Getty and AFP, awarding photographer Daniel Morel $1.22 million in damages on a claim arising from the media groups’ unauthorized use of Morel’s photos of the aftermath of the 2010 Haitian earthquake.

The case arose after Getty and AFP used images Morel posted to Twitter.  The groups falsely credited another user who had reposted the photos and claimed to own them. The damages awarded are the maximum allowed, increasing the impact of a case that had already captured the public’s attention as a test of the law’s treatment of intellectual property shared on social media.

Getty and AFP claimed that Twitter’s terms of service allowed supported their use of Morel’s photographs.  AFP went as far as to file suit against Morel, arguing that he was interfering with their business practices.

In 2011 a federal district court judge dismissed AFP’s claim and ruled that it, as well as Getty, had infringed on Morel’s copyright by publishing the photos without his permission, and the decision was heralded as a major victory for photographers who share content on the Internet. It was then up to a jury to decide the appropriate damages, that determination in part being premised on whether or not the group’s copyright infringement had been “willful”.

 

Posted in AFP, AFP v Morel, Agence France-Presse, Daniel Morel, Digital Millenium Copyright Act, Getty, Getty Images, Lawsuit, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Twitpic, Twitter | No Comments »

Texas Court Upholds the Right to Photograph and Record Police Activity

July 26th, 2014 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

In an important ruling in Texas, a federal judge held that the right to record police activity is a clearly established right protected by the First Amendment.

In a civil rights lawsuit, Antonio Buehler alleged that his constitutional rights were violated when he was arrested by the Austin Police Department multiple times for taking pictures of police activities. Buehler was first arrested when he came upon a police scene at a gas station, where he began recording the arrest because he felt that excessive force was being used. After that arrest, he formed a group called the “Peaceful Streets Project” and began regularly documenting police activity. He was arrested again and again for documenting police activity, according to the lawsuit.

In an effort to get the lawsuit dismissed, the Austin Police Department claimed “qualified immunity” which protects state officials from suit. However, qualified immunity is not available if officials violate a clearly established constitutional right. In their argument, APD claimed that the right to photograph or videotape police officers “is not recognized as a constitutional right”.

In an order released Thursday, the federal judge in the case held that not only is there a constitutional right to document police officers, but that the right is clearly established. Magistrate Judge Mark Lane held that “the First Amendment protects the right to videotape police officers in the performance of their official duties, subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.”

Continuing, the judge wrote:

If a person has the right to assemble in a public place, receive information on a matter of public concern, and make a record of that information for the purpose of disseminating that information, the ability to make photographic or video recording of that information is simply not a new or a revolutionary expansion of a historical right. Instead the photographic or video recording of public information is only a more modern and efficient method of exercising a clearly established right.

Buehler’s attorney, Daphne Silverman told NPPA, “Antonio and I are pleased with Judge Lane’s ruling upholding the First Amendment right to document police conduct. This is a win for the citizens and should be of no concern to honest police officers.”

The NPPA filed an amicus brief in the case last month in support of Buehler’s position, whose case will now go forward.

See also, http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/crime-law/federal-judge-upholds-activist-antonio-buehlers-ri/ngnbp/

Posted in Austin Police, blogging, False Arrest, Federal Court, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Lawsuit, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Recording Police | No Comments »

NPPA files Amicus Brief Supporting Right to Photograph and Record Police in Public

June 2nd, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

The NPPA filed an Amicus Brief today in a federal civil rights lawsuit involving an Austin, Texas man, who says that police violated his constitutional right to photograph and/or film police in a public setting.

In his complaint Antonio Francis Buehler alleged that he was arrested on a number of occasions while recording Austin Police officers performing their official duties in public places. As a result of these incidents Buehler formed the Peaceful Streets Project, a group which routinely videotapes police officers in the city.

Buehler filed suit against the Austin Police Department and several police officers for violations of his civil rights. The defendants in the lawsuit then moved to dismiss the suit, and claimed “qualified immunity,” which protects government officials from being the subjects of lawsuits unless they have violated a clearly established constitutional right.

“The NPPA chose to file an amicus brief so early in this case because of the extraordinary and incredulous claim by the Austin Police Department that ‘the Fifth Circuit does not recognize photographing/videotaping police officers as a constitutional right,'” said NPPA Advocacy Chair Alicia Calzada.

The brief counters the police department’s argument that the “First Amendment right to videotape law enforcement is not a cognizable claim,” as being incorrect as a matter of law and also because it frames the issue far too narrowly.  Rather, the constitutional right to film police officers while on duty has been well established for decades through numerous constitutional decisions that protect the “coextensive” rights of journalists and members of the public to gather information and to hold government officials accountable for their actions, as the First Circuit Court of Appeals held in the 2011 case of Glik v. Cunniffe. In Glik, a citizen was arrested after using his cell phone to photograph Boston police officers he believed were using excessive force in effectuating an arrest. After his charges were dismissed, Glik filed a civil action against the Boston Police Department and won because the First Circuit observed that a citizen’s right to film police officers on duty is a “basic, vital, and well-established liberty protected by the First Amendment.”

Several other cases have affirmed that the right to film police officers while on duty is clear and unambiguous, thus further weakening the Austin Police Department’s dubious claim. Most recently, the First Circuit reaffirmed this principle, denying qualified immunity in a case that involved videotaping police during a traffic stop in the case of Gericke v Begin. The court in Gericke explained that some constitutional principles are self-evident and do not need to have a case directly on point.

The United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has also affirmed this right in  multiple Statements of Interest, explaining that over eighty years of precedent, going back to the 1931 case of Near v. Minnesota, stand for the proposition that “government action intended to prevent the dissemination of information critical of government officials, including police officers, constitutes an invalid prior restraint on the exercise of First Amendment rights.”

The law is also clear that these constitutional protections apply as much to individuals as they do the institutional press, something the NPPA has consistently noted. “NPPA has always fought to uphold the right to photograph and record in public for everyone,” said NPPA Generasl Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher. “While the press may not have any greater right of access than the public, they have no less right either and the last thing we want is for the government to be the arbiter of who is entitled to ‘Free Speech’ or ‘Free Press’ First Amendment protection,” he added.

The amicus brief was drafted pro bono by attorneys Robert Corn-Revere, Ronald London, and Alison B. Schary, with the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine, who have generously supported this and other NPPA efforts to promote and uphold the right to take pictures in public. Corn-Revere, London and Schary were recipients of the 2013 NPPA Kenneth P. McLaughlin Award of Merit for their efforts in support of the First Amendment.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Austin Police, Boston Police, cell phone cameras, Department of Justice, DOJ, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Glik v Cunniffe, law, Lawsuit, Legal, Newsgathering, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Recording, Recording Police, Simon Glik, Texas | No Comments »

Photo Agency Sues Blog for Copyright Infringement

January 7th, 2014 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , ,

Mavrix Photo has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against RollingOut.com and its owner Steed Media Group Inc. for publication of photographs of Beyonce and Kim Kardashian without its permission, consent or license.

The complaint, filed on January 3, 2014 in the United States District Court for the Central District of California Southern Division, alleges among other things that the Defendants “have driven significant traffic to RollingOut.com in large part due to the presence of the sought after and searched-for celebrity images that frame this dispute. All of this traffic translates into substantial illgotten commercial advantage and revenue generation for Defendants as a direct consequence of their infringing actions.” The complaint further alleges that “Defendants’ acts of infringement are willful because, inter alia, the Defendants are sophisticated publishers with full knowledge of the strictures of federal copyright law and the basic requirements for licensing the use of copyrighted content for commercial exploitation.”

According to its website Mavrix Photo was formed in 1996 and “is a Global Celebrity News Photo Agency with an Online Image Database of more than 435,000 images and thousands of video clips.”  Steed Media Group is a print and digital advertising company “prevalent in most urban markets around the country.”

Mavrix is demanding a jury trial and is seeking actual damages and statutory damages for willful infringement of at least $150,000 per photograph.

 

 

Posted in Beyonce, California, copyright, copyright infringement, Kim Kardashian, Lawsuit, photographers, photojournalism | No Comments »

A Tale of Two Cases: How Photographers Are Being Squeezed From All Sides

November 20th, 2013 by Mickey Osterreicher

Today was a picture perfect example of how photographers are being squeezed from all sides. On the front end photographers are being interfered with and arrested on an almost daily basis nationwide for doing nothing more than trying to do their jobs by photographing and recording matters of public concern on city streets.

In one such case a NYC Criminal Court jury acquitted photographer Jason Nicholas today on a misdemeanor count of Obstructing Governmental Administration. Mr. Nicholas was arrested in 2011 for allegedly interfering with NYNJ Port Authority Police while covering a news story. A previous trial resulted in a hung jury but the district attorney chose to re-try him. Afterwards Mr. Nicholas said, “this is a victory for us and a swift and resounding defeat for the police and prosecution!” “Now maybe we can get this to stop on behalf of all journalists,” he added.

On the back end where photographers works are being used globally without their permission, Daniel Morel was sitting in a federal courtroom a few blocks away from Mr. Nicholas. He is pitted against Agence France Press (AFP) (and Getty Images) in a copyright infringement case. Read about this case along with updates here.

Liability for infringement has already been established. The only remaining defendants in the counterclaim case are AFP and Getty Images, as the other defendants have already settled with Mr. Morel.  All that is left for the jury to decide is how much each of them (AFP & Getty) must pay in damages. Click here for a running blog of the six (6) days of testimony.

Attorneys for both sides are expected to make their closing arguments tomorrow morning in the Southern District of New York Courthouse located at 40 Foley Square in New York City. Judge Nathan’s courtroom is on the 5th floor for those of you able to attend.

So on one day within a few blocks of each other I was able to view some of the major challenges facing photographers around the world and also witness how two of them chose to stand up for their rights and by so doing take a stand against those who would violate our constitutional and copyrights.

 

Posted in Access, AFP v Morel, Agence France-Presse, Assault on Photographers, contracts, copyright, copyright infringement, Daniel Morel, False Arrest, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment rights, Getty, Lawsuit, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Recording Police, retaliation for the exercise of First Amendment rights, social networking, Twitpic, Twitter | No Comments »

Photographer Prevails In First Amendment vs Privacy Case

August 5th, 2013 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , ,

A New York City judge has ruled in favor of photographer Arne Svenson, who was being sued by the parents of minor children whose photographs appeared in an exhibit entitled “The Neighbors.”  In May of this year, Martha and Matthew Foster filed a complaint alleging among other things that Mr. Svenson had violated New York State’s Civil Rights Law by using images of their children without permission for commercial and promotional purposes. They had also sought  a preliminary injunction to prevent the dissemination, display and sale of those images.

Mr. Svenson, an artist and photographer, had taken the photos with a telephoto lens from his apartment of residents living across the street and included them in an exhibition at a Chelsea Gallery. That showing led to a number of news articles which in turn brought the issue to the attention of the Plaintiffs.

In dismissing the case, Judge Eileen  A. Rakower, denied the Plaintiffs Order to Show Cause for their failure to establish a likelihood of success on the merits. because she found the photos protected by the First Amendment as an art form and shielded from New York’s Civil Rights Law Sections 50 and 51. “Through the photos, Defendant is communicating his thoughts and ideas to the public,” she wrote adding “they serve more than just an advertising or trade purpose because they promote the enjoyment of art in the form of a displayed exhibition.” “The value of artistic expression outweighs any sale that stems from the published photos,” she wrote.

The judge also found that because “art is protected by the First Amendment, any advertising that is undertaken in connection with promoting that art is permitted.”  She further found that “‘The Neighbors’ exhibition is a legitimate news item because cultural attractions are matters of public and consumer interest” and that  news organizations and broadcasters  “are entitled to use Defendant’s photographs of Plaintiffs, which have a direct relationship to the news items – the photos are the focus of the newsworthy content.”

Noting that it might make parents “cringe to think their private lives and images of their small children can find their way into the public forum of an art exhibition, there is no redress under the current laws of the State of New York.”  She then concluded by stating,  “an individual’s right to privacy under the New York Civil Rights Law sections 50 and 51 yield to an artist’s protections under the First Amendment under the circumstances presented here.”

In a comment regarding the decision, Nancy E. Wolff, who helped  represent Mr. Svenson said, “I have always maintained that photos are entitled to First Amendment protection as expressive works, irrespective of whether they are sold or if they are otherwise commercially exploited”

The Plaintiff was represented by Richard G. Menaker, Esq. of Menaker & Herrmann LLP. The Defendant was represented by Nancy E. Wolff, Esq. and Matthew A. Kaplan, Esq. of Cowan, Debaets, Abrahams & Sheppard, LLP

 

Posted in First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Lawsuit, Photographers' Rights, Privacy, Reasonable Expectation of Privacy, Right of Publicity | No Comments »

AFP and Getty Seek To Limit Damages in Photographer Copyright Suit

May 8th, 2013 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , ,

****** UPDATE 8/8/13

According to reports the Washington Post Company, one of the last remaining defendants in the AFP v Morel copyright infringement case, is close to reaching a settlement agreement with Daniel More, who claims that the publisher used his photos of the 2010 Haiti earthquake without his permission. It also appaears that the other defendants, Agence France-Presse and Getty Images, Inc., cannot reach agreement and are expected to go to trial on Septmeber 16, 2013 in front of U.S. District Court Judge Alison J. Nathan.

 

****** UPDATE  5/22/13

A federal trial court judge limited Mr. Morel’s damage claims against AFP & Getty finding that they are jointly but not individually liable because Getty’s alleged infringement stemmed from that of AFP.  Therefore they should not be held liable to pay separate penalties. This is a clear rejection by Morel that Getty should be held separately liable because it continued to use the photos after AFP’s”kill notice” to take them taken down.

The decision reduces Morel’s damage claims to eight — with a possible award for each one of those claims rather than the multiplier factor Morel had proposed.

“As with individually liable infringers, the statute authorizes a single statutory award per work for all infringements in an action against jointly and severally liable infringers, regardless of temporal or casual breaks in the course of those parties’ infringement of a given work,” said U.S. District (SDNY) Judge Alison Nathan.

Morel’s attorney, Joe Baio, said that while he was disappointed in the ruling, he was please that the court “reaffirmed” the liability of the defendants and that Getty’s continued use of his clients photos despite the kill order may also support willful infringement finding.

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The defendants in the copyright lawsuit brought by photojournalist Daniel Morel are seeking a ruling from the federal trial court judge limiting their damages in the case. Attorneys for Agence France-Presse AFP) and Getty Images Inc. were in court on May 7, 2013, arguing that it is unfair that they should have to pay separate penalties for infringing upon Morel’s copyright by using the photos he had posted from his Twitter account.

Morel alleges that AFP used eight (8) of his aftermath photos from the 2010 Haiti earthquake without permission and then licensed them to Getty.  In response to a declaratory action brought by the defendants, U.S. District (SDNY) Judge Alison Nathan previously found that the terms of service set forth on the social media website did not grant the defendants the rights to such use.

Lawyers for AFP and Getty claim that since they are accused of participating in the infringement together – they should only have to pay a single penalty for each infringed work – where Getty’s alleged infringement came as a result of AFP’s improper use of the photos.

“If AFP and Getty are jointly and severally liable, there can only be one damages award against them under the plain language of the statute,” said James Rosenfeld, one of Getty’s lawyers. Morel’s attorneys countered that because Getty continued to use the photos even after AFP issued a “kill notice” to take them down, that Getty should be liable to pay separate damages. “What did Getty do? They persisted,” said Joseph Baio, adding “the jury should be able to determine if that was a separate act.”

The judge reserved her decision for a later date. The trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 16,  2103 and will resolve the question of damages and other claims and defenses not already decided.

Posted in AFP, Agence France-Presse, copyright, copyright infringement, Daniel Morel, Getty, Lawsuit, photojournalism, Twitter, Washington Post | No Comments »

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