David 1, Goliath 0   In a David and Goliath battle, Getty Images and Agence France Presse (AFP) have …



David 1, Goliath 0  

In a David and Goliath battle, Getty Images and Agence France Presse (AFP) have been hit with US$1.2 million in damages and a US$400,000 fine for unauthorised use of freelance photographer Daniel Morel’s images of victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.  

The long-running case is among the first to address whether images that individuals publish on social media sites can be used by a third party for commercial purposes.  

‘I hope the internet is going to be a little safer now for all artists, all photographers,’ Daniel Morel told US pro photography website PDN the day after the jury reached its verdict.  

Morel also said he took personal satisfaction in defeating the teams of lawyers from AFP and Getty that he has been fighting for nearly four years. Those lawyers stooped to impugning Mr Morel as   both greedy and incompetent in their attempts to gloss over their client’s ethically dubious behaviour.

‘That was the most beautiful moment of my life, the look in their faces when they lost. They were so arrogant,’ he said. ‘Those guys [AFP and Getty] knew I was small, and thought there was no way I could sue them, and they took advantage of me. They thought they were untouchable.’

AFP actually filed a lawsuit in 2010 against Morel, seeking a declaration that it had not infringed on his copyrights, after Morel accused it of improper use.  

‘We believe that this is the first time that these defendants or any other major digital licensor of photography have been found liable for wilful violations of the Copyright Act,’ Daniel Morel’s lawyer said in an email quoted by news agency Reuters.

US District Judge Alison Nathan, who presided over the trial, also fined Getty and AFP US$400,000 for 16 counts of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Mr Morel posted his images on Twitter – at high resolution. An editor at AFP discovered Morel’s photos through another Twitter user’s account (the other user had stolen them from Morel) and provided them to Getty. Neither AFP nor Getty attempted to establish who owned copyright, and ignored Mr Morel’s entreaties. The photos were then widely disseminated to Getty’s clients, including several television networks and The Washington Post. They were effectively receiving and on-selling stolen goods.

The US$1.2 million penalty was the maximum available under the Copyright Act, indicating the judge had little sympathy for the defences’ claim that it was all a big misunderstanding. AFP had asked for the award to be set at just US$120,000.

Joshua Kaufman, a lawyer for AFP, blamed the infringement on an innocent mistake and said the Twitter user who posted Morel’s photos without attribution bore responsibility for the error. The AFP editor, Kaufman said, believed the pictures were posted for public distribution.

Prior to the ‘it was all an innocent mistake’ defence, AFP had argued that Twitter’s terms of service permitted the use of the photos. Judge Nathan found in January that the company’s policies allowed posting and re-tweeting of images, but did not grant the right to use them commercially.

‘The internet is our last lifeline to show the world our work,’ Mr Morel told PDN. ‘These people [agencies] are abusing us by selling our work for nothing. The day after the earthquake they were selling my pictures for $4, for $9, and they were saying the pictures were worth nothing. These people really are the enemies of photography.’  //


Same sex weddings same same

Wedding photographers in the US state of New Mexico are  legally bound  to provide same-sex couples wedding photo services when requested to, the state’s highest court has ruled.

The ruling upheld three previous discrimination rulings against Elane Photography of Albuquerque. The studio’s owner, Elane Huguenin, was held liable for discrimination in 2008 by the New Mexico Human Rights Commission (NMHRC) for refusing to photograph the commitment ceremony of plaintiff Vanessa Willock. Huguenin first appealed the ruling first to a New Mexico District Court, and then to the New Mexico Court of Appeals. Both courts upheld the NMHRC ruling.  //



Too easy: One pic per page – you choose whether it’s bordered or full frame. (Source: Flickr)

One for the books from Flickr

Flickr has entered the photo book market with a ‘solution’ which might just be the real start (after many a false one) of photo books as a mass market product. And it’s a real solution, because it responds to the problems people have with photo books.  

The photo book software developers from inside the industry have been knocking themselves out for at least five years, futilely trying to simplify a process which is never going to be simple. More than half the photo book projects started are abandoned, mainly because it’s al too hard and time-consuming. Instead of going down this path, Flickr has simply eliminated the complicated bits of the process on behalf of the customer.

What you get is one picture per page. You decide the sequence of pictures, crop the picture to your satisfaction and decide whether it should be full-bleed or bordered. Choose the cover colour. Choose the number of pages. That’s it. No fussing over layouts, no captioning. No reason to abandon the photo book project and (maybe, maybe not) come back to it some other time. No frustration in finding your way around what is essentially something a professional graphic designer would be more at home with. It’s a no-brainer.

While simple photo books have been available from photo retailing outlets, they have typically been small, cheap ‘brag book’style products. Flickr has kept the simplicity but upped production values. A hardcover, 20-page 11×8.5-inch photo book with a dust-jacket is offered at US$39.95, with extra pages just 50 cents/page. The photo book is printed on lustre paper, but there’s no indication of what technology or printing media is being used. Most these days are being produced using Indigo digital presses.

If Flickr has success with this new service, it should have a a positive impact across the board. The photo industry has failed to get photo books ‘across the chasm’ into Mass Market-land. Flickr might be the vehicle to make that crossing

Whether people realise it or not, they need hard copies of the less ephemeral parts of their image collection. Pics of the kids, that last shot of grandma before she died. That sort of thing. Otherwise they remain an illusion made up of long strings of 0s and 1s.

If tattoos were temporary and digital images were permanent, today’s younger generations would   have less to regret when they are not so young any more.

Photo retailers need to follow the Flickr lead with a super-simple but nonetheless high-quality solution on their kiosks and online software, as well as the more complex options for advanced or enthusiast users. But simplicity will open up the mass market, as Flickr has clearly recognised.        

Flickr already has a partnership arrangement with Snapfish for print services, but this new service seems separate to that.

‘No cramped formats, no awkward descriptions, no spoiled memories!’ – as Flickr pitches it.

Flickr offers subscribers one free terabyte of space to store photos in full resolution.  //

> Keith Shipton  |  www.photocounter.com.au