Daniel Morel’s photos from the Haiti earthquake were widely distributed by news agencies after he put them on Twitter. After Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Getty Images realized the photos were being distributed without permission, they tried to put out a “mandatory kill” notice telling members to delete all Morel photos from their databases, but it was too late.
Morel sued for copyright infringement. After a 2013 jury trial, he was awarded $1.2 million, the maximum that was available to him under a damages framework set by the judge. A post-trial order (PDF), published Monday and reported yesterday by legal blogger Venkat Balasubramani, indicates that Morel won’t be able to collect attorneys’ fees. “Morel fought a fair fight and won,” wrote US District Judge Alison Nathan in her order. However, it was a “close case on the merits” and involved “novel legal issues,” so piling on attorneys’ fees wouldn’t be appropriate in this case.
“Academics and practitioners are… coming to terms with the implications of social media and traditional copyright law,” Nathan stated.
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