The full case is far from over, but Judge Alison Nathan (Southern District of New York) has reportedly ruled that Agence France-Presse and The Washington Post infringed on the copyrights of photographer Daniel Morel in using pictures he took in Haiti following an earthquake there three years ago and subsequently tweeted.
According to Reuters, Judge Nathan “partially granted Morel’s summary judgment motion but also limited damages he could potentially recover. Several other issues in the case were left to be decided at trial.”
AFP argued that once the pictures had been distributed by Morel via Twitter, they were freely available, but that fact didn’t obviate the need for the news service to obtain permission from Morel to use the photos. AFP reportedly also argued that Twitter’s terms of service granted AFP the right to use the images, but Judge Nathan didn’t buy that argument, either.
Interestingly, it was actually AFP that initiated this lawsuit, seeking an affirmative judgment that it had not violated Morel’s copyrights, after Morel accused AFP of improperly using his images. Morel then countersued AFP, Washington Post and Getty Images (AFP distributed several of the photos to Getty, which is where the Post picked them up, evidently).
Reuters further reports that Judge Nathan declined to rule on Morel’s motion for summary judgment on whether The Post, AFP and Getty acted willfully, as well as whether their conduct violated Morel’s rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; those aspects of the case are to be settled at trial, the date for which has not been set.