“I want to thank Marcia Paul for making me the best paid news photographer in the world,” the Haitian photojournalist Daniel Morel told EPUK less than 24 hours after his successful claim against AFP and Getty Images for the wilful copyright infringement of eight of his photographs of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Making Morel “the best paid news photographer on the planet ever,” was a threat that Paul, a Getty Images defence attorney, had laid before the jury on the trial’s first day at the Thurgood Marshall Court House, Federal Court in New York City.

“The agencies thought they were untouchable”: Haitian photojournalist Daniel Morel with Phyllis Galembo, New York-born photographer and Morel’s staunchest supporter, outside the Thurgood Marshall US Courthouse in New York last week. © Daniel Morel

When the eight-day trial ended on Friday with Getty Images and their co-defendant AFP having to pay Morel $1.2m for wilful infringement of his copyright plus $20,000 for DMCA violations, and to foot a bill of, perhaps, $9m for the whole trial including Morel’s payment, Paul’s threat appeared to have backfired spectacularly.

“We never thought of giving up the four-year fight. We are warrior spirits when it comes to justice and we had a terrific legal team,” said New York photographer Phyllis Galembo, Morel’s friend whose coordinating abilities helped him fight for his rights.

“The worst enemy of photography”

On December 22nd, 2010 photojournalist Daniel Morel posted photographs of the devastation in Haiti on the internet using TwitPic/twitter as the first shocks of the earthquake still rocked the island. “That was a very important moment in my thirty-year career,” said Morel. “I knew I was the only photojournalist there. I was not working for anyone so I took my time to document. Immediately after I posted the images they were downloaded by AFP and Getty Images and wilfully distributed around the world, and yesterday the jury agreed.”

“Getty declared war on photography,” Morel told EPUK. “They are the worst enemy of photography. They sold my exclusive earthquake photographs stolen on the first day for $45, $9,” the photojournalist said. “I was shocked when they presented this evidence in court. They don’t really represent the friends of photographers as they claim.”

Describing the trial in downtown Manhattan, Daniel Morel said, “The court was quite a show. They had to get a bigger courtroom to accommodate the twelve-plus attorneys for AFP and Getty,” said Morel, his voice rising with amazement. “But AFP and Getty underestimated my team, and they underestimated the jury. The agencies thought they were untouchable.”

Morel continued: “When you are fighting a good cause it’s hard to celebrate since you have been fighting for so long. It’s hard to believe it’s over and that the battle has ended.”

US “blackout” made European support important

According to Morel’s staunchest champion, Phyllis Galembo, the media support Morel received from Europe was extremely important. “The BJP, the Russian Photos Blog did extensive coverage of the case since the start in 2010 and EPUK reported daily on the trial,” said Galembo.

However, Galembo said that reporting of the trial in the United States has been very poor. “There appeared to be a blackout by the US media throughout so when the trial began we set up a Facebook page which was our only lifeline to the public,” the photographer said.

As the trial concluded the judge complimented all parties on the professional way their cases were presented. “We all shook hands,” Morel said.  

Daniel Morel now hopes to return to Haiti in December and begin working on two books: one on the 2010 earthquake, the other on the trial itself. He does not want the battle he fought to be forgotten. About Haiti he says things just get worse. “It’s the Haitian’s who must change Haiti,” said Morel. “They make their own problems.”  

At the end of the telephone conversation Daniel Morel said he also wanted to thank his supporters, especially attorneys Joseph Baio, Emma James, Terry Siegal and Barbara Hoffman, the photographer and blogger Jeremy Nicholl, EPUK, the BJP, Dave Walker of PDN and “special thanks to Phyllis Galembo without whom this fight would never have been possible.”

“I would also like to thank the jury for their unanimous decision,” said Morel.

Read EPUK’s daily reports from the eight-day trial in New York: AFP and Getty Images found liable for willful copyright infringement, Haitian photojournalist Daniel Morel wins maximum damages

Read EPUK’s pre-trial review: Agency Reputations at Stake in Historic Copyright Trial

Daniel Morel, Joseph Baio, lead trial counsel to Morel, Robert Clarida, copyright columnist for the New York Law Journal and Robert Roth of the New York Press Photographers Association (NYPPA) will discuss Morel v. Agence France Presse and Getty: How the Case Was Won at the offices of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, Seventh Avenue, New York, starting 6:30pm, Monday December 16th 2013.

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