Is AFP Stealing Pictures Again?
Back in May, we reported the case of AFP v. Morel, in which AFP allegedly downloaded and distributed photographer Daniel Morel's exclusive Haitian earthquake photos without permission. After he sought compensation from AFP, the wire service sued him for defending his rights too aggressively.
Now comes another case in which a photographer has accused AFP of stripping his credit off an image (shown here) that happens to show Barack Obama’s Chicago residence, and distributing the photo to third parties without the permission.
Photographer Wayne Cable filed suit against the agency for copyright infringement, Digital Millenium Copyright Act violation, deceptive business practices and other claims. He alleges that a Chicago luxury real estate firm hired him to photograph the interior and exterior views of a certain house, in order to put the images online and entice potential buyers. The Obama residence happened to be next door, so Cable photographed it as part of the exterior view shown here. He provided this and other images to his client with the stipulation that any use of the images—beyond displaying the images to sell the house– had to be approved by Cable. He further stipulated that the photos had to include his credit line, and a hot link to his Web site. The client complied.
AFP found the picture of Obama’s house, allegedly stripped the credit and hot link off of it, and distributed it worldwide as the purported licensor, all without Cable’s permission.
AFP filed a motion to dismiss several of Cable’s claims, including the Digital Millenium Copyright Act claim. The DMCA makes it illegal to remove or alter copyright management information. AFP didn’t dispute that it removed Cable’s name and hot link; they argued instead that from a legal and technical standpoint, Cable’s name and hot link weren't copyright management information as defined by the DMCA.
The judge didn’t buy it, and in a decision handed down last week, he rejected AFP’s arguments for dismissal of Cable’s other claims, too. Cable still has a long legal fight ahead, but the preliminary decision in his favor clears the way for a trial.
Both cases raise questions about AFP's policy regarding the distribution of photos that don't belong to them. But so far, AFP has not responded to a request for comment.