Am Law Litigation Daily – Litigator of the Week – 2013

The December 2, 2013 edition of The Am Law Litigation Daily profiled Willkie partner Joseph Baio as “Litigator of the Week” for his lead role in obtaining a landmark verdict for client Daniel Morel, a photojournalist, in a high-profile copyright infringement case involving photos posted on social media.

On November 22, a jury returned a verdict of willful copyright infringement against the two digital media giants, Agence France Presse (AFP) and Getty Images, in the trial concerning the media giants' distribution and sale of the iconic images taken by Mr. Morel in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. It is believed that this is the first time these defendants, or any other major digital licensors, have been found liable for the willful violation of a photojournalist's copyrights in his own works.

Am Law extols the case as “a cause celebre among photojournalists worldwide, who viewed it as a test case delineating the extent of copyright protection for images carried by social networks.” The profile discusses Mr. Baio’s “persuasive message,” characterizing the lawsuit as a “David-versus-Goliath struggle.”

Am Law ‎highlights: “Many photojournalists saw the verdict as a triumph. ‘This ruling is important because far too often we find that photographers don't have the power to stand up to those that infringe with impunity,’ the National Press Photographers Association general counsel Mickey Osterreicher told The New York Times.”

‎The jury awarded the maximum statutory damages that the court allowed for copyright infringement for eight photographs -- $1.2 million. Am Law points out that it was “Baio’s job to demonstrate to a jury that the infringement was willful, as opposed to an innocent mistake, or something in between.”

The case was handled by Mr. Baio and associates Emma J. James, Teri Seigal and Maureen Kellett, and legal assistant Monica Jones.