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The High Cost of Suing for Copyright Infringements



If you’re wondering why copyright infringement is so widespread on the Web and why wealthy artists like Richard Prince can test the boundaries of copyright law without much worry, consider this: by the time photographer Daniel Morel won $1.2 million in 2013 after a 5-year copyright battle, his law firm had racked up a staggering $2.5 million in legal fees and costs — most of which won’t be paid.

PDN has published an eye-opening look into the financial figures involved in this case, and the takeaway is concerning for photographers.

Daniel Morel won $1.2 million after Getty Images and AFP distributed his Twitter photos to international newspapers without his permission.

Basically, a federal court has denied a motion by the photographer and his lawyers to recover the $2.5 million from Getty Images and AFP, so now the law firm will have to write off the huge amount as a loss.

The firm does get 15% of what Morel was awarded and fees owed by Morel, but that $180,000 and $164,583 (respectively) pale in comparison to what they’re owed for 3,829 hours of work and other costs.

David Walker of PDN writes that the court’s decision in this case “underscores the high costs—and disincentive—of pursuing copyright infringers.” Joseph Baio, one of Morel’s attorneys in the case, agrees, telling PDN that: “‘The law is structured so there’s little incentive’ for attorneys to take on a copyright case even if it appears to be ‘a drop-dead winner.’”


Image credits: Header photograph by Mike Poresky