Law Street Media

Photographer Sues for Photos Taken from Social Media

A cameria taking a photograph.

Closeup on modern DSLR camera in hand of modern female interior photographer at home.

Photographer Dennis Morris filed a complaint against Hive Media Group, which does business as “” and “” for copyright infringement. Plaintiff Morris claims that Hive “willfully copied, reproduced, displayed and distributed” his copyrighted photographs in articles on Hive’s websites without his consent.

The photographer accused the defendants of copyright infringement. Morris said defendants accessed these photographs from his website, social media profiles, other websites, or in print. He notes that the “identicality of the copying also shows access.” The defendants allegedly infringed the plaintiff’s copyrights “by creating infringing derivative works from the Subject Photography and publishing same to the public.” As a result of this infringement, the plaintiff claims that defendants unjustly enriched by obtaining profits from said infringement. Morris believed that this infringement was willful and intentional.

Plaintiff Morris claims that defendants vicariously and/or contributorily infringed upon these copyrighted works. Morris alleges that defendants “knowingly induced, participated in, aided and abetted in and profited from the illegal reproduction and distribution of the Subject Photography.” Defendants published these photographs from third parties without obtaining Morris’s consent, when these third-parties were not authorized to allow others to publish works taken from their site. Defendants also published these infringing photographs “on affiliate, third-party, and social media sites; and distributing the Infringing Content to third-parties for further publication.” Plaintiff states that each of the defendants are vicariously liable for this infringement “because they had the right and ability to supervise the infringing conduct and because they had a direct financial interest in the infringing conduct…[each of the defendants] received revenue in connection with the Infringing Content, and were able to supervise the distribution, broadcast, and publication of said content.” Therefore, he states that each of the defendants as a result of their conduct has vicariously and contributorily infringed.

Morris also alleged that defendants removed the copyright management information from his photographs or added false copyright management information to the photographs before they were distributed and published. He states that the photographs were “routinely published with attribution, credit, and other copyright management information identifying Plaintiff as the author.” Morris claims that metadata including his name and other attribution information were removed.

Morris has sought to enjoin defendants to prevent further infringement and to require them to remove content with the infringing photographs; an award for defendants’ profits and plaintiff’s loss; to create a constructive trust for any revenues and proceeds of defendants; an award for cost and fees; an award for statutory and enhanced damages; pre- and post-judgment interest; and other relief as determined by the court.

Photographers have recently sued tech companies large and small for improper use of their content. Suits have been brought against Microsoft and AOL as well as smaller companies. Mashable recently won a case brought by a photographer alleging the site was not allowed to embed her Instagram post.

The suit is filed in the Central District of California. The plaintiff is represented by Doniger / Burroughs.

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