Microsoft has been sued over alleged copyright infringement by photographer Matilde Gattoni, who has accused the corporation of using several of her images for an MSN article without permission or a proper license. The lawsuit was filed on May 19 in the Southern District of New York and seeks damages potentially amounting to $150,000 per image allegedly infringed upon.
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Gattoni’s images are featured in an article titled ‘These are the women leading China’s wine revolution,’ which appears on the Wall Street Journal’s website and on the MSN website, which includes a Washington Post header on the article, indicating that it is a syndicated work. Before both of those posts, the article with the same images was published in December 2018 by SCMP.
The new lawsuit is directed only at Microsoft, which is accused of using the images from that article on its MSN news website without permission or license.
The lawsuit alleges, in part:
Microsoft is not, and has never been, licensed or otherwise authorized to reproduce, publically display, distribute and/or use the Photographs … Upon information and belief, the foregoing acts of infringement by Microsoft have been willful, intentional, and purposeful, in disregard of and indifference to Plaintiff’s rights.
Gattoni’s images are registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. The lawsuit seeks either actual damages, among other things, or statutory damages up to $150,000 per copyrighted image allegedly infringed upon. The MSN article contains a total of 15 of Gattoni’s images, which, assuming Microsoft paid $150,000 for each, would amount to $2,250,000.
The legal document is, at this point in time, quite short with no mention of the Washington Post, the header for which is featured on the MSN article. It’s unclear what license the WaPo received for the article and images, how that license may impact MSN’s use of the content and, ultimately, the viability of the copyright lawsuit.
This isn’t Gattoni’s first copyright lawsuit. As we detailed in 2017, Gattoni had sued the clothing retailer Tibi over its alleged use of her photos without permission or license. In that case, the lawsuit had accused Tibi of cropping one of Gattoni’s Instagram images, which had been published alongside a copyright notice; its copyright registration was still pending in the US at that time, however.
In that case, the judge had ruled that while Gattoni could go after Tibi with a DMCA claim, the copyright infringement claim couldn’t proceed because the copyright registration was still pending at the time. Photographers can register their works with the U.S. Copyright Office through its online eCO registration portal.
Microsoft is the latest in a long line of big companies and news publications sued over alleged copyright infringement. In April, for example, a New York court ruled that digital media website Mashable didn’t infringe upon an image copyright by embedding an image a photographer had uploaded to Instagram after a long squabble over the matter. Likewise, photographer Carol M. Highsmith sued Getty Images for $1 billion in July 2016 over its alleged infringement of more than 18,000 of her images.