Intellectual Property

Photographer sues Philadelphia DA, says he used copyrighted picture as Twitter wallpaper


When photographer R. Bradley Maule saw one of his pictures on the personal Twitter page for Philadelphia’s district attorney, R. Seth Williams, he says, his first move was simply to complain.

But after Williams repeatedly failed to take down the copyrighted image, a 2005 skyline photo of the city that had been altered to include a planned building that had not yet been constructed at that time, the photographer sued. In a federal court complaint filed Wednesday, he seeks injunctive relief and damages for alleged copyright infringement, a trademark claim and other torts, Courthouse News reports. Attorney J. Conor Corcoran filed the suit on his behalf.

Williams told the ABA Journal through a spokeswoman that it isn’t clear that he was, in fact, using Maule’s photo. However, Williams had it removed from his personal Twitter page anyhow, in response to Maule’s complaint, rather than take any chances.

“The district attorney’s personal Twitter account was set up in 2009 by his campaign staff, and since he primarily updates and checks his account on his smartphone, he wasn’t aware that there was even a city skyline photo on it,” explains a written statement provided by the spokeswoman. “When it was brought to his attention on Monday by Mr. Corcoran, the district attorney contacted his campaign staff about removing the photo, but due to new campaign staffers the password information was difficult to obtain.”

At least as of Thursday, however, the photo had been removed, the spokeswoman said.

According to the complaint, Maule and his lawyer ran across Williams at lunch one day in May, and brought up the issue of the DA’s Twitter account background page in a pleasant and humorous manner. When Williams didn’t take it down, the photographer’s lawyer then contacted the DA’s office and complained about continuing unauthorized use of the photo. Williams then said it had been taken down, but, at least as of a day or two later, it hadn’t been, the suit contends.

“At best, the district attorney of Philadelphia has no idea how to use a computer, a smartphone, a Twitter account and/or a Twitter webpage,” Maule says in his complaint.

“At worst, the defendant lied and/or misrepresented to the plaintiff, on no less than three separate occasions (May 21, 2013, July 26, 2013 and July 30, 2013) that he either did not have plaintiff’s photograph on defendant’s Twitter webpage, or that he removed the plaintiff’s photograph from his Twitter webpage.”

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