Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams decided on Thursday to settle a contentious
dispute with a local photographer over the use of a copyrighted picture on his Twitter page.
The terms of the settlement have not been released, but the deal was reached the same day Williams was scheduled to appear at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to testify about the photo. The original filing sought more than $150,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.
The disagreement started when photographer R. Bradley Maule filed the federal suit against Williams on July 31, 2013. In the complaint, Maule claims that Williams used as his Twitter page backdrop a photo taken and posted by the plaintiff on PhillySkyline.com.
Maule and his attorney, J. Conor Corcoran, confronted Williams about the photo while eating lunch on Primary Election Day in May 2013. They explained to Williams that he had been using copyrighted material on his social media page, but the DA denied the allegations, according to the suit.
Corcoran phoned Williams at the D.A.’s Office late last month to remind him of the continued unauthorized use of his client’s photograph, after which Williams informed Corcoran that the image had been taken down from the Twitter page.
Days later, however, the photo was once again discovered to be on Williams’ Twitter page, the suit claimed.
During another exchange between the two lawyers, Williams allegedly told Corcoran that any claim of copyright infringement in this regard was “silly [expletive],” the suit stated, and the district attorney went on to suggest Maule might as well “go ahead and file this lawsuit for copyright infringement.”
“The Defendant intentionally stole the Plaintiff’s photo and/or intentionally maintained it on his Twitter webpage, as Defendant was notified of the theft on at least one occasion by the Plaintiff himself at Famous 4th Street [Deli], as aforementioned, and the Defendant nonetheless continued to use Plaintiff’s photograph without permission,” the lawsuit stated.
The suit went on to state that “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.
“At worst,” the suit continues, “the Defendant lied and/or misrepresented to the Plaintiff, on no less than three separate occasions … that he either did not have Plaintiff’s picture on Defendant’s Twitter webpage, or that he removed the Plaintiff’s photograph from his Twitter webpage.”
Williams, Maule claimed, intentionally and unlawfully stolen and reproduced the plaintiff’s photograph, which infringes on Maule’s copyright and ability to recoup profits and/or publicity from the image.
Maule never gave Williams consent or permission to use the photo, the suit claimed.