Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Photographer Loses Copyright Infringement Suit Against New York Times

U. S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein has ruled that photographer Thomas Alexander Dallal cannot maintain a copyright infringement action against the New York Times for its use of his photographs in its internet edition during the period 1997-2002, even though he requested additional pay as early as 1997.  "Plaintiff continued, however, to accept assignments as previously, at the same rate of pay...[p]laintiff continued, however, to complain orally about not being paid more, without being able to change the Times' position and without ceasing to accept assignments from the Times. Finally, on November 25, 2002, Plaintiff asserted a copyright position, demanding, by letter addressed to the Times' then-Picture Editor...that the Times cease using his photographs on its websites "without my permission," and accusing the Times of so doing "since 1997," and "in violationg of my copyrights." Plaintiff demanded that the Times "cease using my images on its websites immediately.""

The Times took the position that Mr. Dallal was equitably estopped from exercising his rights in this case. In order to prevail, it needed to persuade the factfinder of the following: "a) the plaintiff knew of the defendant's wrongful conduct; b) the plaintiff intended that his conduct be acted  upon or acted in a way that the defendant had a right to believe it was so intended; c)the defendant was ignorant of the true facts; and d) the defendant relied on plaintiff's conduct to his detriment." Given the facts presented, Judge Hellerstein was persuaded that the Times was unaware until its receipt of the November 25, 2002 letter from Mr. Dallal of his clear position on the matter.

Read the opinion here.

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