Photographer Carol Highsmith settled her lawsuit with Getty Images last week, after the court dismissed the federal copyright claims at the heart of her $1.4 billion claim three weeks ago, PDNPulse reports. The two sides reached a settlement over three remaining state claims. Neither party has revealed any details of the settlement.
The massive damages Highsmith claimed made international headlines when she filed suit in July. Highsmith sought legal action after her nonprofit, This is America! Foundation, received a letter from Getty affiliate Alamy in December 2015. It accused the foundation of copyright infringement for using one of Highsmith’s own photos on its site, demanding $120 in damages.
Highsmith subsequently found that Getty was licensing 18,755 of her photographs to its customers, all of which had been donated to the Library of Congress and made freely available to the public, albeit with Highsmith retaining the copyright.
In her suit, Highsmith accused Getty of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for licensing her images to its customers without her consent and fraudulently claiming to be the sole copyright owner. Highsmith intended for the images to be a gift; she took exception to the fact that Getty made them a commodity. Under federal law, the maximum claim Highsmith could claim is $25,000 per photo. It adds up to only $468 million, but a 2013 ruling against Getty for violating the DMCA automatically tripled the potential damages because it happened in the past three years.
District Court Judge Jed Rakoff sided with Getty, however, which argued that public domain works are often commercialized and that Highsmith signed away ownership, as well as grounds for a DMCA claim, when she donated the images. Getty argued that “public domain works are routinely commercialized” and that “publishers charge money for their copies of Dickens novels and Shakespeare plays.” When Highsmith donated her photos to the library, Getty argued, she gave up any right to pursue a copyright claim.