No Bullshit, Photog Tells Philadelphia D.A.
(CN) - Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams used a copyrighted photo as background on his Twitter account, blew off the photographer's objection as "silly bullshit," then told him to go ahead and sue, the photographer claims in court.
R. Bradley Maule, a professional photographer, sued Williams in Philadelphia Federal Court.
Maule regularly posts his work on his website, phillyskyline.com.
In May 2005, he says, he took a photo of the Philadelphia skyline from the 18th floor of Penn Tower, a hotel high above Franklin field, the University of Pennsylvania's football stadium, on the west side of the Schuylkill River.
The shot showed an expansive view of the city center skyline, which he altered to include conceptual renderings of Comcast Center, a skyscraper that's now the city's tallest building, and Mandeville Place, which upon completion will be Philadelphia's seventh-tallest building.
Maule claims he manipulated the photo to show how the skyline would look in 2008, three years after he took the shot. He also altered a billboard in the photo to read "Visit Philly Skyline Dot Com" "in order to serve as a watermark/signifier of his own creation," he says in the 35-page complaint.
Maule claims he discovered in April this year that the district attorney was using his photo without permission on Williams's Twitter account. Maule says he subsequently gave an interview to Philebrity.com, a local news and gossip website, disclosing the infringing use.
A month later, Maule says, he was having lunch with his attorney when Williams appeared beside their table. Maule claims the conversation at the table began in an "absolutely friendly and respectful tone and manner," with his attorney joking, "'Seth, this is Brad Maule, who's a photographer in town. You've been using one of his photographs on your Twitter page, and we don't know who to ask to prosecute you for the theft!'"
The complaint continues: "Plaintiff then explained to the defendant, in an absolutely friendly and respectful tone and manner, that the defendant was using plaintiff's aforementioned photograph as a background picture on the defendant's Twitter page, without plaintiff's permission.
"Defendant immediately denied using plaintiff's photograph on defendant's
A week ago - on July 26 - Maule says, his attorney formally contacted the DA's office, complaining of the continuing, unauthorized use of the photo.
"Defendant then contacted undersigned counsel, and informed him that he took the photograph down from defendant's Twitter webpage," according to the complaint.
Maule says that's not so. He claims the photo was still on the DA's Twitter web page on July 29 and 30.
But the district attorney denied it again, demanded proof the photograph was still on the page, "and again claimed that there was no such photograph on the defendant's Twitter webpage, because the defendant was looking at his Twitter account on his smartphone and there was no skyline on his smartphone rendition of his Twitter account," according to the complaint.
It adds: "Undersigned counsel for the plaintiff then asked defendant to look at his Twitter webpage on a 'regular person's computer,' to which defendant replied that he didn't have access to a 'regular person's computer' and that any claim of copyright infringement in this regard was 'silly bullshit.' Defendant then suggested that undersigned counsel might as well go ahead and file this lawsuit for copyright infringement."
So he did.
Maule claims: "The defendant intentionally stole 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, as aforementioned, and the defendant nonetheless continued to use plaintiff's photograph without permission.
"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 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."
Not to put too fine a point on it, the complaint states: "The defendants knowingly, willfully, outrageously, intentionally, wantonly, recklessly and/or maliciously used and/or abused plaintiff's mark by including the aforementioned photograph with plaintiff's watermark, as aforementioned, for publication on the infringing Twitter webpage, and did so after plaintiff's mark had become famous."
Maule seeks an injunction and damages for copyright infringement and dilution and torts under state law, and he wants the photo taken town.
He is represented by J. Conor Corcoran of Philadelphia.