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Global software giant facing £1.7m Photo Copyright Infringement Claim

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In a claim filed at a court in New York City, USA last month, software giant Microsoft is facing legal action over alleged unauthorised use of professional photographers’ images. The images in question were taken by American photographer Matilde Gattoni and appeared in an article titled 'These are the women leading China’s wine revolution’.

The article was published both on the Wall Street Journal website and on the MSN website, owned by Microsoft. The MSN article also featured a Washington Post header, an indication that it was a syndicated article. The images had also been used and published at the end of 2018. Currently based in Barcelona, Spain, Gattoni is a French-Italian photographer who specialises in covering global social, environmental and human rights issues. The well-travelled professional is claiming that her photographs were used in the MSN article without proper licence or permission and is seeking damages which could total more than £120,000 ($150,000) per image or £1.78m ($2.25m) in total based on the 15 of her images used in the article. The claim, directed solely at Microsoft, alleges that:

Microsoft is not, and has never been, licensed or otherwise authorized to reproduce, publically display, distribute and/or use the Photographs...upon information and belief, the foregoing acts of infringement by Microsoft have been willful, intentional, and purposeful, in disregard of and indifference to Plaintiff's rights”

The claim details at present are fairly brief, and there is no mention of the Washington Post, the header for which is featured on the MSN article. It is also unclear what license the Washington Post was using for the article and images or how that license may impact Microsoft’s use of the pictures; all important elements that will have a big impact on the prospects of the claim succeeding.

Gattoni has previous experience with similar copyright claims. In 2017, she sued US clothing retailer Tibi over its alleged use of her photos without permission or license. In that particular case, the claim accused Tibi of cropping one of her images she published on her Instagram page, which had been published alongside a copyright notice.

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