A local photographer last week filed a federal copyright infringement lawsuit against Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams for allegedly using one of the artist’s photographs on his Twitter page without permission and dismissing claims of wrongdoing as “silly bulls–,” according to the suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The lawsuit claims at the very least, Williams has “no idea how to use” a computer, smartphone or Twitter account.
Photographer R. Bradley Maule, of PhillySkyLine.com, in the complaint claims he in May 2005 took “a unique photograph of the Philadelphia skyline from the 18th floor of the Penn Tower” and altered it to show conceptual renderings of the Comcast Center and Mandeville Place, as well as to change a nearby billboard slogan to serve as a watermark, reading “Visit Philly Skyline Dot Com.”
Maule said he around April 1, 2013, discovered Williams had been using the photograph as a background picture for his Twitter page, an allegation Maule also made in an April 23 interview with Philebrity.
Williams and Maule allegedly met this past Election Day, May 21, when Maule said he was having lunch at Famous 4th Street Deli with attorney J. Conor Corcoran, who is representing him in the suit, when Williams “suddenly appeared” beside their table.
According to the complaint, Corcoran introduced Maule to Williams, saying, “‘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 conversation continued in a friendly manner, but Williams denied having used the photo though it remained on the site, the suit alleges, claiming Corcoran also contacted Williams July 26 and received assurances the photo was taken down.
The complaint states Williams’ secretary Regina Purtell called Corcoran July 30 and asked for proof the photograph was still on the Twitter page.
Though Corcoran said he suggested Purtell look at the Twitter page on her computer, she allegedly told him she was unable to look at websites from her office computer and instead asked him to forward a screengrab to her email.
According to the complaint, within an hour of Corcoran sending the screengrab, Williams “himself then called undersigned counsel and again claimed there was no such photograph on [Williams’] Twitter webpage, because [Williams] was looking at his Twitter account on his smartphone and there was no skyline on his smartphone rendition of his Twitter account.”
Corcoran allegedly asked Williams to look at his Twitter website “on a ‘regular person’s computer,'” to which Williams replied he “didn’t have access to a ‘regular person’s computer’ and that any claim of copyright infringement in this regard was ‘silly bulls–,'” the suit states.
Williams then allegedly suggested Corcoran “might as well go ahead and file this lawsuit for copyright infringement.”
The suit points out Williams appears to have continued to use the photograph even after he was notified of the alleged theft on at least one occasion by Maule himself.
The complaint concludes “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.”
Maule is requesting a jury trial and more than $150,000 in damages stemming from the wrongful use of the photograph, as well as punitive damages and attorney fees.
“The DA does not believe it is the same photo,” Williams’ spokeswoman said in an email Sunday. “But he removed it from his Twitter account last week when this person’s attorney contacted the DA.”