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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Photographer wins $472,000 for lost slides

Photo District News reports that a New York federal judge ordered Corbis Corporation to pay photographer Arthur Grace $472,000 for losing approximately 40,000 slides. Here's how the judge came up with that figure:

Grace estimated that 67,000 of his images were still missing, and he valued them at no less than $1500 each. He was seeking more than $100 million in damages.

The judge rejected those numbers as too high, however. He estimated that about 40,000 of Grace's images were missing on the basis of testimony and exhibits presented by the two sides. And the judge rejected the $1500 valuation standard on the grounds that many of Grace's images were not unique, and that the $1500 standard would lead to “an absurd result.”

To re-calculate actual damages, Judge Chin used a variety of benchmarks. One was Grace's average annual earnings from Sygma sales during the 90s, which amounted to $11,000 per year. Another benchmark was the price Corbis paid for its various acquisitions, including the $12.5 million it paid for Sygma, the $13.5 million it paid in 1995 for the 11 million-image Bettmann Archive, and the $2.6 million it paid in 1996 for the 600,000 images comprising the collection of Peter and David Turnley.

Chin ended up awarding Grace $36,000 for lost income since July 2001 and $436,000 in damages for the lost images. That award was based on a value of $100 for 4,000 of the images (Judge Chin estimates that 10 percent of the collection was “selects,” that is, images chosen for distribution) and $1 per image for the other 36,000 lost images.


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