Editorial & Business
5 photographers take Corbis to court!
Michel Baret / Gamma-Rapho
Exclusive: Wednesday, June 29, 2011, the Prosecutor from the Paris District Court received a complaint against Corbis, owned by Bill Gates, for misuse of corporate assets, filing a fraudulent bankruptcy claim, and breach of trust!
There are currently five plaintiffs, but their number should increase. The men attacking the company owned by one of the world’s most affluent businessmen are simple photographers, their names are unknown to the public but are well known among photographers and the press. Throughout their careers, they have each received numerous prestigious awards for their work.
70 years of Sygma
Their combined careers represent 70 years of commitment to the press agency Sygma, renamed Corbis-Sygma after the buyout in 1999.
Born between 1942 et 1963, the plaintiffs are of the traditional vein of reporters who have traveled the world providing Sygma with its most historic stories. Their hands-on experience did not protect them from the digital tsunami that swept away the three great French agencies: Gamma, Sygma and Sipa.
On Thursday, June 30, 4, place André Malraux, Jean-Philippe Hugot of the Cabinet Hugot Avocats showed « La Lettre » the prosecutor’s written receipt of the complaint.
Why did you file a complaint?
My clients, like many photographers, were extremely surprised by the announcement of the company’s bankruptcy file. They were even more surprised by the reasons: a legal decision by the Paris District Courts condemning Corbis Sygma to pay damages to a photographer.
After studying the case, it became clear that the Corbis Sygma entity had been transferred to the American Corbis Corporation without any trace of compensation for the French entity Corbis Sygma.
Under the title “Sygma Initiative”, several photographers were “encouraged” to transfer their rights to the American entity Corbis Corporation, transfers that occurred without consulting the French Corbis Sygma.
My clients’ suspicions were confirmed by the capital being gathered for this operation, revealing a joint profit for the French and American operations. It then seemed legitimate that these commercial proceedings be revealed to the District Prosecutor in order that an investigation should clarify the actual proceedings involved between these two entities, and what has become of the French assets.
What do you expect to become of this complaint ?
The complaint was filed last week and the Prosecutor can begin his investigations at will. During the first three months, he is not obliged to inform us of how he intends to proceed. We can only wait for his response.
The complaint filed by Jean-Philippe Hugot representing Dominique Aubert, Derek Hudson, Philippe Ledru, Moshe Milner and Michel Philippot asks the Prosecutor to open an inquiry that should lead to a police investigation. The Prosecutor can also declare that there is insufficient evidence to proceed… which would be that much more difficult if other photographers from Sygma – as is hoped, join the group of five.
(more to come)