Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Twitter Cookie Jar

Cookie JarSocial media platforms like Twitter are a great way of getting your content out to a large audience. However, managing the content once it is out there can be a little challenging.

We see this in Agence France Presse v Morel 769 F.Supp.2d 295 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) involving a dispute between a photojournalist and a news agency accused of infringing copyright of his photos.

The full article is available at StopPress.

Morel is a professional photojournalist who has worked in Haiti for many years. He happened to be in Port au Prince on 12 January 2010 when an earthquake hit the city. He took some photos of some of the immediate devastation. He uploaded his photos on Twitpic, posted on Twitter that he had ‘‘exclusive earthquake photos,'' and linked his Twitter page to his Twitpic page.

Lisandro Suero, a resident of the Dominican Republic, copied the photographs and posted them on his own Twitpic page with no attribution to Morel.

Agence France Presse (AFP) is a French news agency that offers an international photo service to media worldwide, primarily newspapers. AFP downloaded Morel's photographs from Suero's Twitpic page and transmitted them to Getty, an image licensing company.

In the court case that followed, AFP said that it had an express licence to use Morel's images. In the alternative they said that they were third-party beneficiaries of a license agreement between Morel and Twitter. The Court found that AFP did not have an express licence to use Morel's content. Morel was not a third-party beneficiary either.

Social media is a good mechanism for getting material out to a wide audience. However, in particularly newsworthy cases, the distribution of your content can develop a life of its own.

There is a message here for media outlets and others who use others content. Just because content is available on a publicly accessible network does not mean that the content can be used for commercial purposes.

[UPDATE 22 December 2013 - a Federal Jury in New York City recently awarded Mr Morel US$1.2-million in damages for copyright infringement]

Photo courtesy of author W.D. Vanlue under Creative Commons licence.

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