In what may be a landmark copyright infringement case for photographers who use Twitter, District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan ruled that two major news outlets, Agence France-Presse (AFP) and The Washington Post, used the Twitter photos of the 2010 Haitian earthquake aftermath without the permission of its owner, photojournalist Daniel Morel.
This is one of the photos in question, as featured as the 2nd prize winner in the Spot News single image category of the World Press Photo.
AFP argued that because the photos were on Twitter, they were freely available to use by anyone and that AFP had an “”express licence to use Morel’s images or, alternatively, they were third-party beneficiaries of a licence agreement between Morel and Twitter,” but the judge ruled that while Twitter’s terms of service allow the retweeting of its users’ images, it does not allow for commercial use without the express consent of the photographer. According to a Twitter spokesman, “Twitter users own their photos.”
Morel was at Port-au-Prince at the time of the disaster and used his Twitter account, PhotoMorel”, to post the images he took after the earthquake. An AFP editor saw these images and used them for the newspaper. Moreover, AFP then sold the images to Getty Images, who in turn distributed Morel’s images to The Washington Post. The Post is sued for publishing four of Morel’s images.
In the ruling, Judge Nathan decreased Morel’s demand for “tens or hundreds of millions of dollars” in statutory damages to a “single statutory damage award per image infringed.”
You can view Daniel Morel’s images on his website: PhotoMorel.com