Posted by Sequel on March 28, 2014
Topic: blogs, Copyrights
Tags: Online, Photos, Twitter
Just Because a Photo is Tweeted Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Under Copyright Protection

Web publishers who publish photographs that they find on the Web must identify and obtain permission from the photographer or copyright holder or face stiff financial penalties.

In the New York case, Agence France Presse v. Morel, 2011 WL 147718 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 14, 2011), photographer Daniel Morel had taken some photos of the Haitian earthquake and posted some of his shots on his Twitter feed. Another Twitter user copied Morel’s photos, put his own copyright notice on them, and republished them. Those republished photos were picked up by AFP and were subsequently sold to the public by Getty Images.

Morel sued AFP and won a $1.2 million judgment.

While the specifics of the case were highly unusual, the basic principle that a copyright isn’t waived by the simple act of the photographer posting images on the open Web is an important lesson. Everyone who publishes a Web site must be aware of the copyright status of any photos they use on their site.

In AFP v. Morel, the French news agency, the fact that AFP didn’t ensure that it had permission from the original photographer to use his images was the key factor in deciding the case.

One way to avoid problems like those that cost AFP a bundle is to use an application or plug-in for your favorite publishing platform that will help you easily locate copyright-free images. One such tool for WordPress is the $63 ImageSource but there are many others. A search for “copyright-free images” will turn up a number of alternatives.


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