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AFP VS MOREL – Twitter was the spark that set this fire

by Tug Agency | 11.11.2010
The leading French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) has argued in court that photographers that share photos on Twitter and Twitpic automatically agree to those pics being used by anyone.

In a trial that is taking place in the court for the Southern District of New York, the AFP said that the recent update of Twitter on trademark rights grants anyone the right to use material published on the microblogging network.

Daniel Morel, a photographer who worked in Haiti, published some of his pictures on Twitter via Twitpic. Another user, Lisandro Serum copied the photos and offered them. AFP used the photos and  Getty also used them with the intention of selling them. Several media sources used those photos and gave all the credit to AFP and Serum.

Eric Goldman, an associate professor of the University of Santa Clara , wrote in his Blog about the Technology & Marketing Law after Morel sent several letters demanding his rights, the AFP presented a “declaratory action” against the photographer, ” seeking a declaration of noninfringement. ” Why? Because Twitter’s Terms & Conditions give AFP the right to publish the pictures found on the microblogging network.

The terms say that Twitter can share media with its partners. The AFP made the interpretation that all of Twitter followers are partners and for such reason they were allowed to use the pics.

This case borders on the absurd, it reminds us that social networks like Twitter and Facebook need to implement some ground rules for material shared on social networks. Flickr model allows the user to decide the level of protection and rights for the pictures uploaded by users, it is true that the process is a bit confusing, but it seems to be the most successful one. AFP’s arguments are ridonkulous, but so are the Terms & Conditions of Twitter where the company has granted the right to sell the photos that users share on the network.