Ok, this one is strange but follow me for a moment because this could be a big case for photographers.
Haitian Photographer Daniel Morel was in Port au Prince when the earthquake struck and captured some of the first images of the destruction that he then transmitted out. An amazing effort was made by Daniel to get the images out under the circumstances and he used Twitter to do it.
APF (Agence France Presse) found the images after another twitter user stole them from Daniel’s account. APF download the images and distributed them with that other users name in the credit. The images appeared on newspapers world-wide.
Daniel went after AFP, Getty and those who used the images for copyright infringement. AFP is apparently suing Daniel for “antagonistic assertion of rights” because of the way he pursued the copyright infringers using attorney Barbara Hoffman.
What’s interesting is that AFP is claiming the Twitter TOS, where he gives Twitter “a nonexclusive license to use his photographs” gives them the same right. Not sure how they came to this leap of faith where images distributed by twitter can be printed on the front pages of newspapers, but we will soon see what the court thinks about it. I’m also surprised that they didn’t go for a fair use defense. The courts have ruled both ways when newsworthy images are used without permission and generally news organizations will place getting the images in front of their viewers well before clearing the rights. You can read more about that on the Photo Attorney blog (here) where Carolyn writes “it’s clear that the unauthorized use of a photograph is much more likely to be deemed a fair use when the photograph itself is newsworthy.”
What’s clear is that professional photographers need a method for releasing images in these types of situations and that AFP is used to bullying citizens when swiping images from social networks to distribute over the wire and when they ran into a pro they got the horns.
UPDATE: Getting more interesting. Images uploaded to TwitPic and linked in twitter. TwitPic has a T&C that says © remains with the photographer. Story here: http://www.1854.eu/2010/04/agence_france_presses_slap_to.html