Copyright Infringers in the New York Area BEWARE!
As has been expected, more and more federal courts are ruling on issues related to social media and content use.  In a case that every copyright lawyer has been anticipating, recently, Judge Alison Nathan from the District Court for the Southern District of New York held that the Agence France-Presse and The Washington Post improperly used images that photojournalist Daniel Morel posted to his Twitter page.
With the explosive growth of Social Media, ownership of content has become an all-important issue.  Once you post a story or photo to a social media site, is anyone allowed to use your content without permission? This is the question that everyone has been waiting for the courts to answer.
Agence France-Presse argued that once the photos appeared on Twitter they became freely available for use. However, Judge Nathan countered by pointing out that Twitter’s terms of service did not give the news agency license to publish the content without permission from Morel. More specifically, the Judge concluded that while Twitter’s terms of use does allow for reposting and rebroadcasting of content through actions, such as “retweeting”, it does not grant permission for commercial use.
The photographer at the center of this lawsuit, Daniel Morel, put his images of the Haiti earthquake aftermath on Twitter, only to have Agence France-Presse distribute the photos to Getty Images, which then sold the photos to one of their clients, The Washington Post, which published four of the photos on its website.
In a decision that came down last week, Judge Nathan only partially granted  Morel’s summary judgment and limited the amount of damages Morel could recover. A trial date has not been set.
This case will have a huge impact on the world of social media, as well as the publishing industry and the internet in general. To date, many have just assumed that once content is put on the internet it becomes property of the public. This is obviously not the case and this lawsuit may very well set a precedent for future suits. So, copyright infringers beware!
Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours.
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