Judge finds news outlets can't use Twitter photos without permission

Except to retweet

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Manhattan district judge Alison Nathan ruled on Monday that two news agencies were in the wrong when the pubs published photos in 2010 that had been found on Twitter.

The images, taken and tweeted by photojournalist Daniel Morel after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, were appropriated by Agence France-Presse, who distributed the Twit pics to Getty. The Washington Post then obtained and published the photos.

In a pre-trial decision, Nathan determined that Twitter's terms of service don't give third parties the right to re-publish tweeted materials.

Except in the case of the re-tweet of course, which is fair game according to the judge.

Who owns your photos?

The question in the case is whether your photos are public domain just because you tweet them out to your social network followers.

And the answer, according to Nathan, is a resounding "nope."

But she also limited the damages that Morel can seek in the Twitter photo trial; he had been hoping to charge the news outlets and Getty based on every subscriber who used the images, which could have resulted in hundreds of millions in damages.

But Nathan narrowed that down considerably to a maximum of one statutory damage award per image instead of per user.

The social network privacy blues

Privacy and personal ownership have been on everyone's minds lately, it seems.

Instagram's recent terms of service change outraged so many users that Instagram use had declined by 50 percent as of Monday; not to mention the Facebook privacy snafu that had Mark Zuckerberg's sister lecturing people on Twitter.

The irony here is that it was Agence France-Presse who brought the suit in the first place after Morel accused it of using his photos without permission.

Morel then countersued, and here we are.

Twitter, for its part, told Reuters the following through a spokesperson: "As has always been our policy, Twitter users own their photos."

A trial date has not yet been set.

Via Reuters