Thursday, 17 January 2013

Social Media: Whose Photo Is It Anyway?

Slightly off topic for this blog but 'educational' nonetheless; there has recently been a flurry of legal interest in photographs posted by individuals to social media sites and what the sites then permit others to do with them. A pet project of mine was to produce a reasonable summary of the terms of a number of the most popular ones last year for work, as so many people were asking me what could happen to their content on the sites by virtue of posting it. Sites such as Facebook (and more recently, Instagram) have discovered to their detriment that they cannot change their terms on a whim to force users to assign copyright of content which they have created themselves; this type of 'rights-grab' is unacceptable in the digital world, mostly because no-one wants to see a photograph that they have taken being used as an advert for telecommunications or similar without their knowledge.

But what happens when a newspaper wants to use a photograph posted to a social media site to report on a breaking story? We live in the age of the visual, which means that images are highly sought after to depict events as they unfold. In a US judgment just announced this week, we have the culmination of a case which has taken 2 years to process. Daniel Morel, a photographer, was in Haiti at the time of the earthquake and took some iconic photographs of the devastation. He then posted them to his TwitPic account. Another individual, Lisandro Suero, copied the images and posted them to his TwitPic account. Both Morel and Suero were contacted by several press agencies, but it was Agence France Presse (AFP) who used the images (crediting Suero as the photographer) and transmitted them to Getty Images for further licensing to CNN and CBS. Morel sued for copyright infringement and the terms of TwitPic and Twitter were examined in court. The judge found that AFP could not claim to be a partner or affiliate of either social network, nor was it a sub-licensee, and had therefore infringed Morel's copyright. The ruling this week has limited the damages payable to Morel but is seen as a victory for photographers who post their work to social media sites.

In a similar fashion, the terms for social media have been upheld in the UK, with an interim judgment (paras 42-44) stating that Facebook's terms and conditions do not automatically give a newspaper the right to publish photographs posted to Facebook by a user. In RocknRoll v News Group Newspapers Ltd, a heady mix of privacy and copyright do battle against freedom of expression, with the judge stating that if this case was purely a commercial one (i.e. with no privacy implications) then damages would be an appropriate remedy for the individual who would lose out as a result of the infringement. But because the individual (Mr RocknRoll) is depicted in photos (for which he has subsequently had copyright assigned to him) which he would rather not have published for fear of damage to his reputation / relationship, the judge has placed an injunction on the press from publishing those photos for the time being. Case law has shown that in exceptional circumstances where the public interest is high (e.g. where there is evidence of criminal activity), newspapers can publish photographs without permission and not suffer the consequences of copyright infringement.  

Rather encouragingly, this article in The Guardian today suggests that media outlets recognise users' rights in the content they post and that most newspapers seek permission to publish before doing so. This offers users who happen to be 'in the right place at the right time' an opportunity to commercialise their photos, although I have a lot of respect for the Twitter user mentioned in the article who refused to make money from his photographs of yesterday's tragic helicopter crash in London.


  1. Branding has become the most important aspect for success in the present world. There is no better platform than social media to create a brand image for your company or to modify the image that customers have built in their minds your brand.

    In order to achieve this, marketers need to adopt a dual approach – first is to create communities where you can build your image, and second is to play an active role in existing communities and make your presence felt.

    By defining your brand, establishing your core values and maintaining consistency in approach on social media, brand creation and propagation becomes more effective.

    Agrodut Mandal
    Editing and Proofreading

  2. Today all people crazy behind the Social Media website. These are great post about social network. Social Network website is helpful in much way like it is increase traffic to your website. It is helpful in built community. If you think build social network site development then visit our website. Hire social media web application developers & social networking game application Development Company today!

  3. About 10% internet users are with Social Media. Site owners strive to get traffic in their sites. Social media websites enables sites to get huge traffic for zero cost. Thanks for your post.

    Higher Education Photography

  4. The Prestige social media program will launch early next year with an enhanced Facebook presence as well as accounts on Twitter and Pinterest. social media consultant

  5. Good idea. Hope you will be able to gather useful information for visitor in interesting way. All the best.
    Photographers in NJ

  6. Rather encouragingly, this article in The Guardian today suggests that media outlets recognise users' rights in the content they post - exactly as it is :)

  7. Em parceria com a Google e com o Grupo VIP oferecemos telas mosquiteiras SP importadas dos estados unidos aos clientes que querem proteção e bem-estar para sua família, isto porque o produto não propaga chamas, fungos ou mofos, são telas de fácil limpeza e protegem sua família contra picadas de insetos, principalmente os mosquitos da dengue. Telas mosquiteiras em São Paulo, telas mosquiteiras campinas, telas mosquiteiras valinhos, telas mosquiteiras vinhedo, telas mosquiteiras granja vianna, telas mosquiteiras alphaville, telas mosquiteiras tamboré , telas amosquiteiras jundiai.

    telas mosquiteiras para idústrias de alimentos , telas mosquiteiras SP, telas mosquiteiras empresas químicas, telas mosquiteiras vinhedo, telas mosquiteiras granja vianna, telas mosquiteiras alphaville, telas mosquiteiras tamboré , telas mosquiteiras SP

  8. Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful! I've been looking for books of this nature for a way too long. I'm just glad that I found yours. Looking forward for your next post. Thanks :)

    Distance Education Institute in Gurgaon

  9. Decent post. I simply discovered your blog and wanted to state that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. In any manner I'm going to be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. bill lerner

  10. You made such a fascinating piece to peruse, giving each subject illumination for all of us to grab learning. A debt of gratitude is in order for imparting the such data to us to peruse this modern furniture carlsbad

  11. You made this type of fascinating piece to peruse, giving each subject illumination for us to pick up learning. A debt of gratitude is for imparting the such data to us to peruse this
    O’Dell & Company has been a staple in the Colorado community for more than 30 years – serving clients in Fort Collins, Denver, and surrounding Colorado cities. Our Fort Collins CPA firm has helped hundreds of clients save valuable money both in their personal lives as well as their business ventures. O’Dell & Company.Address:736 Whalers Way F-101 ,Fort Collins,CO . Phone: 970-229-0018 accountant fort collins

  12. Rich Rod was terrible in his first year at WVU, but turned it around when he got who he needed. Once Michigan does that, they will return to glory.

    menopause treatment michigan

  13. Take this total heat rate, then subtract it from the total fired duty from the heating value of the fuel. Now: divide this discounted heat rate by the gross fired duty; the new fraction is your thermal efficiency. Gross fired duty is your fuel heating value in btu / cubic foot * fuel rate in cubic feet per hour; you'll have btu / hour.

    heat transfer vinyl

  14. I am practically satisfied with your great work.You put truly exceptionally supportive data. Keep it up. Continue blogging. Hoping to perusing your next post quickbooks payroll support phone number

  15. It's not at all simplistic to simply be making a gift of key points which most people have been selling. And now we acknowledge we have got you to give thanks to for that. web designer in delhi