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AFP Back To Claiming That Twitter's Terms Of Service Allow It To Take And Sell Anyone's Twitpic Photos

from the they-can't-be-serious dept

Two years ago, we wrote about one of the most bizarre copyright lawsuits we’ve ever heard of. News giant AFP (Agence France Presse) — for reasons that I still cannot begin to comprehend — decided to proactively sue a photographer, Daniel Morel, after it (AFP) had taken his photos (of the earthquake in Haiti) from TwitPic without permission, and distributed them for sale via Getty Images. So why did AFP sue? Because Morel contacted them upon discovering this, demanding lots of money. And what was AFP’s reasoning? Well, it tried to claim that Twitter’s terms of service allowed this. There were all sorts of problems with that idea. First of all, the photo was on Twitpic, not Twitter, and the two are different companies. But, more importantly, neither of the terms of service from Twitter nor Twitpic (AFP eventually figured out the difference) allowed AFP to do what it claims. The AFP appeared to deliberately misinterpret the terms of service, which simply give Twitpic the right to make use of the images — but that does not extend to third parties automatically, which is what AFP implied.

Oh, and did we mention that AFP itself has a history of copyright maximalism, including suing Google for merely linking to AFP stories, with AFP’s headline showing in Google News?

And, while a judge eviscerated AFP’s claims about TwitPic’s license, it appears that AFP is back to relying on that as the crux of its legal argument.

And, it gets even worse. During discovery, Morel seems to have received a bunch of pretty damning evidence from AFP suggesting that the company knew all along what it was doing. There was the fact that AFP’s director of photography for North and South America reached out to Morel prior to downloading the images. The same guy apparently copies other images from other sites. Multiple people seemed to suggest from the very beginning that they shouldn’t use these photos — including the Director of Photography at Getty, who pointed out that Morel regularly used rival photo agency Corbis. There was also some other damning evidence, including editing the copyright management info, and uploading the image under multiple names, and only issuing a kill notice on one name.

Oh yeah, and then there was the fact that someone inside the AFP sent an email saying:

Anyway, AFP got caught with a hand in the cookie jar and will have to pay.

And this was before AFP decided to sue Morel. Perhaps the company should have just paid up in the first place.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: afp, getty images, twitpic, twitter

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Comments on “AFP Back To Claiming That Twitter's Terms Of Service Allow It To Take And Sell Anyone's Twitpic Photos”

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17 Comments
DannyB (profile) says:

Re: AFP can't have it both ways

A copyright maximalist, like AFP, they should live by their own statements and beliefs. The thieving pirate freetards at AFP took or stole Morel’s photos which are his physical property. AFP wouldn’t go and steal someone’s car and take it for a joyride, would they? Then why do they steal someone’s property? Doesn’t AFP know that every view of those stolen photos represents a lost sale? Since they willfully and knowingly did this, they should incur the maximum statutory damages for each viewing of the stolen photos, just like Righthaven, RIAA or MPAA would demand.

After all, it’s only fair.

Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

Re: Re: AFP can't have it both ways

Why should the photographer have to go through the hassle and expense of protecting his own property? Isn’t this exactly the reason why SOPA/PIPA/etc are so vital to the world? So that filthy pirates like AFP can no longer get a free ride on the backs of….wait a minute. this guy is just a self-employed peasant. Never mind.

spaetz says:

ToS pretty clear

Given that the very first sentence of Twitpics ToS under heading Copyright is:

“All content uploaded to Twitpic is copyright the respective owners. The owners retain full rights to distribute their own work without prior consent from Twitpic. It is not acceptable to copy or save another user’s content from Twitpic and upload to other sites for redistribution and dissemination. “

I don’t see *any* reason how even laymen can misunderstand the situation, not to speak of an organization whose commercial purpose it is to use and license pictures in and out.

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