March 6th, 2014

Getty’s Free Image Program: New Revenue Model, or a Surrender to Copyright Infringement?

Getty Images lit up the Twittersphere today with an announcement that it was making its archive available free of charge for bloggers and other non-commercial users. Some of the big questions are: What is Getty gaining by making images free to the public? How does Getty’s decision affect not only its own contributors, but all photographers? And are there any hidden costs to non-commercial users who take advantage of Getty’s free images?

Getty said in its announcement that it was releasing a new embed tool to make it easy for non-commercial users to share its images on websites, blogs and social media channels.

Getty CEO Jonathan Klein says in the announcement that the “easy, legal sharing…benefits our content contributors and partners.”

One benefit to the company and its partners is that by automatically crediting the images and linking them back to Getty’s website, the embed tool makes it easy to find and license the images for commercial use.

At the same time, the embed tool will also makes it easier for Getty to track non-commercial uses of its images, and the users who take advantage of the company’s offer of free images.

To read what Getty’s terms of service allow it to do with users’ information, and more on the implications of this new business for the perceived value of all images, see our news story, now on PDNOnline.

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September 25th, 2013

In TwitPic Copyright Claim, Daniel Morel Seeks $13.2 Million from AFP, Getty

©Daniel Morel

©Daniel Morel

Photographer Daniel Morel is seeking as much as $13.2 million from AFP and Getty Images at a trial to determine damages for copyright infringement of his exclusive images of the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, which Morel had posted via Twitter. The trial is scheduled to begin November 12.

A federal court determined earlier this year that AFP infringed Morel’s copyrights in 8 photographs by distributing those photos without his permission.  The November 12 jury trial is meant to determine the amount of damages owed to Morel, based upon the question of whether or not the infringements were willful.

Morel asserts that the infringements were “willful and intentional,” and says in court papers  that “AFP knew or should have known the images were his when they distributed them without permission.” For copyright infringement, he is seeking a maximum of $1.2 million in statutory damages.

Morel also contends that both AFP and Getty images violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by intentionally removing copyright management information that identified the images as Morel’s. He says AFP and Getty “knowingly provided and distributed false copyright management information” to their customers. For the DMCA violations, Morel is seeing a maximum of $13.2 million.

Getty and AFP no longer dispute that they violated Morel’s copyright, but deny that they acted with reckless disregard or willfulness. They say they “do not believe Mr. Morel can meet his burden of proof on this point.” They say in the pre-trial court papers that “they believed they had the right to do so and were acting within industry norms, customs, and practice.” Getty also says it distributed Morel’s images with “innocent intent.”

Both defendants also assert that if they did violate the DMCA, Morel is not legally entitled to the level of damages he is claiming for those violations.

Morel happened to be in Haiti at the time of the January 2010 earthquake there. He posted exclusive images of the destruction on his TwitPic account less than two hours later. The images were immediately stolen and re-posted under the name of another Twitter user. AFP picked up the images and distributed them through its own image service and through Getty under the false credit.

Morel’s agent, Corbis, sent take-down notices to Getty and AFP, but it took AFP two days to issue a kill notice. And when they did, they told clients and partners to kill images credited to Morel, but not the identical images that had been sent out initially under the false credit. Getty allegedly didn’t purge the images with the false credits, and continued to distribute them.

Morel has maintained that the companies violated his copyrights willfully because at least some AFP photo editors knew the images in question were his, not those of the other Twitter user who stole the images.

In his original claim, Morel also sued several AFP and Getty customers for unauthorized use of his images. Those defendants previously settled with Morel.

Related story:
AFP, Washington Post Violated Daniel Morel’s Copyright, Judge Says

August 10th, 2011

Twitter Launches Photo-Sharing Feature

Twitter has launched its native photo-sharing feature, allowing Twitter users to post photographs to Twitter without using a third-party service such as TwitPic or yfrog.

Images of 3mb or less can now be posted to Twitter by clicking a camera icon in the bottom left of the status update window. The image will only appear as a thumbnail in Twitter feeds, but users can click on a particular tweet to see the photo enlarged on the right-hand side of the page.

The launch of the function is good news considering the once-popular TwitPic signed a deal in May to license users’ photographs without compensation through World Entertainment News Network, provoking the ire of many its users.

Still, photographers should be aware that Twitter’s terms of service still give them the right to use your content or let others use your content.

Here is the relevant verbiage:

“You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods  (now known or later developed).

“Tip: This license is you authorizing us to make your Tweets available to the rest of the world and to let others do the same.

“You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use.”

Last year, photographer Daniel Morel sued AFP and Getty for unauthorized use of his images of the Haiti earthquake, which he uploaded to Twitpic. The defendants tried to argue that, according to the Twitter terms of service, whatever is posted on Twitter is free for the taking by anyone with access to Twitter. A federal judge rejected their argument as a misreading of Twitter’s terms of service. While those terms give Twitter and its “partners and affiliates” the right to use, copy, reproduce, publish and distribute content uploaded to Twitter, the judge noted that AFP, Getty and other defendants were merely users of the service.

Related story:
Daniel Morel Wins Pre-Trial Victory Against AFP, Getty