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

May 24th, 2011

Twitpic: Laundering Images of Owners’ Rights

A London celebrity photo agency that has won rights to distribute pictures posted on Twitpic has told PDN that it has “no direct relationship with those posting images on Twitpic.” The statement implies that the agency, World Entertainment News Network, will not share licensing revenues with the image owners.

As The New York Times reported yesterday, WENN announced earlier this month that it had struck a deal to distribute images posted to Twitpic. Twitpic members retain the copyrights to the images they post to the service, but the Twitpic terms of service give Twitpic “a worldwide, nonexclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute” images posted by Twitpic users.

In response to a question from PDN about whether image owners would receive a share of revenues from the sale of Twitpic images, WENN CEO Lloyd Beiny said via e-mail that his company has no direct relationship with those image owners, “so I regret I am unable to respond to your question.” He declined to be interviewed by telephone.

Twitpic has not responded to the same question about compensation for Twitpic users, but if it has plans to share with them any proceeds from its deal with WENN, it hasn’t announced them.

But Beiny’s response to our question reveals a new level of power imbalance in the stock business: namely, the power of an agency to legally license copyrighted images without any interference from or obligation to the owners of those images. The Twitpic terms of service effectively “launder” the images of substantive ownership rights and control.

Image owners allow it to happen, though. Nobody forces them to accept the Twitpic terms of service. For many, it may well be a perfectly acceptable trade-off for a chance to share their images with the world. For others, the terms may come as an unwelcome surprise, but the onus is on Twitpic users to read and understand the service agreement when they sign up for an account.

Related Story:

Time To Quit Using TwitPic?