November 22nd, 2013

After Closing Arguments, Verdict Expected Soon in Morel v. AFP and Getty Images

 

© Daniel Morel/courtesy of Daniel Morel

© Daniel Morel/courtesy of Daniel Morel

The jury is expected to announce its verdict today in the trial to determine damages in the copyright infringement case  photographer Daniel Morel brought against Agence France-Presse and Getty Images, following yesterday’s closing arguments by lawyers for all sides in the case.

The case began when Morel alerted AFP and Getty Images that they were distributing his exclusive images of the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti without his permission.  The images were published and broadcast by many news outlets. Morel did not receive payment for the almost 1,000 downloads of his images licensed by Getty and AFP, according to his attorney, Joseph Baio.

Morel sued the agencies for infringement. Federal District Court Judge Alison Nathan ruled in January that AFP and The Washington Post, which published images distributed by Getty, were liable for infringement.  The trial to determine damages began November 13 in Judge Nathan’s courtroom  in Manhattan.

Lindsay Comstock of Rangefinder covered the closing arguments  yesterday (and also spoke to Morel during a break in the proceedings about his stance against the two media giants).

As Comstock notes in her report of the day in court,  the lawyers for both AFP and Getty urged the jury to award damages based on the notion that the corporations “made mistakes” in their sale of the images.

You can read her full report of the closing arguments and see images Morel provided at the Rangefinder blog, PhotoForward.

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

AFP, Washington Post Violated Daniel Morel’s Copyrights, Judge Rules

July 18th, 2013

Startup Aims to Help Media License Amateur News Photos for $20 Apiece

An image sourced by CrowdMedia from a Twitter user who was on the tarmac at SFO during the Asiana Airlines crash was used in a gallery on Huffington Post.

© Huffington Post. An image sourced by CrowdMedia from Twitter user @mcc_maryland, whose plane was on the tarmac at SFO during the Asiana Airlines crash, was used in a gallery on Huffington Post.

A six-week-old company that connects media organizations to amateur photographers who have taken newsworthy photographs is creating some buzz, and could add yet another wrinkle to the market for news photography—one professional photographers and their photo agencies may not like.

CrowdMedia, the Montreal-based startup, uses a combination of an algorithm and a manual process to analyze more than 100 million images shared everyday via Twitter. The company identifies the .03% of these images that they consider valuable and newsworthy, reaches out to the creators via Twitter, and asks them to click a link if they would like to make their image available to media organizations. Once the creator of the photo creates an account, images are uploaded to the CrowdMedia platform, where media companies can find and purchase them for roughly $20 apiece, regardless of the usage.

Roldan says, “News outlets want [photos shared on social media] but it’s really cumbersome.” CrowdMedia promises to streamline the process, connecting editors directly to social media users.

CrowdMedia launched in June, shortly after the Chicago Sun-Times layed off its photo staff.

To read the full interview with CrowdMedia’s Roldan and learn more about the company’s pricing and functionality, see our full story, now on PDNOnline.

Related: Chicago Sun-Times Eliminates Photo Staff

January 15th, 2013

AFP, Washington Post Violated Daniel Morel’s Copyrights, Judge Rules

A federal court has ruled that Agence France-Press violated photographer Daniel Morel’s copyrights by distributing his images of the 2010 Haiti earthquake without permission.

The copyright infringement claims turned on whether the terms of service for Twitter, the social network that Morel used to distribute his images of the earthquake, gave AFP the legal right to download the images and re-distribute them.

“The Twitter TOS [terms of service] provides that users retain their rights to the content they post–with the exception of the license granted to Twitter and its patterns–rebutting AFP’s claim that Twitter intended to [give AFP license] to sell Morel’s photographs,” the court said. On that basis, it concluded that AFP was liable for copyright infringement.

The court also found The Washington Post, which published the images, liable for infringement.

But the court declined to rule on whether the infringement was willful, or whether Getty Images–which also distributed Morel’s photographs–is liable for infringement. The judge left those questions for a jury to decide. See our story on PDNonline for more details about the ruling.

--David Walker

Related Articles
Morel Wins Pre-Trial Victory Against AFP, Getty

Morel Releases More Evidence Against AFP, Getty in Copyright Case

Insult to Injury: AFP Suing Photographer It Stole Images From  (for PDN subscribers)

Morel Case Highlights Copyright Risks on Social Networks (for PDN subscribers)

June 4th, 2012

BBC Fooled by Syrian Rebel Propaganda Photo on Twitter

The BBC recently suffered a predictable consequence of relying on citizen journalism: It published a photograph circulated on Twitter by a Syrian anti-government activist that purportedly shows dead civilians after a government massacre last month in Houla, Syria. The image turns out to have been misappropriated and mislabeled for the purposes of propaganda.

The photo was actually a 2003 photograph from Iraq by Getty images contract photographer Marco di Lauro, John Harrington reported May 27 on his Photo Business News & Forum blog.  The image shows dozens of bodies dug up from a mass grave. They were victims of a brutal crackdown by former dictator Saddam Hussein against a Shi’ite uprising after the 1991 Gulf War.

A Syrian activist reportedly circulated the image on Twitter as evidence of a Syrian crackdown against its citizens, in order to stoke the international outrage against Al Assad’s government. The BBC saw it,  “obtained some information pointing to its veracity,” and published the image with a disclaimer saying it could not be independently verified, according to the mea culpa that BBC published on May 29.

“It was a mistake,” the BBC said, “and we apologise for it.” The image was displayed for approximately 90 minutes before it was taken down, the BBC says.

Harrington argues that the mistake was a predictable consequence of the rush by the BBC and other news organizations to embrace citizen journalism, while mouthing all the right words about upholding standards for accuracy, fairness and objectivity.

One would think that a few glaring errors like this might make reputable news organizations realize that there are no shortcuts to gathering and vetting news–and also make them twice shy about crowd-sourcing news in order to save money.

But for now the BBC seems undeterred. “Fortunately, such mistakes are very rare,” the BBC assures its readers. “BBC News has a strong track record of using content from non-traditional sources, and of stopping numerous examples of incorrect material making it to air or online – but it does underline the need to handle such material with great care.”

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?