The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) have welcomed a US federal jury decision on 22 November to award Haitian photographer Daniel Morel a large amount of damages for violation of his authors' rights in photographs by Agence France Press and Getty Images.
The legal dispute between Morel and AFP began on 13 January 2010 when Morel uploaded his photographs of the Haiti earthquake on the social networking website, Twitpic. The AFP published Morel's photographs without obtaining his permission and wrongly credited Mr Lisandro Suero, who had re-posted Morel's pictures, as the author.
When confronted later by Morel, the AFP argued that Morel granted third parties (including AFP) a broad license to use his photographs posted on Twitpic. However, the US district court in New York rejected the AFP's arguments on 23 December 2010. (see EFJ statement and court's ruling). In January 2013 another judge also ruled that Morel's authors' rights had been infringed.
The jury decision grants Morel $1.2 million damages for infringement of his authors' rights on eight pictures. It decided that AFP and Getty had intentionally infringed Morel's rights as well as the US Digital Millennium Act, granting Morel additional damages for this.
"Clear respect for journalists and photo journalists' rights ‘ to be identified as authors and decide on the use to be made of their work is key if we want our colleagues to make a living and control the use that is made of their work," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.
"This decision is a great step forward in our battle to uphold authors' rights. Additionally we hope that it will encourage social media to endorse fair policies when it comes to the use of creative works."
In 2011 Twitpic issued an apology for seemingly claiming copyright on images uploaded on its website. It changed its terms and conditions stating that users retain all copyrights to their photos and videos following protests by Twitpic users and copyright disputes.
However, the social media platform demands all its contributors grant it a "worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use works posted."
"This means that Twitpic can still use creative works for free, including for commercial purposes," said EFJ President Mogens Blicher-Bjerregård. "Media professionals should be made clearly aware ofthe implications such licenses have when they upload their work on social media".
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 17
The IFJ represents more than 600 000 journalists in 134 countries