A Case About Social Networks And Photographers

Take a seat this is a long one. I’ll bullet-point it to try to highlight the main issues.

  • Photographer Daniel Morel, was in Haiti when the earthquake struck on January 12, 2010.
  • Morel created photographs and posted them to TwitPic
  • Another photographer, Lisandro Suero, swipes  Morel’s pictures and claims them as his own.
  • Agence Agence France Presse (AFP) contacts Suero for distribution rights.
  • Morel’s pictures are distributed and published widely. Boston Globe, New York Times, etc.
  • Morel contacts AFP and others seeking for his pictures to be removed or rightfully credited to the owner of the work, himself.
  • AFP sues Morel for “antagonistic assertion of rights” or damaging the news service’s brand.

Duckrabbit has a good post with lots of supporting links. http://duckrabbit.info/blog/2010/10/afp-cnn-getty-abc-v-morel-why-this-case-matters-to-all-professional-photographers-or-why-getty-could-be-selling-your-photos-without-you-even-knowing/

As a side note  there’s been a lot of  discussion around statements made by JF Leroy, the Director of Visa Pour L’Image. http://duckrabbit.info/blog/2010/09/dear-mr-leroy/

Social networking sites like TwitPic have a lot of potential for individual photographers to license their work. This case is important because if it goes for AFP we lose. If it goes for Morel it restates that as the owners of our work we must grant permission to use it.

If someone uses our work without our permission, it’s copyright infringement and  the infringing parties should be punished to  the fullest extent of the law.

Just because the  internet makes our work easy to take doesn’t make it  right to take it and doesn’t diminish the fact that if you use it without our permission it’s outright theft.

Personally I  would NEVER post my pictures to social networking sites like Twitter, TwitPic, Facebook, etc. their Terms of  Service (TOS) are too broad and, to me, ambiguous.

There are MUCH better options like Photoshelter and Demotix that  allows  you to  get your  pictures out there while keeping more control  over them.

What I would do or wouldn’t do aside,  I don’t think Mr. Morel should be admonished for his actions.

That’s akin to blaming the victim for the crime instead of blaming the criminal.

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