A judge in New York City has ruled that pictures taken by a freelance photographer and posted on his Twitter account were not available for use by news organizations. Daniel Morel, who had been working in Haiti following the earthquake there in 2010, sued both Agence France-Press and The Washington Post after he discovered the news organizations had used photos he took following the disaster without asking his permission. Both AFP and the Post argued that once the images had appeared on Twitter they were available to anyone, but Judge Alison Nathan’s ruling says that Twitter’s terms of service didn’t allow publication without the photographer’s permission. The ruling partially grants Morel’s motion for a summary judgment but leaves several other issues in the case to be decided at trial.
It’s the first court case to deal with the whole intellectual-property-on-social-media issue. Remember the uproar last month when Instagram announced changes to its terms of service before performing a U-turn? (It might be hoping we’ve forgotten.) When the upcoming trial is held (no date set yet), it’ll be interesting to see how it determines the consequences of filching photos from Twitter.