APhotoEditor has posted about the tribulations of Daniel Morel, a Haitian photographer who posted images on Twitter which were then used by AFP without permission of the photographer, etc. The photog is upset and sent his lawyer after the “infringers.”
Sadly, here, it doesn’t look like there were any infringers, legally-speaking.
I know this is going to piss off many of you, but the photographer screwed up. He posted his images without taking steps to make sure he wasn’t giving away too many rights in the doing. As professionals, every photographer must take those steps. It’s a (big) part of your job.
Here, the results suck for the photographer. It didn’t have to be that way because Twitter has incredibly clear TOS which include the following:
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).
After that, they even go further, explaining the rights:
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.
Such additional uses by Twitter, or other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter, may be made with no compensation paid to you with respect to the Content that you submit, post, transmit or otherwise make available through the Services.
One read would have been enough to say “no, this won’t work.” But he didn’t bother. Morel’s own attorney has been quoted as saying “Mr. Morel had no prior experience with Twitter, the social networking site and did not read the Terms of Service.”
Well, there you have it.
Moreover, you can’t have it both ways. I’m sure that any photographer who submits T&Cs with his/her estimate and invoice expects those terms to be respected. Why shouldn’t Twitter expect the same? Everything else that happened (AFP’s involvement, etc.) evolved out of that one mistake.
The point of all this? READ THE TOS FOR EVERYTHING YOU USE. Sure, it’s hard and boring and not what you may want to do, but it is your responsibility to protect your rights. You can’t claim ignorance. Certainly you can’t claim ignorance and then get upset when your own clients (and others) do the same when they violate your terms.
Do the right thing for your work and your business. Read TOS and T&Cs and do not use services that grab too many rights. Yes, many of those services are easier than finding alternatives, but the price for that ease is too high. In this case, in the rush to get his images out to the world, Mr. Morel appears to have (essentially) given them away.
(remember, I am not a lawyer, just a law student, so none of this should be taken as legal advice–it’s just my own opinion and musings)