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AFP Insists that TwitPics Carry No License

Imagine you’re a photographer sharing snapshots of the Haiti earthquake through TwitPic, an online service that lets Twitter users easily share pictures. Then you see one of your photos used by news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) without your permission—and with a credit line pointing to the wrong person.

That’s what happened to photojournalist Daniel Morel, who sent the AFP a cease-and-desist letter, accusing the agency of copyright violations. Believe it or not, the AFP ended up suing Morel, claiming that no infringement occurred. What makes the agency’s action even more confusing is that they’re basing their case on Twitter’s (not TwitPic’s) terms of service (TOS).

The AFP’s legal team apparently thinks that Twitter’s TOS (“By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license”) serves as a strong foundation for their arguments—even if the TOS is an agreement between Twitter and its users.

Even worse, both the AFP and Morel haven’t realized that TwitPic is a separate entity from Twitter, with its own TOS. To be fair Morel ‘s aggressive reaction to the AFP’s original mistake wasn’t exactly an exercise of diplomacy. The photojournalist does deserve credit for his photo, but his demand for significant compensation from the AFP—after freely sharing his work on TwitPic—comes off as hypocritical.

But the AFP’s actions related to this case seem illogical at best, and plain delusional at worst. The news agency refuses to change its stance, even as Twitter modified its guidelines due to AFP vs. Morel.

(image by ByFlickr on Flickr)