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IFJ gives cautious welcome to Twitpic’s withdrawal of rights-grabbing terms

THE IFJ (International Federation of Journalists) has given a cautious welcome to the move by Twitpic, a picture posting service not owned by Twitter, to amend its rights-grabbing terms, noting that "this is an encouraging sign in the battle to defend authors' rights".

Following protest by Twitpic users and copyright disputes, Twitpic founder Noah Everett issued a statement today to apology for seeming to claim copyright on images uploaded on its website. Everett announced that Twitpic has changed its unfair terms and conditions stating that "users retain all copyrights" to their photos and videos.

"While we welcome Twitpic's apology and the acknowledgement of the issue of rights abuse, journalists should remain cautious when posting their works on social networking sites," said Beth Costa, IFJ General Secretary.

The IFJ warned that controversial clauses regarding the use of content by third parties still remain. "This means that by agreeing to the terms and conditions, the user grants Twitpic the right to distribute their images even though the terms say they still keep their copyright," said the IFJ.

"The unauthorised use by third parties seriously damages the moral rights of authors", added Costa, "The legal dispute regarding the unauthorised use of users' content on Twitpic by Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a lesson to be learned."

Earlier this year, a US court partially vindicated Haitian photographer Daniel Morel, whose iconic photographs of the Haiti earthquake posted on Twitpic were published by AFP without prior authorisation. AFP also wrongly credited another Twitpic user as the author of the photographs. The US court rejected the claim by AFP that Morel granted third parties (under Twitpic's terms and conditions) a broad license to use his photographs.

AFP, with CNN, ABC, CBS Presse and Getty Images, initially sued Moral for "antagonistic assertion of rights". Morel's lawsuite against AFP and Getty continues, with a hearing expected in the late summer. The British Journal of Photography reports that CNN, ABC and CBS have offered payments to settle his cases against them.

It is alleged - though the Freelance has not been able to verify this - that Twitpic's terms and conditions changed shortly after the Morel debâle. For the record, at 19:00 on 15 May 2010 the essential parts read:

You retain all ownership rights to Content uploaded to Twitpic. However, by submitting Content to Twitpic, you hereby grant Twitpic a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content in connection with the Service and Twitpic's (and its successors' and affiliates') business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels.

Twitpic does need some kind of broad licence to allow it to serve the pictures to those who follow Twitter links. But is the above too broad? And why does it currently insist on the following:

To publish another Twitpic user's content for any commercial purpose or for distribution beyond the acceptable Twitter "retweet" which links back to the original user's content page on Twitpic, whether online, in print publication, television, or any other format, you are required to obtain permission from Twitpic in advance of said usage and attribute credit to Twitpic as the source where you have obtained the content.

... why permission from Twitpic, not the photographer, then? The current version is here.

Last modified: 15 May 2011 - © 2011 contributors
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