Photographer awarded large payout for stolen Twitter images

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Twitter image misuse results in $1.2m payout

Courts have ruled in favour of freelance photographer Daniel Morel in his case against Getty Images and Agence-France-Presse over the unauthorised use of images from his Twitter account.

The images in question are photographs taken in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the birthplace of Morel and a country he has documented in picture form for over 20 years. An editor at Agence-France-Presse had discovered the images on the account of another Twitter user, sending them to Getty Images.

This resulted in the pictures taken by Morel being distributed to a number of sources, with The Washington Post amongst many publications to reproduce the photographs. Twitter was not involved in the legal action, unlike a recent case in which they were sued for $124 million.

Landmark social media case

While this is not the first time that large lawsuits have been filed following improper use of images on the internet, it represents a landmark case when it comes to social media.

Agence-France-Presse had claimed fair usage in 2010 and filed a lawsuit against Morel demanding that he drop his claims of copyright infringement. Not only was this case unsuccessful, but it lead to the counterclaim that resulted in Morel receiving this significant payout. As with previous cases on Flickr in which ownership rights have been violated, this case is expected to significantly change the way in which Twitter images are redistributed.

Rachel Hand, head of content at theEword commented: "Twitter has proven to be an invaluable tool for journalists when it comes to finding fresh content and breaking news. However, this case serves as a warning that correct procedures must still be followed even when content is being shared on social media and that these images cannot be used without permission. I expect that Morel's case will now lead to significant reform in the way such agencies gather photos from online sources."