Photographer Wins Landmark $1.2M Lawsuit Against Companies That Took His Twitter Photos

A freelance photo-journalist has made a tidy sum, thanks to a jury ruling in his favor on Friday. The issue at hand? Copyright over photos he posted to Twitter.
According to Reuters, both the Agence France-Presse and Getty Images were ordered to pay $1.2 million to Daniel Morel.

These two companies were found to be in willful violation of the Copyright Act, after having used Morel’s photos that they took from Twitter.

The photos were posted to Twitter in 2010, following the earthquake in Haiti that killed more than 250,000 people. Morel is a native of Haiti.

This $1.2 million ruling followed District Judge Alison Nathan’s January 2013 ruling that the media companies violated Twitter’s terms of service by publishing tweeted photos without asking the copyright owner’s permission. The judge did rule, incidentally, that retweeting the photos is allowed.

Morel’s settlement was the maximum penalty for such a situation under the Copyright Act.

This ruling brings the question of who owns what on Twitter. It sets a precedent that the original creator of photos (and possibly other multimedia) actually owns them, and must be contacted before their photos are taken off Twitter and published – despite the fact that they were first published on the very public forum that is Twitter.

(Source: Reuters; Lawsuit image via Shutterstock)