Are Twitter photos free to use? Not so fast

By Cory Bergman 

Here’s a big development in a legal case that TV newsrooms should watch carefully. A judge has refused to dismiss copyright claims against AFP, which used Twitpic photos of the Haiti earthquake without permission from the originating photographer.

AFP had claimed that the “broad re-use” of photos on Twitter gave it the right, but a judge just ruled (.pdf) that such a defense “does not clearly confer a right on others to re-use copyrighted postings.” That allows the photographer to move forward with a copyright suit.

What complicates matters here is the Twitpics that AFP used were copied by another Twitter user from the original Twitpics — without attribution — which made identifying the source even more difficult, especially under deadline.