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Twitter Piracy The Courts Your Rights Online

Judge Rules Twitter Images Cannot Be Used Commercially 103

Posted by Soulskill
from the sharing-is-not-legally-caring dept.
New submitter trekkie314 writes "Reuters reports that a Manhattan District Judge has ruled that AFP and the Washington Post infringed a photographer's copyright by re-using photos he posted on his Twitter account. The judge rejected AFP's claim that a Twitter post was equivalent to making the images available for anyone to use (drawing a distinction between allowing users to re-tweet within the social network and the commercial use of content). The judge also ruled against the photographer's request that he be compensated for each person that viewed the photos, ruling instead that damages would be granted once per infringing image only. This last point might have interesting implications in file-sharing cases — can it set a precedent against massive judgments against peer-to-peer file-sharers?"
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Judge Rules Twitter Images Cannot Be Used Commercially

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  • by Safety Cap (253500) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @06:46PM (#42598087) Homepage Journal
    Long ago, if you didn't post a copyright notice on your work, it would lose copyright protection. That was changed by our brave congresscritters (may Sonny Bono rot in hell!)

    Now copyright applied the moment the work is fixed.

    Unless someone posts it Public Domain or one of the CC flavors, it is Copyrighted, period.*

    *US only. YMMV, especially if you're a foreigner, living in some country where everyone speaks backwards, wears funny clothes and eats smelly food. Also, the music! Don't get me started.

  • Re:Perpetual license (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cyberax (705495) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @06:51PM (#42598141)
    No, they would still need to acquire a license to this image. Damages only cover the past infringements.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @07:01PM (#42598201)

    *US only. YMMV, especially if you're a foreigner, living in some country where everyone speaks backwards, wears funny clothes and eats smelly food. Also, the music! Don't get me started.

    Actually...the Berne Convention is an international agreement that was lead to the US changing its laws, rather than a decision by any lawmakers in the US.

  • cannot ?! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Barryke (772876) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @07:18PM (#42598335) Homepage

    Can not be used commercially? Of course they can! They just need ask the owner first.. isn't this common sense in the US? In the Netherlands it is. News reporters contact people and ask for their consent before reusing the image they made and posted online.
    .

  • by qubezz (520511) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @07:45PM (#42598565)

    >> Why didn't the owners of AFP and The Post just pay him off?

    AFP didn't just not pay him off, after the photographer's agent sent take-down notices to AFP, AFP sued him [pdnpulse.com]. Then they sent a message over the wire service to kill all of Morel's own images, but not the identical images that had been sent out initially under the false credit.

    AFP deserves even more of a serious courtroom smackdown equivalent

  • by Zordak (123132) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @08:13PM (#42598777) Homepage Journal

    If an individual were to tweet an image originally made available on a large corporation's website, you can bet the Judge would rule that damages would be granted per each viewing of it.

    No they wouldn't. Statutory damages for copyrights are always awarded per infringed work. The only discretion for the fact finder is the amount, which can vary anywhere between $200 for innocent infringement to $150,000 for willful infringement. But it is always per work, which means that it doesn't matter if two people saw it or ten million. This is exactly what is happening in the RIAA file sharing cases, by the way. The damages are so large because there are lots of infringed works (e.g., if you shared 10 songs, damages could be up to $1.5 million).

    If you want damages based on how many people saw the picture, you would have to prove those as actual damages, either by proving that there is a profit per view attributable to the infringer, or that there is a profit you lost per infringing view. That's a lot harder than just collecting statutory damages.

  • by akpoff (683177) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @10:35PM (#42599729) Homepage

    The Berne Convention was written and first formally accepted in 1886...but not by the United States. The US steadfastly refused to adopt the convention because it would have required large changes to our copyright laws and acceptance of doctrines like author's moral rights for which we don't have analogous protections.

    The US did eventually adopt the Berne Convention and did so in the only way permitted by our Constitution: Congress passed the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988. The US Senate then formally ratified the Berne Convention making the US a signatory to the treaty.

    So yes, (some) US lawmakers did make a decision that resulted in changing our copyright laws.

    The OP, however, is not correct in his oblique suggestion that Sonny Bono is in part or whole to blame. (Though I have no doubt Sonny Bono supported it.) Sonny Bono's name is sometimes attached to the Copyright Extension Act of 1998 but he did not vote for it. (Though he had sponsored similar legislation earlier.) He died nine months before it's passage. His wife Mary, who was elected to his Congressional seat after his death, was instrumental in getting it passed in his name.

    Berne Convention [wikipedia.org]
    Copyright Extension Act [wikipedia.org]

  • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@NOspAm.world3.net> on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @07:54AM (#42601879) Homepage

    Actually the initial resistance to Berne was mostly because the US infringed copyright on a massive commercial scale. Books published in Europe were being reproduced in the US royalty free and sold for a profit, and then later on the same thing happened with sound recordings and movies.

    The US changed its copyright laws the moment it became economically beneficial to do so.

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