I’m not sure why large media groups feel they can waltz up to a twitter feed and grab photographs that someone else has posted, and claim they have the right to unfettered use of that photo without the photographer’s permission. If the roles were reversed, and someone were to use a photograph posted on a news paper’s news feed or twitter feed, they would be banging down the doors for copyright infringement claim (absent any copyright defenses, mind you).

In this instance, when the 2010 devastating earthquake hit Haiti, the AFP news agency looked to Twitter and discovered a user’s “exclusive photos” of the disaster. AFP took those photos and shared them with photo service Getty. From there, the Washington Post then took the photos from Getty and published them on its website. Isn’t there a rule about double checking, or having two sources for the information you publish?

Well, it turned out, the “exclusive owner” of these “exclusive photos” didn’t have any right to them. Hence, Getty and the Post published the pics without permission and with an inappropriate attribution to the photographer.

Oops! Internship over.

Needless to say, the actual photographer sued for infringement. To which AFP, he Post and Getty argued, the posting of the image on Twitter gave a general license to anyone to use the image for their own needs. This is actually a very clever argument. On appeal, it could possibly hold up. Unlikely a though. The southern District of New York Federal District Court disagreed with the argument and found in favor of the photographer.

Read the opinion here