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In a ruling that could have dramatic consequences for online news agencies and digital journalists, a judge ruled Tuesday that two news outlets should have asked permission before using a Twitter picture from a photojournalist.
According to the court's ruling, Agence France-Press violated the copyright of photojournalist Daniel Morel by taking photos of a 2010 earthquake in Haiti that he tweeted and disseminating them without permission via Getty. The Washington Post, the court found, violated Morel's copyright by running four of the photos from Getty also without Morel's permission, according to Reuters.
Twitter's Terms of Service lay at the center of District Judge Alison Nathan's decision: While the AFP argued Morel's work was free to use once posted to Twitter, Nathan instead found that Twitter's Terms of Service required that news outlets first get permission before running tweeted photos.
Nathan, however, did rule that the retweeting of such photos is allowed.
Twitter has long held that photographers own their tweeted content. The company's Terms of Service section on copyright maintains that "Twitter respects the intellectual property rights of others and expects users of the Services to do the same."
The section also contains detailed instructions on contacting Twitter if a user feels his or her content is "copied in a way that constitutes copyright infringement."