Morel is a professional photographer. He was in Haiti the day of the earthquake and uploaded his pictures to TwitPic.com, linking to those pictures using his Twitter account. The AFP news agency allegedly distributed without authorization and mis-attributed his pictures in various ways. AFP argues that the Twitter terms of service granted them a royalty-free license as a sub-licensee of Twitter or it is a third-party beneficiary of Twitter’s terms of service with Morel, allowing for re-distribution. AFP’s motion to dismiss denied on direct copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement and DMCA (removal of his attribution notice); granted as to Lanham 43(a) (on Dastar grounds) and vicarious infringement.
The Background section makes for interesting reading as to how a ‘hot news’ photo zips around the world these days.