Agence France-Presse and The Washington Post infringed on the copyrights of photographer Daniel Morel in using pictures he took in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake in January 2010, District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan ruled.
From Reuters earlier today.
The photographer put the Haiti images on Twitter, and they were then disseminated widely after an AFP editor discovered them through another Twitter user’s account, according to the ruling.
AFP distributed several of the pictures to Getty Images, the ruling said. The Washington Post, a Getty client, published four of the images on its website, according to the ruling.
So Morel approached AFP, which then sued Morel on grounds that it legally used his photos. Morel sued back, and sued the Washington Post and Getty as well, though at the time of this writing Getty is not in the same boat as the publishers.
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.”
FJP: Should be interesting to see how this plays out.
Copyright should be shorter in duration, more balanced, more comprehensible, and normatively closer to what members of the public think that it means or should mean.
U.S. Patent No. 8,171,128 — “Communicating a newsfeed of media content based on a member’s interactions in a social network environment” – Filed on August 11, 2006, and granted on May 1, 2012.
Facebook patents the News Feed, via ZDNet.
The question then becomes: will they use the patent offensively or defensively against other social networks that display news feeds in much the same way (eg., Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, etc.).
Reading the patent more closely, you’ll see Facebook discusses how to let users see certain status updates, pictures, links to videos, and even actions friends take. The social networking giant describes keeping a profile of each person on the social network in a database, identifying relationships between said users, generating “stories” based on the connections, and then creating a News Feed for each user.
Last but certainly not least, Facebook watches what actions the viewer takes in response to the stories (such as Liking, Sharing, or commenting), and then uses that information to serve more stories. It’s also noted that content can come from outside the social network and that users can change preference settings to filter in or out what stories they see.
The other day I talked about Insurgents vs Incumbents. This is the framework we use at [Union Square Ventures] to think about a lot of things. And in the world of patents, the advantage goes to the Incumbents who can hoard patents and use them to their advantage. The insurgent, three engineers in a walk up in Bushwick, can’t even afford the lawyer or the time to file a patent. So it is very encouraging to see an emerging incumbent, Twitter, do something like this. They are saying to the world that they do not intend to compete on the basis of patents and instead they will compete on the basis of product, feature set, user experience, etc, etc.
USV is committed to support this initiative. We are instructing the startup lawyers we work with to insert the patent hack language in our standard forms. We are reaching out to our friends in the startup world including other VCs, accelerator programs, and the startup lawyer universe to suggest that they to insert the patent hack into their standard forms. And we will recommend to our existing portfolio companies that they adopt it as well. Of course, entrepreneurs and their companies will have to be the ultimate determinator of whether they want this provision in their inventions assignments agreement. If an entrepreneur we invest in does not want this provision, we will certainly support that decision. But we will want to have a conversation about why they would want to do that.
Fred Wilson, Principal, Union Square Ventures. The Twitter “Patent Hack”.
Background: Yesterday Twitter announced its Innovator’s Patent Agreement whereby it will put patents in control of its designers and engineers. The goal is make sure that patents are only used defensively against potential lawsuits. As Adam Messinger, Twitter’s vice-president of engineering writes:
Typically, engineers and designers sign an agreement with their company that irrevocably gives that company any patents filed related to the employee’s work. The company then has control over the patents and can use them however they want, which may include selling them to others who can also use them however they want. With the IPA, employees can be assured that their patents will be used only as a shield rather than as a weapon.
An important move, to be sure. M-CAM, a global asset management firm, reports that there are “over 30,000 patents that describe key aspects of social networking, ecommerce, and data management” with companies spending $83 billion each year defending themselves against them.
Twitter’s IPA move is the company’s attempt to reinvent how patents are used (for defense only) and we hope others are inspired to do the same. It’s great to see major tech players like Union Square Ventures looking to bake the concept into all the startups it works with — Michael
The first thing you need to know about the U.S. patent system is that it has a backlog of more than 700,000 patents.
The second thing you need to know is that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been so neglected for so many years — literally robbed of funds by Congress, which re-appropriated portions of the agency’s budget for other purposes — that the organization tasked with protecting America’s technological and scientific assets labors with too few staff and a “20-year old technology infrastructure that does not even remotely enable it to take advantage of modern information technology.”
And the most important thing you need to know about the U.S. patent system is that the America Invents Act just passed by Congress doesn’t fix any of this. Nor does it touch the larger issue of whether or not it’s wise to allow inventors to patent business processes and software and then sue the hell out of each other in a cage match that is essentially a tax on innovation.