Sky News Being Sued by Photographer After Embedding His Photo-Tweet in a News Article

Sky News Being Sued by Photographer After Embedding His Photo-Tweet in a News Article

In what has the potential to be a landmark case in U.K. news history, a freelance photographer is taking legal action against the broadcaster for their usage of his photo, which they included by embedding a tweet.

A continuing issue for many online broadcasters, particularly those covering time-sensitive content such as breaking news, is the use of relevant imagery. One particular loophole around this is to embed images from Twitter and Instagram, thus the credit and source of the image remain in tact. Through an embed, readers of an article can click through to the original post. Embedding tweets has become common practice within the media, and is even actively encouraged by Twitter.

In a recent article about a building fire in Bognor Regis, U.K., Sky News did exactly that, embedding a tweet that contained a photograph from the scene. A photograph that Eddie Mitchell, a freelance photographer of 17 years, held the copyright to. The tweet containing the image came from the account of the local fire station, whom Mitchell claims he gave permission to post the picture. He was not happy, however, when Sky News decided to embed the photo-tweet within their article.

The case is now heading to Worthing Crown Court, with Mitchell adding:

I attend breaking news stories across the county of Sussex as my role as a full time bonafide news-gatherer. I pass on my pictures to the emergency services for no fee as I respect all the work they all do.

In this case one of the firefighters asked if he could tweet a picture of mine I said yes, he did, and this is the picture that Sky News embedded on their website, for their own gain, in respect of web hits.

They did not make any attempt via social media or the services 24/7 control to ask permission to use the said picture/tweet, Sky News took it for granted that all crown pictures are free to use and therefore did.

If they had asked West Sussex Fire and Rescue control or firefighter who tweeted it, they would have told it was not their copyright to grant such use.

Citing their "very strict policies" in regards to image usage, the counter-argument from Sky News cited the fire station tweeted the photo "on the premise it was theirs." Sky News removed the photo after Mitchell contacted them claiming otherwise, but not before referencing the fact other news outlets made the same mistake. It appears that several outlets ran with the assumption the photo was property of the fire service, and thus, usage was free-rein.

Lawyers for Sky News said they were confident about the upcoming court case: “The tweet was embedded in good faith on the understanding that it was available with consent. Therefore, the embedding of a link to the tweet does not constitute an infringement of your rights.”

What are your thoughts? Who’s in the right here?

[via Press Gazette]

Jack Alexander's picture

A 28-year-old self-taught photographer, Jack Alexander specialises in intimate portraits with musicians, actors, and models.

Log in or register to post comments

Stupid lawsuit. He gave permission for it to be posted on Twitter, the very act of posting on Twitter gives Twitter the rights to share it in this way. It's very clear in the TOS. He may not have realized all that he was agreeing too when he gave permission to the fire station to use it on Twitter, but that blame can only lie with the photographer and/or the fire station, not Sky News.

Yep. It's in the user agreement. And since it was embedded, technically the photo was still being posted only in Twitter.

The Daily Star recently used an iPhone image I tweeted for an online article...without consent. They also took the image and doctored it somewhat and published it as a composite. All of which contravened Copyright Law.

It may have only been an average iPhone shot but I got £100 out of them!!!

Twitter says that the copyright of the image even if tweeted belongs solely to the individual that took the image.

With this particular case, it all comes down to the law believing Sky News' story of 'not-knowing'...

Good luck trying to fight such a huge organisation 👍🏻