Photo app Twitpic has been through a bit of a storm this last week. The company announced it would license images submitted to the application for through stockphotography agency WENN. As this would efffectively mean that those submitting the content would loose their copyright this has sparked an intense debate that is still ongoing. Twitpic says it has made the changes in its terms and the deal with WENN to ensure images are properly licensed and not simply taken of Twitter to be used by mainstream media. Those who looked at the terms have found that even if you take images out from the application any license granted will be irrevocable. It also appears those submitting the image would not share in the revenue generated by licensing it.
This practice now appears far from unique as all but one website take copyright of the images posted via the app. See here for a list. Wenn’s CEO has since shed a bit more light on the situation by saying this will not impact 99.99999% of users but only a selected few. Twitpic has also given more information on their blog:
As we’ve grown, Twitpic has been a tool for the spread of breaking news and events. Since then we’ve seen this content being taken without permission and misused. We’ve partnered with organizations to help us combat this and to distribute newsworthy content in the appropriate manner. This has been done to protect your content from organizations who have in the past taken content without permission. As recently as last month, a Twitpic user uploaded newsworthy images of an incident on a plane, and many commercial entities took the image from Twitpic and used it without the user’s permission.
As this situation has received headlines and frontpages in even mainstream press the debate appears far from over. In fact, in social applications like these the reaction of the public can very quickly do a lot of damage. It remains to be seen what this means for Twitpic. The question also remains what happens when people do want to license the images and if there is a solution that enables the sharing of revenues between producers, aggregators like twitpic, and sales organisations like WENN.