by Devika Agarwal (part of the 2nd Annual SpicyIP Fellowship applicant series)
Copyright in Photographs vis-a-vis Social Networking Sites
Arguments were made by both the parties where AFP asserted that anything uploaded to Twitter (the photograph had been uploaded by Morel via Twitpic which allows users to post to Twitter) was freely available for re-distribution by other Twitter users under the terms of service of the social networking service. Morel counter-sued for copyright infringement.
The Court finally held that posting of the images by Morel to Twitter did not mean forfeiture of his rights.
Click-wraps and Browse-wraps
Unilateral, one-sided agreements are not unique to Twitter; SNS like Instagram and Facebook equally partake in drawing up such contracts.
According to s. 2 of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, by uploading content on Facebook, the user essentially licenses his intellectual property rights to Facebook which is in the nature of a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license.
Where a click-wrap agreement has been held to be legally enforceable by the US courts, the validity of browse-wrap agreements has been dubious. This is based on the argument that enforcing an agreement which does not offer ‘actual notice’ of its existence to the users, will be unfair to them. Also, not every individual term within a browse-wrap agreement, which could otherwise be enforceable, is always enforceable; where a term in a browse-wrap agreement is unjustifiably one-sided or a violation of public policy, the Court may hold thatterm to be invalid. This was also held in In re Zappos.com, Inc., Customer Data Security Breach Litigation.
The Indian law on copyrights is similar to the US law which recognizes that rights to a photograph belong to the photographer unless there is an agreement to the contrary or the photograph is clicked by the photographer under employment- S.17 of The Copyright Act, 1957 recognizes that the photographer is the first owner of copyright in respect of a photograph. S.17 (a) makes the employer the first owner of copyright in a literary, dramatic or artistic work (which includes a photograph). S.30 of the 1957 Act allows for licensing of the copyrighted work by the owner through “writing by him or by his duly authorized agent.” S.10 A of Information Technology Act 2000 recognizes electronically formed contracts.
In my opinion, it will be decided in a manner similar to Daniel Morel. This is because a contract to be legally binding must not be unfair or detrimental to any law/public policy; this principle is the same across all jurisdictions. Further, in posting to social media sites the users also look for appreciation for their work (evident from the ‘likes’ / ‘comments’ section) and the unilateral relinquishment of the right to be accredited for one’s work is not in keeping with the public policy/copyright law of any State.
(At present, there is no case Indian case law which examines the validity of browse-wrap agreements.)
Devika Agarwal is a 4th year student at RML National Law University, Lucknow.
This post first appeared on SpicyIP. Crossposted with permission.