This article has been updated on 12 May at 10am [GMT] with comments from WENN's CEO Lloyd Beiny. Click here to jump to the update.
“In what was a hotly contested tender, we are extremely pleased to be selected as the exclusive photo agency partner of TwitPic," says Lloyd Beiny, CEO of WENN. The deal will give WENN exclusive rights to sell images posted on the TwitPic service.
It comes hours after the image-sharing website was hit by a storm of criticism for claiming the copyright on all content published on TwitPic, forcing CEO Noah Everett to alter the site's terms and conditions and clarify his position. "We recently made changes to our terms of service that has caused some confusion for our users," he writes. "We've updated our terms again to be more clear and to also show that you still own your content. Our goal with TwitPic from the beginning has been to create the best way to share your photos and videos on Twitter and to always keep our user's best interest at the forefront."
He adds: "To clarify our ToS regarding ownership, you the user retain all copyrights to your photos and videos, it's your content. Our terms state by uploading content to TwitPic you allow us to distribute that content on twitpic.com and our affiliated partners."
The terms and conditions now read: "You retain all ownership rights to Content uploaded to TwitPic. However, by submitting Content to TwitPic, you hereby grant TwitPic a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content in connection with the Service and TwitPic's (and its successors' and affiliates') business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels."
Everett also attributes the changes to the success of TwitPic in helping spread breaking news photographs. "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."
According to Beiny, that's when WENN comes in. "There has been much unauthorised use of TwitPic images which we shall be addressing without delay. The belief by some that any photo posted on Twitter is available at no cost is completely wrong but now as result of this new arrangement, anyone wishing to publish celebrity photos posted on Twitter via TwitPic will be able to do so legitimately via WENN.”
However, it remains unclear whether TwitPic users can opt out of the scheme. Emails to TwitPic remained unanswered as we publish this article. Following numerous requests for comment, WENN's CEO has addressed the controversy on 12 May, denying that its deal with TwitPic will affect the majority of users. "I feel many commentators have gotten a firm grip of the wrong end of the stick concerning the WENN/TwitPic arrangement," he says. "Under [this arrangement], WENN is only permitted to distribute images posted by a very small number of celebrities, so 99.99999999% of TwitPic users remain totally unaffected by the arrangement."
However, both companies have failed to clarify whether copyright owners - the people who have taken the photos or uploaded them on TwitPic - will receive a share of the proceeds generated when sold through WENN.
Earlier this year, WENN signed a similar deal with Plixi, another service used to post images on Twitter. According to Amateur Photographer magazine, Beiny said that "Plixi first approached WENN to 'see if we could help them out, after noticing that newspapers, magazines and websites increasingly publish images taken by celebrities from Twitter for free and without permission."
Beiny didn't "rule out selling on other types of Twitter images to the wider media, such as pictures of a breaking news story, if it were brought to its attention, whether featuring a celebrity or not," according to Amateur Photographer. "It [the agreement with Plixi] applies to all pictures but unless it is something really exceptional it is unlikely we would be interested in anything other than a celebrity," Beiny told the UK-based magazine.
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