The issue of copyright and social media

As discussed at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, journalists have been experiencing issues with copyright and social media. Some media organisations have been sued for copyright infringement after using people’s social media posts within their content.

In 2013, Getty Images were sued for $1.2 million after using a photograph Daniel Morel posted on Twitter without his permission. Morel is a freelance photographer who captured images of Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. “As his official website says, he’s spent about 20 years ‘documenting his native country, capturing culture, history and people”1.

Buzzfeed were also sued for copyright infringement in the same year as Getty Images. A photographer, called Kai Eiselein, sued Buzzfeed for the unauthorised use of his image. Eiselein demanded $3.6 million for the damages. Buzzfeed used his photograph that he published in 2009 “showing a soccer player heading a football”2.

To avoid this litigation media organisations face, there are actions they can take. The most important task journalists should do is ask permission to use people’s posts from social media. According to, “embedding the tweet or Facebook post containing the image on their site, rather than the actual image, can act as a safeguard for news organisations”3.

Morally, it is also important give credit to people for the content they have provided you with to show appreciation. If you mention people’s names, it is likely that they will allow you to use more of their content in the future.

Due to the issues journalists have faced, it’s clear that you should always think about your user generated content and what impact they could have on your media organisation before you publish anything.


  1. 23 November 2013.
  2. 22 June 2013.



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