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The Copyright Waltz

Right on the heels of the decision made by Judge William H. Pauley of the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York in the Morel VS AFP case ( read all about here ) , things are heating up. According to a press release published by photoarchivenews , news photo agency WENN has made a deal with photo sharing site, PIXLI.

Hold on tight here as things could get complicated. According the succinct press release : “Celebrity photo agency WENN has announced an exclusive worldwide arrangement with the social photo sharing service PLIXI, to represent images posted by celebrities through their platform to Twitter and other social networks.”

PLIXI ( ex Tweetphoto) is a TWITPIC wannabee.  That is, anyone that would like to post an image to TWITTER would have to upload it here before, as Twitter does not host images. There are many sites like these ( yfrog, twitgoo, mobypicture, or As per their site, PLIXI is also a member of Celebuzz, a division of BUZZMEDIA ENTERTAINMENT, a deal recently sealed ( November 2010). BUZZMEDIA is in the business of Celebrity news blogs and properties ( more info here).

Still with me here? you can take a break if you would like. I’ll wait.

Ok, what is important to retain here is that they are all in the celebrity news business with a heavy  penchant for photography. Except PLIXI, who happens to host a few celebrity Twitter photo accounts.

So, if you are a celebrity and you or someone uploads an image on your account, WENN becomes de facto the exclusive worldwide licensor of those images.  As the PLIXI Terms of Service specify :

With respect to Content you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of Plixi, the license (with the right to sublicense) to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content, whether on the Service, or through other media. This license exists only for as long as you elect to continue to include such Content on the Service and will terminate at the time you remove or Plixi removes such Content from the Service; provided, however, that if Plixi distributes or authorizes distribution of any Content prior to your removal thereof from the Service, Plixi’s (and it’s sublicenses’) rights with respect to such Content shall be in perpetuity.

Yes, in perpetuity, even if you don’t like it.

There is no mention of compensation to the photographer or celebrity. However, you can be sure that Plixi will certainly retain a part of the WENN obtain license fee.

It’s a smart move for both companies. WENN secures itself intimate photo feeds of celebrities while PLIXI generates revenue and publicity. The question is whether the celebrities will continue to use the service knowing  this. It will also be interesting to see if AFP or Getty makes the same deal with TWITPIC after the Morel fiasco, enabling them to legally license images from anyone.

The irony is that Twitter, the company that makes all this possible, does not see a penny.

Ok, you can go outside now and breath.

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