A photographer has sued a news agency over what he claims is the unauthorised use of pictures, depicting the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, which he had posted on Twitter.

Photojournalist Daniel Morel captured some of the first pictures of the earthquake, on 12 January, while he was teaching at a school in Port au Prince.

Morel denies that posting his images on the social networking website effectively gave Agence France Presse (AFP) the right to publish the images worldwide.

Morel has sued the French news agency in the United States District Court in New York, claiming up to $150,000 in damages for each alleged infringement.

In response, AFP has filed a lawsuit against Morel seeking the court?s declaration that it has not breached the photographer’s copyright.

AFP maintains that Morel provided a non-exclusive license to use the images by posting them on Twitter, without any limit on use, copying or distribution.

The main thrust of the legal action centres on whether posting his photos on Twitter gave a licence to the world to use them, according to media lawyer Charles Swan.

‘Similar issues have arisen in the past in other cases involving photographs posted on Flickr and Facebook,’ said Swan.

‘There is still a tendency to think that all content posted on the internet is free. Clearly this is not the case, but social networking sites such as Twitter will continue to generate claims of this nature until the copyright position has been clarified.’