— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) March 3, 2014
If you didn’t know, the above picture was the most Retweeted tweet/pic in the history of the social media platform. It actually crashed the site. So the question that has come up among lawyers is who owns the picture?
Actor Bradley Cooper took the picture, but Oscar show host Ellen DeGeneres uploaded the picture from her twitter account. Usually the original content creator (Cooper) would hold the copyright. But, DeGeneres does have an argument since she was the one with the idea for the “selfie” and posted the picture. Then, there’s the issue of whether the actual phone used would have a right to the picture. Without too much of an exhaustive discussion on this, its unlikely unless the content creators had a contract regarding copyright.
The first issue is to look at the Twitter terms of service since that was the method in which the photograph was distributed. According to this Poynter article, the twitter account holder has the right to post, submit or display on its platform. Certainly, if you copy and paste the photo from Twitter and use it for another use, you may have to look for permission especially if its for commercial use. A case last year saw a photographer win a lawsuit against a news agency (and settle with several others) as a result of the news agencies not seeking proper permission. So, as posted here, the photo has not been taken out of its native form.