Swedish Public Television Claims Copyright Publication Rights To Everybody's Sports Photos If Posted On Twitter

Well, this is a new one. Swedish Public Television just posted legal terms and conditions as to what they are allowed to do when others are posting sports photos from the Winter Games in Sochi on Twitter. In terms of the worst copyright monopoly bullshit I’ve seen, this ranks pretty high.

Swedish Public Television, SVT – funded with public money – just posted a long page of legalese detailing all the publication rights they have when somebody posts photos from the Sotji winter games under a specific hashtag. There’s only one problem: it’s complete bullshit. They don’t get a shred of publication right, neither because somebody posts photos on Twitter, nor because they assert they have the rights to publish under copyright monopoly law.

As that page can be predicted to be removed, here’s documentation of the full image of the published webpage with asserted “terms and conditions”. (For the legally inclined, I have a formal journalistic license – utgivningsbevis – and this is proper reporting on abuse of power by powerholders.)

"Terms and conditions" asserted by SVT, the Swedish Public Television, when other people post images on Twitter
“Terms and conditions” asserted by SVT, the Swedish Public Television, when other people post images on Twitter

The “terms and conditions” posted read, in full:

When you post images under the hashtag #mittOS14 [Ed note: translates to “My olympic games ’14”] in a response to our call, you give publication rights to SVT, and therefore, some terms and conditions apply. You can read about them here.

These terms and conditions apply when you, in response to a direct and specific call from us, share images you’ve taken as a private individual under the hashtag #mittos14:

You must have the complete rights to the images, that is, you’re the photographer and the images don’t contain any work protected by copyright or an achievement created/performed by somebody else. [Ed note: this is a rather odd condition for a sports photo, anyway, considering they typically depict achievements by somebody else]

That SVT has the right to use the images (within the boundaries for SVT’s operations, that is in TV shows, on svt.se, and on other platforms where people can take part of SVT’s offerings).

That SVT, in preparation for such use, may crop and edit the images without your permission.

That SVT’s usage rights extend in perpetuity.

That you accept that you’re not entitled to any compensation for the grant of publication rights.

If we, from the above terms and conditions, publish an image that you shared under #mittos14, it shall be made clear who took the photograph.

This is one of the worst heaps of copyright monopoly bullshit I’ve seen in a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of it as an activist. The Swedish Public Television – which prides itself on being by the people, for the people, independent of the government (which is mostly a complete fabrication, but frequently asserted anyway) – is out on very thin ice when they claim the rights to any and all images posted by somebody unknown to a third-party service under a specific hash tag.

The very thin layer of ice hangs on the clause “when you do this in a response to a direct and specific call from us”, being able to possibly claim something like work for hire and therefore entering a contract. But obviously, there are a ton of different reasons somebody may post images on Twitter, and that doesn’t relinquish their rights to those images, even if SVT would understandably like that to happen. The burden of proof for this superthin ice is on SVT in showing that a contract and agreement was mutually entered into, and that’s absolutely impossible to prove – and SVT’s legal team should definitely know this, especially given that they have had no contact with the party they’ve allegedly entered into a contract.

Further, the thin line hangs on the thread of the hashtag #mittos14, and SVT would have to argue that the only reason somebody would use that hashtag is because they had agreed to the terms and conditions. But that’s almost the complete opposite from how hashtags work: we typically use hashtags because we see other people use them, or because we make them up on the spot. It would be totally natural for somebody to post photos just by seeing other people do so, so that argument is ridiculously weak.

When somebody posts images on Twitter, that doesn’t give news agencies permission to use them at all. We have a legal precedent as to pretty much exactly this, when Agence France Presse tried to use a person’s photo on Twitter, asserting exactly that they had usage rights because it was “posted on Twitter”, and in the end, the verdict told AFP to pay $1.2 million in damages for that ridiculous stunt.

You never stop getting surprised – these are the organizations that fight the hardest to maintain the copyright monopoly, and then they attempt blatant abuses of it like this?

The ridiculous thing here isn’t that SVT wants to reshare good images. We all do that, dozens every day, usually in violation of the copyright monopoly – but we’re also highlighting how ridiculous the copyright monopoly is and working to change it through several parallel avenues of disruption. Here, the SVT is doing the exact opposite: they’re defending the copyright monopoly, and pretending and asserting that this is how it works, that they’re legally able to take anything they want and use it however they want merely by assertion. That would be comedy gold, if it weren’t for the abusiveness of the law and the public by a major powerholder funded by the public.

UPDATE: Following an escalating and well-deserved shitstorm, it appears that the SVT is now (11:30 UTC) in uncontrolled panic-backpedal mode: the page with asserted so-called “legal terms and conditions” is changing almost on a minute-by-minute basis.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. Ilja

    I am under the impression that the Olympic Games held in Sochi (Sotji) are winter games.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Yes, obviously. Mindslip, I had fixed that before the comment was posted but before the edits had taken effect. Thanks.

  2. Gustav Tällberg

    Is this the right time to publish images of the terms of service(TOS) from Massachusetts institute of technology(MIT)? 😉

  3. Aengeln Englund

    I would love to see people posting random winter sport related pictures, and SVT using them for news about the Olympics. 🙂

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      This would be hilarious. 🙂

    2. Daibar

      or just post screenshots from the series “game of thrones” …. today on the longjump. and then post a picture of a guy being thrown from the great wall.

      would be wonderful to see that on the news.. imagine what copyright sharks would wet themselves and start a case against SVT

  4. Anders

    I can’t find where SVT claims the copyright?

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      “The copyright” is a bundle of quite disparate exclusive rights that can be sublicensed. One of them is the right to publish/broadcast to the public, and it’s this right that SVT is talking about.

      They’re not talking about the copyright monopoly as an umbrella concept because it would be meaningless to do so here – they’re talking about broadcast/publishing rights, which is one of the specific monopoly rights in the umbrella.

      1. Anders

        Then SVT is not claiming any explicit rights, if other from the same or other source(Twitter) get the picture they may also publish it?

        If SVT would want to create a channel where interested people could share pictures for SVT to use, freely, how should SVT do it?

        Twitter is not an option?

        1. Rick Falkvinge

          They can’t just assert rights over things posted to a general publication platform. There are many options – one of the easiest would be to set up a web page on their own domain where people can submit their photos for publication, and list the T&C there.


        2. Anders

          I find it to be sad that you closed the discussion, as in I can not reply directly to your post.

          Twitter is a popular and easy accessible format, where in this case it had been easy for people to share their photos and it would have been easy for SVT to use them.

          Without any problems concerning publishing rights, or perhaps any other “rights”.

          Of course they could create a subpage on their website where it would have been possible to submit pictures, other solution could have been to use email or even ordinary mail. The possibility for viewers to share have always been there, easier now the earlier.

          Would that not be a step backwards, with the need to create a web page?

          Twitter is something that a lot of people have (close to) instant access to through a smart phone, the accessibility is far better than going through a website.

        3. Rick Falkvinge

          I didn’t close the discussion – it just hit the max thread depth. I’ve only closed the comment field once in the entire history of this blog. No, wait, twice – once in 2008 (I think) too, and once fairly recently.

          This was just a matter of hitting max depth, and your reply style is the appropriate way to circumvent it.

        4. Anonymouse

          @Anders: Yes, of course it would be simpler, etc. to use Twitter. That’s kind of the point: current copyright law prevents us from using new technology to its full potential.

          Unfortunately, there are people propping it up for their own benefit – such as SVT – and the irony is priceless when those people are bit in the arse by the very anarchronism they are inflicting on the rest of the world.

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  6. Anders

    (I realise that now, I did not mean to insinuate what I did.)

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  8. Vidyut

    Was wondering if this could somehow be used to give them more than they bargained for. Photos that could get them in trouble, but they have accepted in writing that they are claiming copyright. A thought… :p

    1. Anonymouse

      Just because SVT are claiming publishing rights to something, doesn’t mean they have to publish it. Obviously they won’t voluntarily publish anything that might get them into trouble. I’m sure they won’t even publish the majority of the pictures shared if the tag becomes popular – so it would be quite a feat to trick them into publishing something that would be damaging to them.

  9. Anonymous

    and the more companies are allowed to get away with things, the less action taken against by the country’s courts and the EU courts, the more those companies will try to get away with and the more companies there will be trying to get away with things.
    the most ridiculous thing i read about and it seems to be happening more and more, is that laws that have been brought into force by the EU Parliament are being flouted and instead of jumping all over the law breaker, person or country, absolutely nothing is done at all! Sweden acquited a man of certain crimes, which should have meant he isn’t tried for them again. what happened? Sweden handed that man over to Denmark, who put him into solitary confinement, refusing to allow him any reading material even, and are going, when they feel like it, to put him on trial again for the same charges! we are not talking about mass murder but for being involved in a web site that allowed file sharing! the reason for the abominable treatment? the companies involved are American and everyone is shit fucking scared of them! people in elevated positions within EU governments are doing whatever they are told and whatever they can to ensure that USA entertainment industries get ‘satisfaction’! Italy is trying to bypass all laws and just do whatever the USA (mainly) entertainment industries say, so web sites will be closed, people will be fined, bankrupted and imprisoned on the say so of ordinary, but rich and powerful people, not by courts! sooner or later the names of those people will come out and if there isn’t recrimination against them, it will throw all of EU law, both individually and en bloc straight out the window! as it is, these laws only count if those who have been ‘wronged’ want them to and if the person concerned isn’t liked. there is no law when governments and courts dont want there to be. the corruption is rife and it’s all in the favor of USA industries, who are trying to take over the Internet and ultimately the World, without firing a shot! whoever controls the Internet, controls the world and if that isn’t a good enough reason, i dont know what is.
    then remember that every ‘Trade Deal’ is instigated by the USA and only ever benefits USA companies. add in the little treat of any company that is stopped from releasing a product or service that could cause harm to people can sue a government and that decision will be decided by a tribunal, not a court of law.
    kick de Grucht out of the European Commission, after having, from what i read, talks with the entertainment industries in Hollywood (we can all guess what was discussed there!) and we stand a chance of getting something respectable sorted out. keep him and anyone else from the USA involved and we will regret it. they sure as hell wouldn’t want us deciding what was right or wrong in the USA, so why should anyone from there have any say in what happens in the EU? kick the fuckers out before we get well and truly screwed even more than we have!!

  10. Anonymous

    “one of the worst heaps of copyright monopoly bullshit”

    You’re being too polite : )

  11. .

    “Allt ditt är mitt och allt mitt ger du fan i.” SVT och SRT i ett nötskal.

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  15. coldtoon

    One way to nip this in the bud is to tweet “embarrassing” pictures of one’s self then sue them for defamation of character because the thing reads as if they had published it. It sounds crazy but the state this world is in it just might work.

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