Loans company Wonga has ordered Twitter to remove an image posted by a user, citing copyright infringement. The company took issue with a picture which displayed the face of a character called Earl, who appears in the company's advertising, superimposed onto a Hogarth painting from the artist's Rake's Progress series, set in Fleet debtors' prison. The company also took issue with the use of its logo on the image.
Here's a version of the picture with the copyrighted content blanked out:
The case marks the latest example of businesses and individuals getting tough on satirical Twitter accounts and content. From a legal standpoint, proving such instances of copyright infringement appears relatively straightforward though parody remains a grey area due to a potential defence of fair use. However, from a reputation management point of view, applying the letter of the law may not always be the most effective way to limit negative publicity.
In Wonga's case a great many people are now retweeting versions of the picture. One user's tweet has been retweeted over 1,600 times and it is looking as though Wonga's action may only increase the number of people who see the image.