Twitpic Blocks Posterous' Import Tool; Out Come The Lawyers

Well that didn’t take long. Halfway into their big 15 importers in 15 days campaign, Posterous has managed to make one of their competitors very angry. Twitpic is so angry, in fact, that they’re blocking the service and threatening legal action.

This morning, Posterous introduced their new “Rescue your photos from TwitPic” tool — a one-click way to import your photos from Twitpic over to your Posterous blog. This is the same type of importer Posterous has already made for Ning, Vox, Tumblr and a host of other services — as I said, they’re about halfway through the 15 of these tools they intend to make.

The idea, of course, is that if they make it easy enough to get your existing content on to Posterous, they think you’ll like their service so much that you’ll permanently switch. Twitpic, doesn’t like that idea one bit.

According to Posterous, Twitpic had some idea such a tool might be coming and sent a letter last Thursday threatening to sue the company if they launched it. “Their claims are completely bogus,” Posterous co-founder Sachin Agarwal tells us. “Posterous is simply acting as an agent to the user who owns the photos. We authenticate the user’s Twitter credentials and then download the images on their behalf,” he continues.

Our lawyer sent a response to TwitPic this morning indicating that we aren’t breaking any laws here, but simply giving users a way to access their own photos and then decide which service they like best. Nevertheless, TwitPic banned our servers within a couple hours of the importer launch,” Agarwal says.

Twitpic has since responded to that letter from Posterous. We’ve had a chance to see them all. Twitpic seems most concerned about Posterous’ methods for accessing this data. The user privacy issue is brought up a number of times — and they also wonder if Posterous isn’t access Twitpic “trade secrets” with this importer.

We are simply using their public RSS feed to pull images on the user’s behalf. There are no privacy violations here,” Agarwal says.

Twitpic says they’re not going to stop users from exporting their data, but prefer users do so manually, rather than with the use of this tool. Of course, if this really is just pulling the pictures through users’ RSS feeds, it’s hard to argue that this tool is anymore more than useful for people who are looking to switch. Plenty of other blogging sites offer similar import tools.