Today, in this brief post, I want to point you to a story from the Electronic Frontier Foundation about a recent case from New York that could have serious implications for how we use images we find on services like Twitter.
In this case, Goldman v. Breitbart, Justin Goldman claimed that news organizations like Breitbart, Yahoo, and the Boston Globe has improperly displayed his photo of Tom Brady. He took the photo, and posted it on Snapchat. Someone saw the photo, Tweeted it out, and then several companies like Brietbart, Yahoo, and The Boston Globe all embedded it into articles of their own. So Goldman sued, believing that his right under copyright to control the public display of his photo was infringed. However, when you embed something like this, you don’t actually copy the image to your own servers. As such, the Defendants argued that since they didn’t actually posses the photo — the embed, in a way, only points to the image on Twitter — they couldn’t infringe Goldman’s copyright. The court, however, ultimately rejected this argument and sided with Goldman.
Unsurprisingly, the EFF does not agree with this decision. It notes that there is a history of cases that permits the kind of embedding that occurred in this case, most famously, Perfect 10 v. Amazon. While the Southern District of New York addressed this case, the EFF is unsatisfied with the distinction it drew. More problematically however, is that this kind of embedding is extremely common online and is generally considered ok. If it suddenly becomes copyright infringement to do this, the EFF worries that it could threaten many more people with copyright infringement.
As with many cases, this one is probably not quite done, yet. So we’ll have to keep our eyes on it.
(For another look at this case, check out this post from the Hollywood Reporter.)