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Federal judge allows embedded photo copyright case to advance

Copyright protections enable many people and organizations in California to earn an income. The ruling of a U.S. District Court judge surprised media observers when she chose not to halt a photographer’s case against multiple media outlets. The photographer had filed suit claiming that the defendants violated his copyright when they embedded a tweet with his photo of an athlete into their news reports.

The plaintiff had originally placed the image on Snapchat and then it appeared on Twitter, where online publications used HTML code to embed the media into their stories on sites owned by Yahoo, Breitbart, Gannett and Boston Globe Media Partners. Publishers had considered this commonplace practice to be previously settled by a decision in a case against Amazon. Known as the server test, the earlier ruling from a federal appeals court had established that copyright liability did not arise when content was stored on a separate server.

Although the judge in the current case rejected the server test, she explained that her decision only allowed the case to proceed. The defendants still have the ability to defend themselves from the infringement claim with a fair use argument.

Both individuals and companies could find themselves embroiled in a dispute about intellectual property. Someone who needs to defend content from infringement could seek representation from an attorney. After reviewing evidence that illustrates the ownership of a copyright, patent or trade secret, an attorney could send a cease and desist notice to the infringing party. Filing a lawsuit could follwe this action as well, especially if the unauthorized use deprived the owner of financial gain.

Source: ABA Journal, “Embedding tweets with photos can violate copyright, federal judge rules“, Feb. 20, 2018