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US judge rules embedding tweet can violate copyright

US judge rules embedding tweet can violate copyright Featured

A judge in a New York district court has ruled that embedding a tweet on a web page could be a violation of copyright, overlooking years of precedent that say otherwise.

The judgement applies to all in-line linking, not just the embedding of tweets, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit that promotes civil liberties online.

The ruling was made last week in a case that was filed in 2016 by a photographer named Justin Goldman. A photo he had taken of NFL quarterback Tom Brady and posted on Snapchat, was tweeted out by someone else and subsequently embedded in stories by a number of news websites.

Goldman sued Breitbart News Network, Gannett Company, Yahoo!, the Boston Globe and Vox Media, the companies behind some of the websites that used the picture, on the grounds that they had used his photo without permission.

The EFF pointed out that courts have in the past held that liability for copyright remains with the entity that hosts the infringing content, not merely the individual who links to it. This "server" test came about as due to a 2007 case orginally known as Perfect 10 v Amazon.

But the judge in the Goldman case, Katherine Forrest, saying in part in her judgement: "[W]hen defendants caused the embedded tweets to appear on their websites, their actions violated plaintiff’s exclusive display right; the fact that the image was hosted on a server owned and operated by an unrelated third party (Twitter) does not shield them from this result."

"If this ruling is appealed (there would likely need to be further proceedings in the district court first), the Second Circuit will be asked to consider whether to follow Perfect 10 or Judge Forrest’s new rule," the EFF commented.

"We hope that today’s ruling does not stand. If it did, it would threaten the ubiquitous practice of in-line linking that benefits millions of Internet users every day."


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.


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