If you embed a tweet in an article or blog, you may be infringing copyright. At least that’s according to a New York Federal court ruling delivered on Thursday that found that a person or company can infringe copyright by including an embedded tweet in their post.
Embed Tweets Infringe Copyright
The judge ruled in favor of photographer Justin Goldman [plaintiff] who accused nine popular news outlets [defendants] of copyright infringement for embedding a tweet containing his photograph.
Goldman had taken a photo of NFL star Tom Brady and posted it on his Snapchat story. His copyrighted photo went “viral”—rapidly moving from Snapchat to Reddit to Twitter—and finally, made its way onto the websites of the news outlets. The news outlets embedded the Tweet alongside articles they wrote about Tom Brady actively helping the Boston Celtics recruit basketball player Kevin Durant.
The news sites that include Time, Vox and Yahoo copied the link and embedded it in articles. Goldman sued them, claiming the incident violated his exclusive right to display the photo. The judge agreed.
“Having carefully considered the embedding issue, this Court concludes, for the reasons discussed below, that when 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,” the ruling states.
Ruling Rolls Back Over a Decade of Legal Precedent
The judge’s finding goes against over a decade of legal precedent that put the liability on the host of the content, not the person that links to it. Internet advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) hit out at the decision in a post on its blog, claiming the new rule, “would threaten the ubiquitous practice of in-line linking that benefits millions of Internet users every day.” Even worse, wrote EFF, the logic of the ruling applies to all in-line linking, not just embedding tweets.
The digital rights organization says an appeal could be on the horizon for the Goldman case. “We hope that today’s ruling does not stand,” EFF added.