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Embedding a Copyright Violation Is a Copyright Violation

By George Khoury, Esq. on February 21, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

According to one federal judge's reading of the law, if a website embeds another's copyright violation, that's a copyright violation. And while some folks who write on the internet might be up in arms about the recent decision holding such, as embedding is a common practice, there's more to it than most media outlets are letting on, and it's not the end of the internet.

For starters, the court decided a rather narrow issue. The parties basically asked the court to clarify whether it was a copyright violation to display another person's copyright violation via embedding. Not surprisingly, the court found that yes, republishing another person's copyright violation, even if you're not hosting the image and just creating a box where it is called forth from the bellows of the internet, it's still displaying the copyrighted content in violation of the law.

Damned If You Display

The case making the big media stir involves a Snapchat user and multiple media outlets. In short, Justin Goldman snapped a picture of Tom Brady and Danny Ainge on Snapchat, and other users saved the picture and republished it without permission on Twitter. From there, media outlets wrote stories about the picture, speculating that Brady was being used to help recruit Kevin Durant. In the stories, many outlets embedded the Tweets with Goldman's stolen picture.

Goldman filed suit claiming copyright infringement. The media outlets essentially tried to claim in defense that holding the media liable for embedding tweets (even those that contain copyright violations) would result in an upending of the way the entire internet-media-thing even works. Clearly, there are more defenses than the "we're afraid of the consequences" defenses, but reading through the popular media coverage, you're not likely to read much else.

Bootleg Copyrights

Just because someone else violates the law by posting or publishing content that infringes upon another's copyright that does not insulate the next publisher (of the infringer's infringing content) from liability to the copyright holder. That would almost be like saying a bootleg movie maker isn't liable for making and distributing copies of a movie someone else bootlegged.

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