Federal Court Rules Embedding a Tweet Could Violate Copyright Law

A federal court ruled yesterday in New York that sites, like ClintonFitch.com, could be held liable for copyright law violation for embedding a Tweet or other content.  The ruling involved a photographer and several news organizations who embedded a Tweet.  The photographer filed a copyright infringement case against the companies for embedding the Tweet and won.

The ruling upends a decade old ruling which protected sites like mine when it came to embedding Tweets.  In the case Perfect 10 v. Amazon in 2007, it was ruled that the hosting company was liable for copyright infringements, not the company or individual who embeds or links to it.  Thursday’s ruling is in direct contrast to this case and now throws a lot of questions and concerns for anyone, especially site owners.

Details about the case and the rule can be found at the Electronic Frontier Foundation site… and no, I’m not going to embed their Tweet.

The underlying issue for you as an individual and me as a site/business owner is that I don’t necessarily know, when I embed a Tweet or other linked content, if a copyright law has been violated.  I don’t have a legal team looking over every post nor could I pay one.  This also impedes my ability to provide you the source of a particular bit of information so you can further read on your own accord.

The implications of this are huge, obviously.  In a worst case scenario, I could embed a Tweet, get sued, found liable, and owe thousands if not millions of dollars.  Further, it opens up the potential for “copyright trolls”, folks who do nothing more than look for infringements of anything they may have copyrighted and sue.

The question right now is if the ruling will stand.  It is going to be appealed and could be overturned, especially given the previous ruling around this subject.  For now, I along with virtually every tech site out there is going to have to be mindful and careful.  And so should you.


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