A Ruling Over Embedded Tweets Could Change Online Publishing

from Wired

ONE OF THE most ubiquitous features of the internet is the ability to link to content elsewhere. Everything is connected via billions of links and embeds to blogs, articles, and social media. But a federal judge’s ruling threatens that ecosystem. Katherine Forrest, a Southern District of New York judge, ruled Thursday that embedding a tweet containing an image in a webpage could be considered copyright infringement. The decision can be appealed, but if it stands and is adopted by other courts, it could change the way online publishing functions.

Here’s what happened: In 2016 Justin Goldman took a photograph of NFL quarterback Tom Brady and Boston Celtics president and manager Danny Ainge in the Hamptons and posted it to his Snapchat Story. The photo was newsworthy because at the time, the Celtics were reportedly trying to recruit NBA star Kevin Durant. It was interesting that the team’s manager brought along someone who played an entirely different sport. The photo soon went viral, and eventually was posted on Twitter and Reddit by several different users. Online publications including Breitbart, Yahoo, The Boston Globe, and Heavy.com then embedded the tweets into news stories. Goldman, backed by Getty Images, sued—arguing that the publications had infringed on his copyright to the photo.

This week, Judge Forrest sided with Goldman and argued that the publications violated his “exclusive display right,” despite the fact that they didn’t host the photo on their servers (more on that in a second). By simply embedding a tweet—a function which Twitter makes simple—Forrest says the publications engaged in a “technical process.” She readily admits that none of them downloaded the photo and then uploaded it to their own sites, but, she argues, it doesn’t matter that the publications weren’t hosting the photos themselves.

Judge Forrest based her decision on two foundational technology copyright cases. One is Perfect 10 v. Amazonfrom 2007, where the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that Google could display full-size copyrighted images in search results, as long as it was simply linking to the content, not hosting it themselves. That case established what is known as the “server test”—the idea that the entity hosting the content should be liable, not someone who links to it.

More here.

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12 Responses to A Ruling Over Embedded Tweets Could Change Online Publishing

  1. Sebastien Jose Fortes February 23, 2018 at 8:23 pm #

    This is ridiculous. Yes, Twitter users should get credit for their own tweets, but generally, tweets are publicized already. If it’s made illegal to show someone else’s tweet, it’ll become all too easy to break the law. Considering the fact, also, that when tweets are shared, the username isn’t always blocked out, the original poster gets credit in the end.

    However, in the case that the username is blocked out, unless it’s a matter of protecting the anonymous and innocent, yes, this should be illegal. Using someone else’s content for your own personal ends is selfish and inconsiderate of the original creator’s desires.

    The Snapchat story that Justin Goldman posted in 2016 was public. People could see it, and nothing could have stopped them from taking screenshots to put on their own sites. Goldman should have considered this before posting.

    I’d know. I once shared my phone number out of fear that net neutrality would end and got a prank call from someone in my residence hall.

    The solution here for both sides of the argument would be to have Snapchat do two things.

    1: Notify the user when anyone takes a screenshot of his story. (This is a feature, but the user does not receive a push notification.)

    2: Allow sharing links and a view count for other platforms. (This would be tricky, because the purpose of Snapchat is to record memories that will later disappear from the platform.)

    3: Compromise by giving the users the choice to allow or bar sharing and make indefinitely-lasting posts.

    Google does this right—the article says that they simply link the content. Furthermore, there’s an option in the image search results to send feedback, and a note that says “Images may be subject to copyright”.

    The post does bring up a good point—articles may lose a tweet if it’s deleted. The issue here is that the tweet was never fully private. http://archive.org could host it in the future. People could remember it. Take, for instance, @realDonaldTrump’s tweet:

    “Despite the negative press covfefe”

    There is plenty of evidence on the Internet that this tweet happened. The issue here has nothing to do with people re-using other people’s content without giving credit. It has to do with carelessly posting it in the first place.

  2. Timothy Guerrero February 23, 2018 at 9:00 pm #

    Athletes, celebrities, and anyone in between have long grappled with the complexities of containing a certain image or professionalism on social media, and this is epitomized in a rather ugly form in this case. I agree with the comment above – a certain common sense is necessary in order to do this, which is what makes this particular case rather infuriating. Everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, can and will be held accountable for nearly all things shared on social media, as we live in a modern technological age in which it is not uncommon to see job candidates rejected a position due to background checks on social media revealing prominent flaws. This is where Goldman falls short – everyone who utilizes social media has a general awareness that they are revealing something sensitive with a mass audience, and it will be kept archived and accountable always one way or another. This case reveals a distinct issue we must grapple with today as well. Twitter has become the new way to connect with peers, constituents, and even celebrities alike. To create boundaries now is to grapple with an issue that isn’t going away, and it will be interesting to see what is done to protect future content on the platform.

  3. Katie B February 27, 2018 at 5:34 pm #

    At first I didn’t know what they meant by ‘embedding’ a tweet. I believe they mean in articles when they have a screenshot, or what looks like a screenshot, of a tweet for reference. I honestly don’t understand the problem. Embedding tweets is like citing a source for research. It has the name of who tweeted, date and time, where (Twitter), and what was said. I am a little confused how the person who sued posted the picture in question on snap chat, and the article ended up being about embedding tweets into articles. Embedding tweets, I would say are just like the citations on papers, and that if you are being cited and shared and you don’t want to be, then that’s tough because you can’t control what others do on the internet. Snap chat doesn’t work like Twitter. After you post a picture to your story it stays there for 24 hours and then isn’t available to look at anymore. They said he posted it on snap chat and other sources had posted the photo. Having Goldman’s “excessive display right” violated doesn’t make sense. Or maybe I’m ignorant. If he wanted credit for the photo all he had to do was put his name on the photo in a water mark of sorts. If he wanted compensation for the photo he could have sold the photo to someone instead of posting it on Snap chat where whoever follows him can see it. People post pictures all the time that get shared and liked everyday. Pictures going viral is normal. If he made an argument I can make the same about a picture that goes viral that’s from me.

  4. Mawusimensah Mears February 28, 2018 at 1:56 pm #

    Embedded links have become a common source of sharing information throughout the web. The use of these embedded links should not be limited. The embedded material used for multimedia purposes could not result in an income loss or unjust enrichment because of the grounds on which the media is shared isn’t intended to receive any economic gain. The post that Goldman uploaded on snapchat was a public post, his intentions had nothing to do with copyright infringement.
    I am currently doing a research project in which my professor grades me on the resources I site and by the use of multimedia links through embedded coding which must be inserted into the project. Even though the links I use are assumed to be sited I still need to site where I received my information through the use of hyperlinks and such. This decision could affect the origin of citations and who will have the access to use them for blogging, business, or educational purposes.

  5. Adam Facella March 2, 2018 at 3:50 pm #

    Matsakis brings up a very important idea about copyright infringement which I have never thought about in the past. The article starts with a lawsuit relating to an issue with a copyright from a photo taken on snapchat and then released onto other platforms by other people who did not take the photo. Then the photographer is suing because of a copyright violation saying that the others did not get permission or give the photographer credit for their work. This is something which we know that we need to do while citing sources in essays and other writing pieces because of plagiarism. The photographer feels as though these same rules should be applied when someone uses their photo. This is a valid argument, however the article concludes by bringing up the idea that once the photo was put onto snapchat it is now par to the public domain and fair game for everyone to use. I think that this is fair because when putting things onto internet platforms such as snapchat it is able to be seen by anyone who has access to the account. Thus, giving the access to using the photo to everyone who has seen it. I do not see a problem with others using this photo for their own use as long as they are not saying that they had taken the photo on their own. If that had been the case, there would have been more room for a suit. I am surprised that there has not been more controversy over copyright of photos with different social media platforms in the past. I would not be surprised if people reuse photos for their own news articles to add to their own writing.

  6. Tanner Purcel March 2, 2018 at 4:38 pm #

    The article talks about a lawsuit relating to copyright after a photo taken on snapchat and is posted on other media platforms by people who did not take the photo. The photographer sued on the basis of a copyright violation. He argued that these platforms did not get permission or give the photographer credit for their work. Though this seems like a good argument, the article brings up the idea that because the photo was put onto snapchat, it is now a part of the public domain and is up for public use. This argument makes sense as long as the media platform does not take credit for the picture. It is hard to share something from snapchat with the persons consent because the point of snapchat is to have the pictures and videos disappear; however if someone posts something on their story, it is open for the public to screenshot and send around.

  7. Dean Spenzos March 2, 2018 at 8:22 pm #

    This is a very new topic to me. I had no idea there were any lawsuits being filed for tweets or pictures being used in tweets. I just assumed that once you posted it to Twitter or Snapchat or Facebook it was out for public use. It seems like something that would be put in the terms and conditions that no one ever reads. However, after reading this article I found out how complicated these cases can get. The specific distinction between a tweet being embedded or actually hosted by a site is apparently the topic of a lot of discussion. The “server test” that states the site hosting the content should be liable and not the person who linked to it seemed reasonable. Then the article gave Forrest’s opinion that news sites are not the same as search engines and do not function the same way.
    All of this was new to me but it still seemed like the whole subject is relatively new to everyone and there is definitely no standard to follow with these cases. Justin Goldman appeared to take advantage of the fact that there was not much legal precedent and get a quick ruling in favor, catching Yahoo, Breitbart, The Boston Globe, and Heavy.com off guard. It’s understandable that he wanted to be the only person to use his picture but he pretty much was. The online publications only embedded his tweet and did not directly post the picture on their website. From what the article later describes, if Goldman had deleted his tweet then the picture would not appear from the sites’ embedding. It is similar to the Perfect 10 v Google case. Google was allowed to display pictures in the search results as long as they were just links and not directly hosting the images. If Forrest’s opinion stands then it will completely the very little amount of legal precedent that we already have for this topic. Whether it is a news site or a search engine the ruling should be the same because a link is a link, it doesn’t matter what kind of website it is on. It is good to set precedents early so later on we will not have these same problems and I think Judge Forrest’s opinion is misguided. Goldman overreacted to the use of his tweet and Forrest stood by him. The news sites should not be held liable in this case whatsoever.

  8. Antonio Chirichiello March 2, 2018 at 8:57 pm #

    The internet is such a necessity in the modern world that it becomes rather difficult for a person to network or stay connected with friends or family. There are also plenty of other reasons to use the internet such as: receiving the news, uploading images, owning an online business, shopping for clothes and food, and taking online college classes. These are just a few examples of uses for the internet. Within the recent years, just like the past decade, more people have begun receiving news information online rather than, watching the news media companies on the television. This created a major shift in the method of how to deliver news media to their consumers. As a result, they started using social media platforms to deliver the news.

    This use of online news media, became a major benefit to the consumers who perform all of their daily tasks online. It gave them another market to engage in and also allows them not to be limited to one specific news media outlet. The recent controversy with an individual’s snap chat photo being used by media companies of a professional athlete and an athlete’s manage may change and perhaps even limit the way content is sent and received around the internet. According to the article, “A judge in the Southern District of New York ruled Thursday that, embedding a tweet containing an image in a webpage could be considered copyright infringement”. These notions may be in affect due to the media outlets violating the individual’s rights by taking his pictures and using them for their own interests. They did so by, creating a story of the images and releasing them to their consumers.

    I feel that, the government should regulate the way media is allowed to send and receive news information just to get consumers engaged. It seems to me that, they will do whatever it takes just to increase their ratings and views. Even if it is not illegal, it is really unethical. If they want to post a story with someone else’s images without consent then, these media outlets should be the liable groups. The companies are finding the loopholes around these laws and think it is acceptable to perform these unethical tasks. I agree that, you should not take anyone’s image on a webpage without permission because, that is a form of copyright infringement.

    In conclusion, if we do not let the media outlets become responsible for posting content that does not belong to them on the internet then, they will post any story as they see fit violating any individual’s copyrights. It is unethical and illegal to use someone else’s intellectual property. As a result, why let the media companies do it on the internet? I think it is a great concept to be able to search for information on anything a person desires but, I also think people should not steal other people’s data. When that starts to happen consistently then, the government will have no choice but to regulate. If companies such as the media or digital newspaper companies begin to take advantage of the system, this is when the government needs to regulate becomes a necessity for the internet.

  9. Destiny Kearney March 2, 2018 at 10:59 pm #

    In a society where social media plays a huge role. I do not believe that linking a picture or statement into a tweet should be considered as a crime. This idea is making the approach to social media to be extremely more formal than it needs to be. Usually the millions of linked attached to the one picture or post will lead you back to the original owner. If a person is apposing to be someone they are not I believe that there should be a penalty in place for those actions. Stealing the credit of another person’s work I consider to be wrong in all shapes and forms. A simple retweet or quote of another’s tweet is innocent behavior and a person should not be punished for using tweet in the proper way it was created. As long as the person who originated the idea had a chance to place ownership upon the object or idea there shouldn’t be speculations. Social media is a way to bond through different pictures and post that are shared through our time on social media. Putting restraints could cause an uproar of problems. So I say that people tweet, post and blog whatever their hearts desire.

  10. Coby Dunn March 13, 2018 at 1:27 am #

    When was the last time you looked at the news? Did you use a newspaper? I can almost guarantee that you didn’t. The news is almost exclusive to television and the internet. One major source, is twitter. We do not think twice about seeing pictures, using them, or looking at them on a news source. However, that may soon be a thing of the past. Judge Forrest recently said that using pictures from twitter is copyright infringement. This ruling may pose a serious problem for media sources, and the way twitter currently works. This also spells trouble for other media sources that use pictures. Many people use media like twitter, facebook, and Instagram to receive news and keep up with current events. This recent issue with the snapchat photo will block many people from receiving or conveying news to the public. The main factor behind these arguments is money. People who take these pictures with social media want recognition for their picture. It can be interpreted as an “exclusive display right” but it can also be seen as being released into the public domain. If this ruling happened, we would have links to tweets with pictures, without the pictures. Twitter is a media that was created to send and share information publicly. The current ruling that Judge Forrest has on this issue will change how media works. It will make it a lot harder for information via pictures will be shared, and will honestly be a blockage to a smooth conveyance of news. If a photo is uploaded without a clear indication of whether or not it is copyrighted then it should be seen a public information. Most pictures have watermarks on them that indicate if they are copyrighted. Snapchat, twitter, and any other social media is a public domain that should be able to be viewed and used by anyone.

  11. Lauren Woodward March 13, 2018 at 6:12 pm #

    Embedding tweets is basically using a small code from Twitter to show another tweet without having to screenshot it, another word for this is “quoting.” This article is basically making apparent that this action in conjunction with photographs will most likely no longer be available due to copyright issues. By embedding a tweet, the author is credited through their Twitter handle within the tweet, and therefore I do not see an issue of copyright infringement. However, Judge Katherine Forrest ruled a different way in favor of ruling embedded tweets infringement of copyright in these cases, because it “violates exclusive display rights” to the original publisher.
    With digital improvement throughout the years, embedding tweets has been a helpful and handy invention for Twitter users and news reporters. While Twitter can most of the time involve stupid conversations and funny tweets shared between friends, Twitter is also an incredible way of exchanging news throughout the world. From personal use of Twitter, I see news being spread through retweets, likes, and most importantly: tweets embedded in other tweets. Its a quick way of getting all the information you need about the embedded tweet and new tweet in one. While i mostly just see embedded tweets being short sentences, without photographs, this issue can change a lot for Twitter due to its use in spreading media. From basic understanding of copyright infringement, it doesn’t necessarily seem like embedding a tweet constitutes copyright infringement through the visual appearance of the tweet. The attached tweet would be abbreviated on someone’s timeline, and once they click on it, they will be brought the the tweet and embedded tweet, giving credit to both users.
    I didn’t know this case was happening at all. For such a big question and issue this raises, I am surprised that not more know about it. I completely disagree with the position Judge Forrest has taken on the situation because it seems like a pointless use of the law. An individual can just as easily screenshot the tweet and attach it to their tweet, and there would be barely any repercussion of it. I believe this ruling is just another way that publishers of the “copyrighted” material are getting money for a ridiculous accusation. I really don’t see how embedding a tweet with a photograph in it is a direct method of copyright infringement if: the author is credited, and individuals who view it are directly transferred to the publisher of the content. The ruling is erroneous, and if brought to the Supreme Court, I hope the Supreme justices realize the error in Judge Forrest’s reasoning.

  12. Antonio Macolino March 13, 2018 at 9:02 pm #

    In a recent court case, Judge Katherine Forrest ruled in favor of a copyright infringement claim made by photographer Justin Goldman. His photo of Tom Brady and Danny Ainge, which he posted on Snapchat, was taken by websites such as Breitbart and The Boston Globe and were embedded in Tweets, since the picture was newsworthy. Judge Forrest deemed that the act of embedding the picture in the tweets was in violation of the photos copyright. The photo was copyrighted by Goldman’s company Getty Images.
    This case is very pertinent due to the nature of the ruling. Embedding photos is a natural part of Twitter. The social media company makes it very easy to embed any article or photo into a tweet. Because of this embedded photos are all over Twitter. This is one of the first times that an embedded photo has been brought to court for copyright infringement. What most companies do is ask to have the photos removed and most of the people who Tweet the photos comply and remove them. This is because the article itself is not in violation of the copyrights, it is just the photo.
    If this judgement is upheld, a new standard will be set and social media, especially Twitter will drastically change. If the ruling is upheld, it will be much harder for people and news organizations alike to embed pictures in their tweets without permission from the creator of the photo. Every photo embedded will be seen as copyright infringement. This will send shockwaves throughout social media because so many photos are already embedded in tweets. This has never really been seen as a problem before until now.
    This issue affects everyone who uses the social media app including myself. Twitter makes it so easy to embed articles and forms of multimedia in tweets. It is the main source of news for so many people. Now if legislation is passed stating that embedding pictures without permission is copyright infringement, the process to post these articles and news stories will become much more complicated.
    A portion of this article that is also confusing is the fact that Goldman originally posted the photo to his Snapchat story. How could the picture be considered copyrighted if he posted it on his own public Snapchat story? I feel that this case complicates things in the world of social media and there is absolutely no need for it.

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