Recent New York Court Case Affects Relationship Between Copyrights and Sharing

Recently, Judge Katherine Forrest of New York’s federal courts gave a final ruling in a case concerning the role of copyright in regard to Snapchat and some embedded tweets. The “Electronic Frontier Foundation” believes the decision will likely reshape the way people use the internet.

In 2016, Justin Goldman used Snapchat to share a photo of Tom Brady. Another user uploaded the Brady photo to Reddit, resulting in a viral post that thrived across multiple social media platforms. Several publishers embedded tweets featuring Goldman’s likeness while discussing Tom Brady; Goldman responded by suing those publishers for copyright infringement.

Few believed Goldman would win the case, as publishers and regular users have been embedding and sharing others’ content for decades without any successful copyright suits. More than 10 years of legal precedent safeguards links from being defined as infringement, mostly because linking parties has no influence over what happens if the URL’s destination changes. Goldman’s case hinged on whether or not embedding was exempt from the same protections enjoyed when linking; when embedded tweets becomes deleted, they cease to be visible on pages that carry the image.

The EFF stated that courts have always held that rights to copyrighted materials rest with the hosting entity, rather than the individuals linking to them. They added that linkers generally lack awareness of any infringement and have no real control over what a server will present when someone clicks on a link. Known as the “server test,” this decision was reached by the Ninth Circuit court in 2007 in “Perfect 10 v. Amazon” and has gone on to become part of the building blocks of modern internet usage.

Judge Forrest did not believe that issues like the server test were pertinent to Goldman’s particular situation. She ruled that when defendants caused embedded Tweets to appear, such actions were in violation of Goldman’s right to exclusive display, regardless of whether or not the image was handled by a third party.