Photographer Doubles Down On Tweet Copyright Protection

Advertising Law

The issue of copyright protection for a tweet embedded in news stories has popped up again in New York federal court.

Last year, photographer Justin Goldman won a copyright infringement case against several news sites and blogs for publishing articles with an embedded tweet featuring a copyrighted photo of Tom Brady, Danny Ainge and multiple Boston Celtics players. Goldman posted the photo, which he had copyrighted, to his Snapchat account in the summer of 2016; from there, the photo quickly moved through multiple social media platforms and made its way to Twitter, where several users uploaded it and then tweeted it out with comments.

The defendant news outlets and blogs embedded the tweet with the photo alongside articles they wrote about Tom Brady, which discussed whether the Celtics would successfully recruit Kevin Durant and whether Brady was helping with the deal. None of the news sites copied and saved the photo onto their own servers.

Emphasizing that Congress intended the Copyright Act’s “familiar guiding principles” to apply to “previously uncontemplated technologies,” a New York federal court judge granted partial summary judgment in favor of Goldman, holding that embedding tweets in news stories violated Goldman’s copyright in the photo.

The U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit later denied the defendants’ motion to appeal.

Now, Goldman is looking to extend his victory by filing new lawsuits against additional websites. In one complaint, filed against Cox Media Group, Goldman alleged copyright infringement “based on the unauthorized for-profit full display” of his image on the defendants’ websites, including accessatlanta.com and springfieldnewssun.com.

The complaint explicitly references the prior case, where the court “granted summary judgment to plaintiff on a specific legal issue, namely whether the process of ‘embedding’ provides a defense to the defendants’ alleged copyright infringements,” Goldman wrote. “The court’s judgment held that embedding provided no such defense.”

To read the complaint in Goldman v. Cox Media Group, click here.

Why it matters: Last year’s decision that a tweet embedded in news stories may constitute copyright infringement made headlines and raised concerns for news sites. This new case against Cox Media Group was brought before the same federal court as the original case, showing that Goldman will continue to capitalize on his court victory and aggressively pursue any websites that embedded a tweet with this now infamous photo. While the Second Circuit passed on review of the decision and other courts have yet to weigh in, this new lawsuit is a good reminder that companies should review their online activity, especially their social media activity, and remove any copyrighted material included in any embedded third-party posts.