Most companies understand they should obtain a license before using a photograph in an advertising campaign or on printed materials. And yet companies may not think twice about embedding images from a tweet or social media post into the company’s own social media feed or website. But embedder beware. A federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York recently rejected and limited the application of the so-called “Server Test”.
In jurisdictions that have adopted the Server Test, a website publisher can only be liable for direct infringement when a copyrighted image is hosted on its own server as opposed to being embedded or linked from a third-party server. On February 15, 2018, the court in Goldman v. Breitbart News Network, LLC, et al., U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 17-cv-3144, found that embedding a tweet of a copyrighted image can be considered copyright infringement, regardless of where the image is hosted.
The Copyright Act grants copyright owners several exclusive rights to control the distribution and use of copyrighted works, including the right to make copies of the work, the right to distribute those copies to the public, and the right to publicly display the copyrighted work. In the Goldman case, the Court held that embedding a tweet of a copyrighted image can violate the copyright owner’s exclusive display right.