A Tom Brady photo that went viral on Snapchat and Twitter was off limits to publishers who also used it on their news sites, a federal judge ruled in a surprise decision that could alter how news outlets use social media in the future.
The controversial 25-page ruling in the Southern District of U.S. District Court came on Thursday after Justin Goldman filed the lawsuit against nine news organizations for violating copyright laws after they embedded his image of Brady on their websites, The Hollywood Reporter revealed.
The image was snapped in 2016 and while the New England Patriots quarterback was on a street with Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge and others.
Goldman uploaded it to Snapchat and it soon went viral and was shared among Twitter users. Various news organizations then embedded tweets containing the image on their websites along with stories about Brady.
According to court documents, Goldman claimed he never publicly released or licensed the photograph and that his exclusive rights to display the image had been violated by the news outlets.
The lawsuit was filed against Breitbart, Heavy Inc., Time Inc., Yahoo, Vox Media, Gannett Company, Herald Media, Boston Globe Media Partners and New England Sports Network, according to The Hollywood Reported.
“Courts have long held that copyright liability rests with the entity that hosts the infringing content – not someone who simply links to it,” explained digital rights group, Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“The linker generally has no idea that it’s infringing, and isn’t ultimately in control of what content the server will provide when a browser contacts it.”
U.S. District Court Judge Katherine Forrest said, “when defendants caused the embedded Tweets to appear on their websites, their actions violated plaintiff’s exclusive display right.”
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