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, has ruled 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 Danny Ainge and posted it to his Snapchat Story. 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).