Social media sites host many thousands of photos posted by people on a daily basis. An obvious issue arises as to whether and when these sites might be liable for copyright infringement with respect to any of the posted photos.
A recent case is worthy of consideration.
Kristen Pierson, a professional photographer who has won awards for her work, has filed legal action in California against Twitter, according to Wired, with respect to a copyrighted photo that was shared on Twitter.
The photograph at issue is of Herman Li, a guitarist for Dragonforce, a British power metal band based in London, England. Pierson allegedly submitted a takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and when Twitter supposedly failed to respond to the takedown notice, Pierson then filed her lawsuit.
While the account that initially shared the photograph apparently is not active any longer, the photo of Li remains on Twitter, as reported by Wired, citing TorrentFreak reports. Is this sufficient to create copyright infringement liability?
The key charging allegation in Pierson’s complaint focuses on the point that her photograph was shared at all on Twitter. According to Wired: “A Twitter user or users copied the Infringing Image without license or permission from Pierson and on information and belief sent one or more Tweets publicizing or linking to it.”
The case might boil down to whether Twitter actually failed to act on Pierson’s DMCA takedown notice, as alleged. Under the DMCA, an Internet service provider like Twitter generally is not liable for copyright infringement with respect to content posted on its site by others to the extent that the ISP complies with a DMCA takedown notice.
Pierson’s complaint reportedly seeks not only statutory and actual damages, but also a restraining order to stop Twitter in the future from hosting her copyrighted work.
It will be interesting to see how Pierson’s case plays out.
Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod’s columns, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual partners.