broadcaster use of social media

In an interesting Court decision from the Southern District of New York, a judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by a photographer for the use of her photo without permission by the website Mashable.  Mashable defended against the claim by arguing that it did not need a license directly from the photographer as it had not posted her photo on its website but had instead embedded that photo using an API from Instagram.  An API allowed the photo to display on the user’s computer with content from the Mashable site, even though the photo was actually coming from Instagram.  Thus, Mashable did not itself host the photo – the photo was hosted and served by Instagram pursuant to the rights that the photographer had granted to Instagram by posting a public photo to that site.  As the Instagram Terms of Use give the company a license to make photos posted on its site available through its API, the Court found that the use of the photo by Mashable was permissible as it had a valid sublicense to use that photo from Instagram through use of the API.  As it had a valid sublicense, it did not need a license directly from the photographer.  The photographer had authorized Instagram to sublicense her photos by agreeing to Instagram’s Terms of Use and not restricting the viewing of that photo to private groups.

This Court’s decision is interesting for two reasons.  First, it seems to contradict a decision about which we wrote here that suggested that the use of an embedded photo was not enough to defeat a claim of liability where the embedded photo was posted on a site to appear to the public to be part of that site.  That other decision focused more on how content appeared to the end-user than it did on the issue of a sublicense as does this case.  Even so, it is likely that there will need to be more litigation and some higher court decisions before there is any final resolution of just how safe it is to embed content from a social media site on your website without permission of the creator of that content.
Continue Reading Court Decision Dismissing Photographer’s Lawsuit Shows Breadth of Rights Granted to Social Media and Denies Infringement Claim for Instagram Embedded Photo

Last week, Aaron Burstein of our law firm and I conducted a webinar for several state broadcast associations on legal issues in digital and social media advertising. As broadcasters become more active in the digital world, whether it be through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, or by posting their content online through

We have written in the past about the concerns that broadcasters face about the unauthorized use of photos on station websites. Some broadcasters have had problems when they found that photos posted on their websites were posted without permission of the copyright holder – and representatives of the copyright holder contacted the stations with demands for significant compensation. We reminded broadcasters that everything that you find on the Internet cannot be appropriated for your own uses – that copyrighted material retains copyright protections even when it is made available on the Internet. It appears that this is not an isolated problem, as the Copyright Office has just announced the commencement of a study to determine how best to protect the copyrights of photographers and those who produce other digital images. In this digital age, when photos and other images can be copied and reproduced digitally, distributed on websites and through other digital means, often stripping out any embedded information about the copyright owner, problems in copyright enforcement are common. The Copyright Office seeks information both from copyright owners and from users of such images on how to best protect copyrights, while at the same time making it possible for users to obtain clearances for photos that they want to use.

This issue for broadcasters actually cuts both ways, as broadcasters themselves create photos and other images it their news coverage, and in connection with other station activities and events. They don’t want these images exploited by competitors and other media sources without permission. So legal clarity could be a good thing, as it will not only to help broadcasters clear rights to use photos and other images online and in their over-the-air broadcasts, but it will also help them to protect the images that their employees create in the course of their broadcast employment. What does the Copyright Office ask?
Continue Reading Copyright Office Starts New Study on Enforcing Copyrights on Photos and Other Visual Images in a Digital World

David Silverman participated on a panel discussing the legal aspects of social media at the Great Lakes Broadcasting Conference in Lansing, Michigan on March 3, 2010. His PowerPoint presentation focused on the risks and benefits of using Twitter, Facebook and other social media in the employment context, including use by broadcasters. There are