Earlier this year, a photographer filed a lawsuit against Meta. As in some previous cases, it was because of Meta’s embed tool which allows anyone to add photos to third-party websites without asking for permission.
However, the photographer lost the case – or more precisely, he lost this round. The judge gave him permission to amend his complaint, which means that he could win the war despite losing this battle.
Photographer Don Logan filed a class action lawsuit against Meta in February 2022. According to Reuters, he did it on behalf of a group of photographers, not just himself. Their photos were allegedly “embedded from Facebook onto third-party websites, or from other websites onto Facebook,” Reuters writes, in both cases without their permission.
But U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer dismissed most of Logan’s allegations. He said that, since the third parties didn’t store the copies of images and videos, they didn’t “fix” the copyrighted work in any “tangible medium of expression.” Logan also alleged false advertising in his lawsuit, but Breyer dismissed them as well. The judge said that Meta didn’t misinterpret the “creation and ownership” of his photos.
“Breyer also rejected Logan’s claims that Facebook misused pictures from other websites because he had not shown that those pictures were registered with the U.S. Copyright Office,” Reuters writes. However, the judge added that Logan may be able to show that Meta saved some of the photos to its servers. This gives him an opportunity to amend his complaint. And according to his attorney – that’s exactly what he’ll do. Logan’s Lee Squitieri told Reuters in an email that his client plans to refile the lawsuit and believes he can “cure all of the flaws noted by the court.”
This isn’t the first lawsuit involving Meta’s embedding tool. It’s also not the first lost one. Back in 2020, photographer Stephanie Sinclair sued Mashable over copyright infringement after they embedded her Instagram post into their article. However, the New York federal court dismissed her lawsuit. Later that year, Instagram came forward saying that it does not grant a sublicense to anybody who embeds public Instagram posts. It’s all pretty confusing, isn’t it? But there’s more.
In 2021, nature photographer Paul Nicklen won a copyright lawsuit against the Sinclair Broadcast Group over nearly the same thing. He posted a video on his Instagram, which Sinclair embedded on its website. But I said “nearly the same” because Sinclair also included a screenshot from the video without asking the photographer for permission first. And in December 2021, Instagram had the decency to finally make the embedding optional. So, now you can choose whether or not you want your Instagram content to be embeddable and shared on third-party websites.
Considering the different verdicts from the previous cases, anything can happen in the Logan vs. Meta case. The judge has given Logan a chance to refile the lawsuit and there’s still room for a plot twist – and we’ll keep you updated about it.
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