A recent case in the Southern District of New York calls into serious question the ubiquitous practice of embedding photographs on a content creator’s website.
An embedded photo is one that is not hosted on the website’s own server, but instead is linked to a third-party server like a social media site. Instead of the photo being permanently available on the website, the website pulls the photo from the third-party site live when the website is accessed by a user. Platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok make it extremely easy for websites to embed user posts, and provide website designers with tools specifically meant to make embedding seamless for the user.
In a recent case (Sinclair v. Ziff Davis, LLC, 1:18-cv-00790, S.D.N.Y.), a professional photographer posted a photo to Instagram that was later embedded by Mashable in an article on its website. In its original ruling, the court held that Instagram’s terms of service (which every user, including Sinclair, accepts when signing up) permitted the embedding on links on third party websites. The court ruled that Instagram had the right to relicense Sinclair’s image to Mashable, and granted Mashable a dismissal of Sinclair’s claims.
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