We discussed last year the trend toward companies seeking to monetize user-generated content. A recent Central District of California decision in Greg Young Publishing, Inc. v. Zazzle, Inc. serves as an important reminder of the serious risks that can arise from seeking to commercially exploit such content.

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (DMCA) Section 512(c) safe harbor, online service providers that comply with the eligibility requirements are shielded from copyright damages in connection with their hosting of infringing content uploaded by service users. This powerful safe harbor has played a major role in the success of Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and other U.S. social media and Internet sites.

Continue Reading Zazzle Fizzles: Website Operator Denied Copyright Safe Harbor Protection for Its Sale of Physical Products Featuring User-Generated Images

With over one billion websites on the Internet, and 211 million items of online content created every minute, it should come as no surprise that content curation is one of the hottest trends in the Internet industry. We are overwhelmed with online content, and we increasingly rely on others to separate the good from the bad so that we can make more efficient use of our time spent surfing the web.

Consistent with this trend, many websites that host user-generated content are now focused on filtering out content that is awful, duplicative, off-topic, or otherwise of little interest to site visitors. And these sites often find that humans—typically passionate volunteers from the sites’ user communities—are better than algorithms at sorting the wheat from the chaff.

Of course, any website that deals with user-generated content needs to consider potential copyright liability arising from such content. We’ve discussed in past Socially Aware blog posts the critical importance of Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the DMCA) to the success of YouTube, Facebook and other online platforms that host user-generated content. By providing online service providers with immunity from monetary damages in connection with the hosting of content at the direction of users, Section 512(c) has fueled the growth of the U.S. Internet industry. Continue Reading Could the Use of Online Volunteers and Moderators Increase Your Company’s Copyright Liability Exposure?

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that a North Carolina law that the state has used to prosecute more than 1,000 sex offenders for posting on social media is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in what has become known as the  “dancing baby” case—a lawsuit brought by a woman who sued Universal Music Group for directing YouTube to take down a video of her toddler-age son dancing to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” The high court’s decision leaves in place the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals holding that copyright owners must consider the possibility of fair use before sending a DMCA takedown notice.

Queen Elizabeth II proposed to Parliament a law that would require social networking sites to honor Internet users’ requests to remove anything the users shared before turning 18. The European Union already requires search engines to abide by users’ requests to remove information as part of the “right to be forgotten,” but the information must fulfill several criteria to qualify for removal.

In an effort to minimize the extent to which social bots can manipulate public opinion, Germany plans to update its communication laws to require the operators of social media platforms to identify when posts were generated by social bots and not actual people. And, yes, the name in German for this labeling requirement is Kennzeichnungspflicht.

In other German social-media-news, police in that country raided the homes of 36 people accused of posting on social media hate speech that included threats and harassment based on race and sexual orientation, and left-wing and right-wing extremist content.

Making Texas one of 18 states to pass a bill on self-driving cars, Lone Star State governor Greg Abbott signed a bill confirming that car manufacturers may test autonomous vehicles on Texas roads and highways.

Bitcoin’s price might be surging, but it has yet to achieve widespread usage.

Motivated in part by her desire to avoid real-estate-agent fees, a London homeowner plans to sell her house by hosting a viewing on Facebook Live and receiving offers through Facebook Messenger.

One year since agreeing with the European Commission to remove hate speech within 24 hours of receiving a complaint about it, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube are removing flagged content an average of 59% of the time, the EC reports.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that a catering company violated the National Labor Relations Act when it fired an employee for posting to Facebook a profane rant about his supervisor in response to that supervisor admonishing him for “chitchatting” days before the employee and his coworkers were holding a vote to unionize.

The value of the digital currency Ether could surpass Bitcoin’s value by 2018, some experts say.

The Washington Post takes a look at how the NBA is doing a particularly good job of leveraging social media and technology in general to market itself to younger fans and international consumers.

A judge in Israel ruled in favor of a landlord who took down a rental ad based on his belief that a couple wanted to rent his apartment after they sent him a text message containing festive emoji and otherwise expressing interest in the rental. The landlord brought a lawsuit against the couple for backing out on the deal, and the court held the emoji in the couple’s text “convey[ed] great optimism.” The court further determined that, although the message “did not constitute a binding contract between the parties, [it] naturally led to the Plaintiff’s great reliance on the defendants’ desire to rent his apartment.” For a survey of U.S. courts’ treatment of emoji entered into evidence, read this post on Socially Aware.

The owner of a recipe site is suing the Food Network for copyright infringement, alleging that a video the network posted on its Facebook page ripped off her how-to video for snow globe cupcakes.

Twitter’s popularity with journalists has made it a prime target for media manipulators, The New York Times’s Farhad Manjoo reports. As a result, Manjoo claims, the microblogging platform played a key role in many of the past year’s biggest misinformation campaigns.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University claims that the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account’s blocking of some Twitter users violates the First Amendment because it suppresses speech in a public forum protected by the Constitution.

Pop singer Taylor Swift, who pulled her back catalogue of music from free streaming services in 2014 saying the services don’t fairly compensate music creators, has now made her entire catalogue of music accessible via Spotify, Google Play and Amazon Music.

To encourage young people in swing constituencies to vote for Labour in the UK’s general election, some Tinder users turned their profiles over to a bot that sent other Tinder users between the ages of 18 and 25 automated messages asking if they were voting and focusing on key topics that would interest young voters.

GettyImages-183313080With over one billion websites on the Internet, and 211 million items of online content created every minute, it should come as no surprise that content curation is one of the hottest trends in the Internet industry. We are overwhelmed with online content, and we increasingly rely on others to separate good content from bad content so we can make more efficient use of our time spent surfing the web.

Consistent with this trend, many websites that host user-generated content are now focused on filtering out content that is awful, duplicative, off-topic or otherwise of little interest to site visitors. And these sites are often finding that humans—typically passionate volunteers from these sites’ user communities—do a better job than algorithms in sorting the wheat from the chaff.

Of course, any website that deals with user-generated content needs to worry about potential copyright liability arising from such content. We’ve discussed in past Socially Aware blog posts the critical importance of Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to the success of YouTube, Facebook and other online sites that host user-generated content. By providing online service providers with immunity from monetary damages in connection with the hosting of content at the direction of users, Section 512(c) has fueled the growth of the U.S. Internet industry. Continue Reading Could the Use of Online Volunteers and Moderators Increase Your Company’s Copyright Liability Exposure?

A nice overview of the rules on researching jurors’ social media accounts in various jurisdictions from Law.com.

The importance of appearing at the top of Google search results, especially on mobile devices, is driving retailers to spend more and more on the search engine’s product listing ads, which include not just text but also the photos of products.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology designed a mobile robot that 3D-printed a building that is 50-feet-wide in 14 hours.

In the second half of 2016, Facebook received 9% more global government requests for users’ account data and—largely because users had stopped posting images of the 2015 Paris terrorist attack victims’ remains, which was against French law—28% fewer global government requests to remove content that violates local law.

After Kashmiris posted photos and videos depicting alleged military abuse in the days following a violence-plagued local election, authorities in the Indian-controlled region banned 22 social media sites, claiming it was necessary to restore order.

At the UEFA Champions League final in Cardiff, Wales, this summer, British police will pilot a new automated facial recognition (AFR) system to scan the faces of attendees and compare them to a police “persons of interest” database.

To show concerned citizens—and criminals—that they mean business, police in an Alabama city are live-broadcasting arrests on Twitter.

The data collected by the physical-activity-tracking device worn by a Connecticut murder victim contradicts the timeline of events given by her husband, a suspect.

One of the Kardashians is being sued by a photo agency for allegedly copying a copyrighted photo of her and posting it to her Instagram account.

And on the subject of user-generated content, owners of video content that is posted by users to Facebook without authorization can now claim ad earnings for the infringing content and set automated rules that will determine when infringing content should be blocked.

The editor of the MIT Technology Review provided interesting insights to Chatbots Magazine regarding the future and current state of artificial intelligence.

Police in Silicon Valley arrested a man for allegedly knocking down a 300-pound security robot while he was intoxicated.

GettyImages-525955707-600pxThe Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently considered in BWP Media USA, Inc. v. T&S Software Associates, Inc. whether volitional conduct is required to establish a claim for direct copyright infringement against an Internet service provider (“ISP”). The defendant ISP, T&S Software Associates (“T&S”), hosted a website that included a public forum called “HairTalk” where users could post content about hair, beauty, and celebrities.

HairTalk users posted photographs of Ke$ha, Julianne Hough, and Ashlee Simpson that were owned by the plaintiffs, BWP Media USA and National Photo Group (“BWP”), without BWP’s authorization. The plaintiffs sued T&S for direct and secondary copyright infringement based on the users’ posts. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of T&S as to both direct and secondary infringement and BWP appealed the judgment as to the direct infringement claim. Continue Reading 5th Circuit: ISP Not Liable for Infringement Due to Lack of Volitional Conduct, Despite Ineligibility for DMCA Safe Harbor

GettyImages-179131621-600pxOne of the most significant legal concerns for Internet service providers is the risk of exposure to liability for the copyright infringements of their users. The concern is not unreasonable. Because Internet service providers can be held secondarily liable for the infringements of their users, and because this liability can come with statutory damages attached, the service provider’s potential economic exposure can be significant, especially for Internet service providers engaged in the transmission or hosting of user-generated content.

Moreover, the principle of joint and several liability may further increase this potential economic exposure for Internet service providers.

Under Section 504(c) of the Copyright Act, which permits a range of statutory damages for each infringed work, the principle of joint and several liability can make a defendant liable for multiple statutory damage awards for infringing a single work. The Ninth Circuit’s decision in Columbia Pictures Television v. Krypton Broadcasting of Birmingham, Inc. two decades ago illustrates the operation of this principle.

The defendants in Columbia Pictures were three television stations that had directly infringed upon plaintiff’s copyrights independently of each other. Consequently, the company that owned the three stations was secondarily liable for their infringement. Relying in part on legislative history, the court held that the plaintiff was entitled to separately calculated statutory awards against each of the three stations as they were separate infringers, and that, with respect to these awards, each of the three stations was jointly and severally liable with their common owner. Continue Reading Limiting Statutory Damages in Internet Copyright Cases

03_April_SociallyAware_thumbnailThe latest issue of our Socially Aware newsletter is now available here.

In this edition, we explore the threat to U.S. jobs posed by rapid advances in emerging technologies; we examine a Federal Trade Commission report on how companies engaging in cross-device tracking can stay on the right side of the law; we take a look at a Second Circuit opinion that fleshes out the “repeat infringer” requirement online service providers must fulfill to qualify for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s safe harbors; we discuss a state court decision holding that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act immunizes Snapchat from liability for a car wreck that was allegedly caused by the app’s “speed filter” feature; we describe a recent decision by the District Court of the Hague confirming that an app provider could be subject to the privacy laws of a country in the European Union merely by making its app available on mobile phones in that country; and we review a federal district court order requiring Google to comply with search warrants for foreign stored user data.

All this—plus an infographic illustrating how emerging technology will threaten U.S. jobs.

Read our newsletter.

Without Google’s permission, Burger King ended one of its television commercials with a statement designed to automatically cause Google Assistant devices to read a list of the Whopper’s ingredients out loud.

Having passed the 1.2-billion-user mark, Facebook Messenger is now twice as popular as Instagram.

A lawsuit alleges Anheuser-Busch and one of its distributors impermissibly used a photo from a woman’s Facebook page in promotional materials for the brewer’s Natural Light beer. We addressed some of the legal risks in seeking to commercialize user-generated content in a Socially Aware blog post last year that can be found here.

And while on the topic of copyright law and social media, a much smaller California business is being sued in federal court by one of its competitors, Founder’s Creek Media, for allegedly copying a copyrighted promotional product video from a Founder’s Creek page on Facebook and using the video as an advertisement for its own, similar product.

Germany may fine social media companies up to 50 million euros ($53 million) if they fail to remove posts that contain hate speech.

A court in Egypt sentenced a lawyer who has represented torture victims to ten years in prison for criticizing that country’s government on social media.

Using the data it aggregates about its users’ whereabouts, Snapchat introduced a new feature that allows marketers to determine whether the Snapchat users who view ad campaigns on the messaging app actually wind up visiting the advertisers’ retail locations and venues (in other words, whether their Snapchat ad campaigns are actually working).

Unbeknownst to most of its users, Twitter rolled out a “dislike” button months ago—but the consequences of using it aren’t clear.

A Business Insider article identifies ten things prospective employers and recruiters should be able to tell about you immediately upon viewing your LinkedIn profile.

An eight-year-old in Ohio took his four-year-old sister for a ride to McDonald’s in his family’s van, apparently after watching driving instruction videos on YouTube.