The Law and Business of Social Media
September 09, 2020 - Cyberbullying, Copyright, Section 230 Safe Harbor

New copyright registration option for bloggers; AT&T’s opinion on CDA §230; questions about YouTube’s anti-hate rules

A federal district court judge in Brooklyn, N.Y., dismissed the complaint in a case filed by Genius, a platform that lets users share and annotate lyrics, holding that the plaintiff’s claims were preempted by copyright law. The suit alleged that Google had stolen from Genius transcriptions of song lyrics, and included those song lyrics in Google’s website boxes when Google users search for a song. Such actions, Genius alleged, amounted to “unfair and anticompetitive practices.” Genius did not allege copyright infringement, however, because the relevant songwriters and publishers, not Genius, own the copyright in the song lyrics at issue.

In an effort to help bloggers and other online writers who create and publish more short-form content than they have time to register with the Copyright Office, the office has established a new copyright registration option that affords a simplified way to obtain copyright protection for blog entries, social media posts, web articles, and even comments to social media posts if they meet certain criteria. Those criteria include the requirement that each of the works separately contains between 50 and 17,500 words. Also, all the works in a single application must have been created by the same individual, or have been created jointly by the same group of individuals. All of the works also must first have been published as part of a website or online platform, such as a blog, online magazine, or social networking site.

In response to the Federal Communications Commission’s request for comments on potential changes to §230 of the Communications Decency Act, AT&T—which now owns Time Warner—is telling the FCC to shrink the protections that §230 affords technology companies from liability for content posted by third parties.

In a criminal case in which an alleged murderer sought to exonerate himself by seeking the gun-shot-wound victim’s Facebook messages, the California Supreme Court refused to answer the Constitutional question of whether a social media platform’s refusal to turn over messages violates the alleged criminal’s right to a fair trial. The court’s reasoning: In this particular case, the validity of the underlying subpoena was questionable.

YouTube has re-enabled monetization of the account of ultra-conservative commentator Steven Crowder, who—among other things—for years targeted former Vox writer and current YouTuber Carlos Maza, making insulting comments about Maza’s ethnicity and sexuality. The Washington Post reports that several of the platform’s moderators said that “their recommendations to strip advertising from videos that violate the site’s rules were frequently overruled by higher-ups within YouTube when the videos involved higher profile content creators who draw more advertising.”

The Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed a cyberstalking injunction against Florida lawyer Ashley Ann Krapacs. The injunction was imposed on Krapacs for publishing disparaging posts on social media about another lawyer, Nisha Bacchus, including the posts Krapacs published during a four-hour period in one day while Bacchus “untagged herself in real time,” according to Read the brief explanation of the court’s reasoning.