Instagram Gets Off the Hook for Copyright Claims on Embedded Photos

The 9th Circuit Federal Appeals Court in northern California has ruled that sharing embedded images on Instagram is not copyright infringement.

The court stated that embedded photos are just HTML code that links to the original photo, rather than a direct copy.

This ruling came in response to a class action lawsuit filed by photographers who alleged that Instagram allowed news outlets to embed their copyrighted photos without obtaining a license.

The court's decision was based on the fact that the photos were still stored on Instagram servers and not on third-party systems.

The Nature of HTML Embeds

The court's decision was based on the understanding that HTML embeds contain the address where the photos are stored, rather than the actual images.

By following the embedded link, the browser displays the photo from the original source.

This interpretation of HTML embeds is similar to a previous decision in _Perfect 10 v. Amazon_ in 2007.

In that case, the court ruled that thumbnail images displayed by Google were not hosted on Google's servers.

Contradictory Rulings

A New York federal judge made a contradictory ruling in 2018, stating that embedding tweets containing copyrighted photos could be considered copyright infringement.

This ruling was in response to a case where news outlets embedded a photo of Tom Brady originally uploaded to Snapchat.

The judge in this case did not apply the same interpretation of HTML embeds as the California appeals court.

The conflicting rulings create ambiguity and the potential for future legal battles.

Wiggle Room for Interpretation

The differing rulings in California and New York leave room for varying interpretations of the law regarding the embedding of copyrighted photos.

This ambiguity could result in further legal battles and potentially a larger court battle in the future.

The photographers involved in the class action lawsuit have not yet indicated whether they plan to appeal the decision.

The outcome of these legal battles could have significant implications for copyright protection on social media platforms.

Tech-related Legal Questions

The ruling on embedded photos adds to the ongoing legal debates surrounding technology and social media platforms.

The recently decided Supreme Court case on Section 230, which shields big tech companies from liability, is just one example.

There are also anti-censorship laws in Texas and Florida that could potentially impact social media platforms.

The Supreme Court may hear arguments on these laws and make a decision by early 2024.

Implications for Copyright and Social Media

The court's ruling has implications for copyright protection on social media platforms, particularly when it comes to embedded photos.

While Instagram has been cleared of copyright claims in this case, conflicting rulings create uncertainty in the legal landscape.

Photographers and content creators may need to consider additional measures to protect their copyrighted works online.

As technology and social media continue to evolve, it is crucial for the law to keep pace and provide clear guidelines for copyright infringement.


Kyle Barr. (July 18, 2023). Instagram Gets Off the Hook for Copyright Claims on Embedded Photos.

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