Sharing Media on Social Networks: Infringement by Linking?

Author:Jean G. Vidal Font
Position::Attorney at Cancio, Nadal, Rivera & Díaz P.S.C. L.L.M. in Intellectual Property from the George Washington University Law School (2009)
Pages:255-277
 
FREE EXCERPT
S
HARING
M
EDIA ON
S
OCIAL
N
ETWORKS
:
I
NFRINGEMENT
BY
L
INKING
?
J
EAN
G.
V
IDAL
F
ONT
*
I. Introduction ............................... ............................................ ........................................... ........... 255
II. Rights and Remedies ........................................... ................................................................ .... 257
A. Exclusive Rights in Copyright .......................................................... ................................ 257
1. Reproduction ..................................................................................................................... 257
2. The Right to Distribute ............................................................ ....................................... 259
3. The Display and Perform Right................... ............................................ .................... 260
B. Remedies ............... ............................................ ...................................................................... 261
1. Vicarious Liability ...................................... ............................................................... ....... 262
2. Contributory Infringement ............ ............................................................................... 262
3. Infringement by Linking ................................................... ........................................... .. 265
III. Perfect 10 and In-Frame Links ........................ ........................................... ....................... 267
A. The Case at the District Court ............................................ ........................................... .. 267
B. Court of Appeals ........................................................................ ........................................... 269
IV. Facebook, In-Frame Linking, and User Inducement: Secondary Liability? ...... 271
A. Background on Facebook and the “Share” Feature .............................. .................. 271
1. Facebook: What is it? .. ................................................................ .................................... 271
2. Shared Content: How Can It Be Seen and Controlled? ....................................... 272
V. Linking Content: When Sharing Becomes Infringing and What Can Be
Done ........................................... ........................................... ........................................... .............. 274
A. Secondary Liability by Linking ............................ ........................................... ................ 274
B. Compulsory Licensing: Solution? ................................................... ................................ 276
I. I
NTRODUCTION
Social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter have
become s o popular that they are now used as verb tenses in the same way
Google is used to describe an online search.
1
Facebook, for one, claims over
901 million monthly active users.
2
One of the most popular features that
Facebook has is the “share” feature, which allows users to “post” web content
*
Attorney at Cancio, Nadal, Rivera & Díaz P.S.C. L.L.M. in Intellectual Property from the
George Washington University Law School (2009). J.D., Magna Cum Laude, from the
Interamerican University of Puerto Rico School of Law (2007).
1
As in “I facebooked you but I couldn’t find you,” “Did you tw itter about it?”, etc.
2
F
ACEBOOK
, htt p://newsroom.fb.com/content/default.aspx?NewsAreaId=22 (last updated
Mar. 2012).
256 U.P.R. Business Law Journal Vol. 3
on their profiles.
3
By posting web content on their profiles, the user’s
“friends” (or people whom the user authorizes to see his/her profile) can see
the web content th at the us er posted. Also, they can be invited to access it.
Facebook boasts that over 30 billion pieces of content are shared every
month.
4
This content includes, but is not limited to, Internet links, videos,
web pages, photos, and any other content that a user can find on the Internet.
To take a single act as the basis for the question posed here, and to serve also
as an illustrative example; a user can go to YouTube, select a video, which the
user knows (or should know) that is infringing of the artist’s rights, and
“shares” it on his
5
profile.
6
In a simple sequence of acts that can take less than
ten seconds, the user has now made the link available to possibly hundreds
(or even thousands) of his or her “friends.”
7
Assuming now that the content
being shared is infringing, is the user who “shares” it guilty of contributory
infringement?
This paper will analyze a situation in which millions of users find
themselves doing each day: sharing web content on their social networking
profiles. Part II of this paper will discuss the exclusive rights that the
Copyright Act affords authors and the remedies those authors have to protect
their rights, including but not limited to the two prevailing theories of
secondary infringement, namely (1) contributory infringement and (2)
vicarious infringement, as well as a more recent development known as
infringement by inducement. Part III will discuss the Perfect 10 v. Google
8
decision by the Ninth Circuit and its relevance to the situation before us,
since said case deals with “in-frame linking,” a feature which is crucial to the
Facebook “share” feature. Part IV will analyze the “sharing” feature in light of
the doctrines discussed and determine if sharing content on a profile is akin
3
This arti cle will not discuss t he “video” feature found on Facebook. The “video” feature
allows users to upload (onto the Facebook servers) their own videos, thereby embedding
them onto their profiles. This feature is differe nt than the “sharing” feature in regards to the
possible liability the user might incur since, if the video were to be infringing, the user wo uld
be liable for direct infringement. This paper focuses on the possi ble contributory
infringement liability that the user might incur when he “shares” preexisting c ontent that is
uploaded/hosted by an unrelated third party.
4
F
ACEBOOK
, http://www.facebook.com/applications/Posted_Items/ 2309869772#/press/
info.php?statistics (last updated Dec. 2011).
5
Throughout the article I will refer to the us er as a “he” since a gender neutral term results
in confusing language given the many references I make to an indi vidual user’s actions.
6
YouTube is a user-generated video portal that is owned by Google, Inc. Users can upload
their own videos onto YouTube and they are available for anyone to see.
7
Facebook has since lifted the limit it used to impose on the maxi mum number of “friends” a
user could have. It was previously set to 5,000 users but has s ince been lifted. See
Michael Arrington, Facebook T o Lift 5,000 Friends Limit, T
ECH
C
RUNCH
(Friday, May 9th, 2008)
http://techcrunch.com/2008/05/09/facebook-to-lift-5000-frie nds-limit/ (last accessed on
April 14
th
, 2012).
8
Perfect 10 v. Google, Inc., 416 F. Supp. 2d 828 (C.D. Cal. 2006).

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