Twitter sued over photo copyright

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First stolen jokes, now pictures — an award-winning photographer has sued Twitter over a copyrighted image that has been shared on the social media site.

Kristen Pierson filed suit in California over an image she took of Dragonforce guitarist Herman Li, which was being hosted and linked to on Twitter without her permission. Legal action began in March 2014, when a DMCA takedown notice over the photo was filed. Twitter has supposedly failed to respond, leading Pierson to escalate to full legal action.

TorrentFreak reports that the account that originally shared the image is no longer active, though the photo itself remains on Twitter’s servers. It’s a thorny area for the site — each time a user directly tweets a photo, rather than linking to it elsewhere, it’s hosted by Twitter, leaving it open to legal action such as Pierson’s.

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However, Pierson’s suit doesn’t seem to distinguish between Twitter directly hosting the image or not; it appears that the fact it was shared on the site at all is cause of the complaint. “A Twitter user or users copied the Infringing Image without license or permission from Pierson and on information and belief sent one or more Tweets publicizing and linking to it. The Infringing Uses were hosted either on Twitter or on third-party servers,” part of the complaint reads.

The results could hinge on whether Twitter did indeed ignore the DMCA takedown request. Under US law, internet services aren’t held liable for their users’ illegal activities so long as they act on appeals to remove illicit content. If Twitter failed to do so, it could be found at fault.

Pierson is reportedly seeking a restraining order to prevent Twitter from hosting or linking to her work in future, plus statutory and actual damages. These could be the real stinger, as the figure could be more than $150,000 (£96k).

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