In a recent ruling, The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals said that embedding a copyrighted video on a website does not constitute a violation of the video’s copyright.
The court ruled on the case, Flava Works, Inc. v. Gunter, on August 2nd, reversing an injunction issued by the Court for the Northern District of Illinois in July. The plaintiff, adult film company Flava Works, Inc., sued MyVidster owner Marques Gunter for posting an embedded version to one of Flava Works’ videos on a third-party video hosting website.
Embedded videos are a popular web feature. Major video hosting websites like YouTube comply with Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notices, removing videos that violate copyrights at the copyright owner’s request. However, YouTube and other hosting websites still have thousands of hours of copyright-infringing content, and web content creators often use embedded links to include these videos in their posts without sending readers to a third-party domain such as Youtube.com. These links are not equivalent to copyright violations.
However, any person or organization that uploads a digital copy of a copyrighted video may still violate a copyright. The ruling simply means that links to that embedded links function like other links legally. MyVidster did not host the content and therefore did not make a copy of it, so Gunter did not violate Flava Works’ copyright.
In its decision, the court also noted that web visitors do not violate copyright laws by watching embedded videos, provided that the visitors do not make additional copies of copyrighted material. While judge Richard Posner noted that watching copyrighted recordings for free is “a bad thing to do,” he compared the practice to stealing a book and reading it. Neither act is a violation of copyright laws in the view of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, although the court did not necessarily state that either act was entirely legal.
U.S. courts have held markedly varied opinions on digital copyright infringement over the last decade, which has created something of a murky legal atmosphere for some webmasters. The Seventh Circuit Court’s decision sets an important precedent and protects website owners from copyright-related lawsuits.