Twitter Sued Under DMCA Over Alleged Copyright Infringement


Twitter is being taken to court by a photographer named Kristen Pierson over alleged copyright infringement.  Pierson filed a suit against the social media giant in a California federal court, claiming that Twitter’s delay in removing the infringing content caused her damages. Specifically, Pierson is relying on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) and its takedown notices as the basis for her lawsuit.  Although Pierson is based in Rhode Island, she is relying on federal law because her case focuses on Twitter’s reaction to her request for takedown and removal of access to her work on their site.

In Pierson’s complaint, she alleges that Twitter hosted and linked to one of her photographs taken at a 2006 Alice in Chains concert without her permission.  Although Twitter as an entity in itself did not post it, Pierson’s work was allegedly posted on Twitter by a Twitter user named Karen Juanita.

Upon learning of the distribution, Pierson sent Twitter a DMCA takedown in April of this year.  Although Twitter responded that it had disabled access to the work, Pierson complains that access to her work remained up and active for too long.  Although Twitter’s response to Pierson’s complaint did warn that its disabling access to the work would not be immediate and could take some time, Pierson alleges that the amount of time taken by Twitter was far too long because it took approximately 90 days for Twitter to actually disable access to the work.

Because Pierson’s work was illegally distributed without her consent for at least three months via Twitter, Pierson is demanding damages from the social media giant.  In her lawsuit, Pierson claims that Twitter is guilty of both direct and contributory infringement because Pierson provided notice to Twitter and, despite that notice, Twitter failed to expeditiously remove access to the work as required by the DMCA.

If Pierson can prove that Twitter’s alleged infringement was indeed willful, damages could be as high as $150,000.  Interestingly, this does not mark the first time Pierson has sued Twitter over photographs and copyright infringement, but the two parties had previously settled for an undisclosed amount.

As such, only time will tell whether Twitter will decide to settle again or if the lawsuit will actually go to trial.  In the meantime, it would behoove photographers and other artists to consult intellectual property counsel regarding social media use and their rights regarding unauthorized Internet use.  Artists may also want to consider hiring experienced counsel to aid them in protecting their brands and works on the Internet through such means as watch notices or other similar services.  This way, artists can help prevent losing out on potential compensation for their works if the works are being distributed online illegally.

For more information on this topic, please visit our DMCA Compliance service page, which is part of our Internet & eCommerce Practice.

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