Is Embedding Infringement? MPAA Sues Two Sites

from the we-may-find-out dept

While we still need to wait for the end result of the YouTube/Viacom case to learn whether hosting infringing videos is infringement itself, there's another open question about whether or not linking to or embedding infringing videos is also infringing. It seems difficult to understand how it could be infringing, as it's no different than pointing someone to freely available content (and, technically, linking and embedding are no different at all -- it's just some HTML). The person (or computer) doing the linking or embedding has no idea whether the content being linked or embedded is infringing -- and it seems reasonable to believe that if it's available online, there's nothing wrong with linking to it.

Yet, here we have the MPAA suing two sites that both link to and embed various movies. The two sites in question, FOMD (Found Online Movie Database) and MovieRumor, don't host the movies themselves. They merely point people to various movies that are publicly available online. It would seem like a rather drastic stretch of copyright law to claim that is also infringement, but don't be too surprised at how this will be argued. The MPAA will play on emotional, rather than rational, arguments -- and it may actually work, given some similar cases in the past.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Terrorized Idiot, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 8:10am

    Why are we in Iraq?

    Why are we in Iraq and Afghanistan when the real terrorists are right here in our backyard? I dare say that the RIAA and MPAA have terrorized more people and nearly done as much to restrict our rights as any terrorist.

    Round them up and send them Guantanamo Bay!

     

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  2.  
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    Michial, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 8:43am

    Linking vs Embedding

    I do not see how simply creating a "click here" link could be considered infringing on the copyright, as you state it's just guiding a user someplace else. It's in no way using the copyright material at all.

    The toping of Embedding has been bounced around pretty much since the IMG tag was introduced into HTML. I do not know what the outcome of previous disputes has been, but in my opinion Embedding an image or movie now owned or specifically granted permission to use would be a risky proposition for any webmaster to get involved in.

    Embedding content into your own content is no different than taking someone's professional photo and including it into a flyer or pamphlet or even your own book. Without their permission you are in violation of the Copyrights. I'd think that this same type of violation would carry over to embedding the content on your website.

     

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  3.  
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    Chris, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 8:56am

    I agree with Michial but I have a different take. Wasn't there an article recently that was about the MPAA coming out with a website that would redirect you to legal options for attaining a movie. Wouldn't this kind of embedding a link to infringing video content be in direct competition with their new website when it comes out since it will be easier to use then what they will be offering.

    http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080727-mpaa-planning-site-to-offer-legit-movie-l inks.html

     

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  4.  
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    mudlock, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 9:11am

    Remember 2600?

    Remember 2600? Linked to DeCSS, sued, lost.

    Does it make *sense*? No, not to me. But there's already precedent, and precedent is more important then sense in the courtroom.

     

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  5.  
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    Abdul, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 9:22am

    Re: Why are we in Iraq?

    I'm ashame that you can write such statement in public but your user name shows you are a person devoid of reasoning. You are the sort of people that wants lawlessness to become the order of the day! What's wrong with the RIAA and MPAA making sure that content owners get what they deserve rather than having guys like you use Youtube aas a haven for copyright thieves: Top 10 Ways YouTube Has Ruined Life for Good(http://www.internetevolution.com/document.asp?doc_id=155235&F_src=flftwo)

     

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  6.  
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    Liam, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 9:28am

    using michial analogy image this.

    You make a poster, and for the background image, you want to use a copyrighted photograph, and you do.
    This is hosting.

    Finding the photo already used somewhere, and putting your content above and around it does a similar job.
    This is embedding.

    or you write some text saying "copyrighted photograph goes here", and have your content around it.
    This is linking.

    Anyways, I'm crap with words, but I think I made my point.

     

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  7.  
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    Liam, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 9:34am

    Re: Re: Why are we in Iraq?

    Because the RIAA and MPAA are not ethical about who the content owner is.

    Who should be hurt more by piracy, the artist/writer/creator that created the content, or the massive multi-billion dollar company that just helped out a little?

    If the RIAA and MPAA made sure the actors, singer, songwriters, muscians, directors etc etc got there fair share from the lawsuits then that would step them up the ethical ladder a bit (not a lot).

    There are hundreds of reasons not to support either of them, this is just one.

    don't think just because it's "piracy" it's inherently bad.

     

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  8.  
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    Chris Brand, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 9:41am

    You have no control over what you embed

    If I embed content from another server in my website, I have no control over what they send in response to that request. When I wrote the code, it could have been content that I was confident was authorized but the operators of the other server can change that at any time, so when people view my site they could see anything - including unauthorized content or nothing at all.

     

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  9.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jul 30th, 2008 @ 9:54am

    No

    No, it's infringement nor should it be prosecuted. That doesn't stop the MPAA from continuing a pointless quest to destroy its own business.

    I can't remember the name of the site, but about 12 years ago, the MPAA successfully shut down a popular movie trailer site for copyright infringement. That's right, a site that showed nothing but *advertisements* for MPAA products, with ZERO costs to the MPAA itself was shut down, thus reducing exposure for said trailers.

    This just goes to show, despite their previous mistakes and those of their RIAA corporate brethren, they've learned nothing about the digital culture they wish to profit from.

     

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  10.  
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    Mogilny, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 10:18am

    Search Engines

    They should sue search engines too. They provide links to pirated material.

     

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  11.  
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    mike, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 10:25am

    very simple

    until you have to subscribe and register to every site on the web, there is no way to stop global spreading of media on it. If you are so money hungry, do not post any of your prized content on the web, and if you do, hire a company to search meta-data all day to actively delete any of it. Users of the internet have been groomed to bookmark, cut paste imbed and share all they experience, dont give them the power then bitch about it!

     

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  12.  
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    JS Beckerist (profile), Jul 30th, 2008 @ 10:30am

    Linking to MP3's

    I've found a similar situation with my own site (lame plug I know but it's relevant!)
    I commonly post to links where you can download mp3s of the songs I transcribe (fileflyer, zshare...etc...)
    I've been threatened multiple times in regards to this, while I maintain it's perfectly legal. Between free speech (servers and I are both in the US,) fair use and the fact that all I'm doing is searching Google and posting a link I find that's already out there (I have nothing to do with otherwise!)

    ...I'm VERY interested in the outcome of this suit.

     

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  13.  
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    Red Forman, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 10:36am

    How about embedding our feet in MPAA's ass?

     

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  14.  
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    GHynson, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 10:50am

    Duh!!!!

    Just shut down the internet already!!!

     

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  15.  
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    Mike (profile), Jul 30th, 2008 @ 10:51am

    Re: Linking vs Embedding

    Embedding content into your own content is no different than taking someone's professional photo and including it into a flyer or pamphlet or even your own book. Without their permission you are in violation of the Copyrights. I'd think that this same type of violation would carry over to embedding the content on your website.

    But the process of embedding and link is nearly identical. It's just a single line of code. It seems ridiculous that one gets one standard and the other a different.

    Furthermore, as others pointed out, unlike putting someone's photo in your own book, with an embed, the original owner still has TOTAL control. They can change the content on the embed at will (or take it down).

    That's quite different than taking someone else's content and making use of the *copy*, as you describe.

     

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  16.  
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    Ryan, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 11:02am

    In perspective

    Most people say it all depends mostly on who's hosting the material in question. But linking, hotlinking, and embedding does walk a fine line between showing someone the way to something and being a part of the party itself.

    Sure, you may not host it yourself, but what if you found a video of child abuse or rape or soemthing else of an illegal nature, would linking to it constitute your condoning of such acts? And wouldn't your failure to report such illegal activity make you an accomplice to the illegal act? Most would say 'yes'. Why wouldn't the same apply with linking to or embedding material that breaks copyright laws, unless expressed specifically otherwise by the copyright holder?

    We all want the laws to bend to our specific needs as long as it works out in our favor. Copyright laws are there so people do not rip off someone's hard work and use it as their own. People have lost site of that for the simple pleasure of getting something for free. It is illegal. Bottom line. If you don't like it, good luck trying to do away with copyright laws. Because that is the only way you will ever win.

    And I won't hold my breath for that day.

     

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  17.  
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    Alexander Muse, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 11:03am

    Linking and Embedding

    The concept of linking is well established and yet many lawyers suggest that linking to content can infringe their client's rights. It is unimaginable that I couldn't do the equivalent of, "hey look at this" online. On the other hand, embedding is a different animal.

    Embedding allows you to take content from somewhere else (from the owner's website with his consent or someone else who has posted the owners content with or without the owners consent) and make it part of your own site. My son has a movie review blog where he links to reviews by other people and embeds hem: http://www.ethanmuse.com in just such a way. Embedding is unique because you can make the content seem as if it is part of your web site. This is VERY different than 'linking' to content that resides somewhere else. With content hosting services like YouTube, PhotoBucket, Flickr and Vimeo WHERE the actual data is stored isn't as relevant as it once might have been. The fact that I DIDN'T load the content on my website isn't as important as the fact that I have 'incorporated' the contact within MY website. That incorporation should be allowed ONLY when the content owner has agreed to it. IMHO.

     

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  18.  
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    Player911, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 11:07am

    Lame

    Most videos have watermarks with the original creators logo.

    I think what most of this is referring to is ripping off movie clips and posting it. One example of this are sites like porntube, where posters are taking copyrighted material and creating minute streams, then uploading them to a public medium. That process becomes illegal once you copy the source.

    But simply taking a youtube video and creating a blog post saying, "Hey check out this funny video"... is perfectly fine. In fact it is encouraged to provide web traffic to their site. Most video's even provide the embedded code once the video ends.

    I don't know why the MPAA or RIAA are even allowed to operate. All they do are harass citizens of this country. They are so money hungry to feed their own pockets that they don't care what they do. Obviously these guys haven't the least amount of knowledge about how the internet world works. The internet has grown popular because it is free and open source. Anything on the web should become common knowledge that it would be freely available to anyone.

    You don't put something on the web that you don't want used. If the someone wants their video secured to their name, then overlay a watermark or adhere a small icon on the corner of the video like all so many television stations do.

    I think the MPAA and the RIAA are a bunch of old men who can't even figure out how to set the clock on their VCR's, let alone control the distribution of digital media across a global network.

     

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  19.  
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    Michael Long, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 11:42am

    Infringing...

    The person (or computer) doing the linking or embedding has no idea whether the content being linked or embedded is infringing.

    First, it would almost certainly have to be a person, since the front page of one site shows titles, descriptions, correctly sized copies of the movie posters, PLUS the links to the "infringing" content.

    Second, are you positing that the site owners are idiots, and completely and totally unaware that The Dark Knight, X-Files, Hancock, and Wall-E are not under copyright and are not in the public domain?

    Third, movierumor.com tells people to "WATCH free [sic] movies online!" It offers no commentary, reviews, or other features, sans linking to the ENTIRE film, and further, does so for profit, as it places advertisements on the page of THEIR site where users watch the movie.

    Since they're willingly and knowingly ripping people off for fun and profit, I say let 'em get sued.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Wesley, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 11:44am

    Re: Linking vs Embedding

    @ Michial:
    "Embedding content into your own content is no different than taking someone's professional photo and including it into a flyer or pamphlet or even your own book. Without their permission you are in violation of the Copyrights. I'd think that this same type of violation would carry over to embedding the content on your website"

    Not quite an accurate analogy. What you described is actual infringement, using someone else's material as if it were your own. What is happening is a reference to someone else's material is being presented as being infringing. In which case every encyclopedia ever written would be just one large pile of copyright infringements. (Not the pictures etc in the encyclopedia, but any reference to any copyrighted material. It's like suing over someone saying you should go check out the Mona Lisa, it's an awesome piece of art.)

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 11:47am

    Real Infringement....

    is whe I go to thepiratebay.org and DL torrents then DL all of the movies I want, about 2000 so far, now that's infringement. Like to see them stop me or anyone else for that matter. It seems like they can only catch the ignorant users, not really anyone who is actually doing anything. I love the fact that I can get movies way before they hit my market, even some before they hit the states, the MPAA are nothing but a bunch of "Keystone Cops" chasing the Hamburglar, I love it.

     

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  22.  
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    Jon Harrell, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 12:02pm

    The real infringement is HERE: youku.com

    This is the site that movierumour.com is linking too:
    http://youku.com

    That site is the one that should be sued not the person linking.

     

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  23.  
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    Nasch, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Re: Why are we in Iraq?

    I'm ashame that you can write such statement in public

    I'm proud that he can. I'm happy to live in a place where it's taken for granted that anybody can say anything they want, even something as wrongheaded as suggesting that we shouldn't be able to write certain things in public.

     

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  24.  
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    brandon, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 1:44pm

    technically...

    technically, linking and embedding are no different at all...

    in reality, they are completely different.

    does that mean it should be infringing? I dunno... Kinda hope not...

    But I can foresee some situations where a legal precedent separating the two in the eyes of the court could be a very good thing.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Cowherd, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 3:06pm

    Linking and embedding

    This whole issue is ridiculous.

    Examine the HTML code some time. You will see that nobody who is linking to or embedding a copyrighted video (or still image, or audio, or whatever-else) is actually copying anything at all. All you'll find is a net address for a pre-existing copy somewhere in the code.

    Distributing that HTML code via a Web server is no different than standing in the mall and discussing something with a passer-by there, at one point during which you point at the bestseller rack visible at the entrance to the bookstore and mention Stephen King's new novel.

    If it's infringing to merely make reference to a copyrighted work and say that one is available at such-and-such a location, then it's infringing to have that conversation in the mall and point to Stephen King's book.

    If you argue that it's different because it's on the net, or because the contents of what you've said get interpreted by automation, well, you're wrong. Speech with a given content is speech with a given content, and either it is copying something and maybe infringing or it is not, regardless of where it occurs or how and by what it is interpreted on behalf of the listener.

    If you argue that it's different if the copy you point to is infringing, well, what if that bookstore had cheated the publisher in some way and the copies of Stephen King's book that it had were unauthorized in some way? Are you now infringing (or inducing, or facilitating, or contributing to infringement) by pointing to the book? Even if you know it's infringing? What if you're talking to a cop and pointing to the books and saying "Hey, I think those are infringing unauthorized copies"? Should you be on the hook in THAT case?

    This whole situation is ludicrous. But really, copyright itself is ludicrous. So is patent. So, arguably, is trademark; if it's for consumer protection, it's arguably the consumer that has a cause of action if deceptive labeling confuses them. (But in reality, it's probably easier if consumers have someone speak for them collectively, since individual separate consumer voices have little power; and the manufacturer's reputation may be harmed, which gives them a cause of action for defamation IF the trademark-misusing goods are of poor quality or otherwise bring the brand into disrepute. Making trademark actions something the consumer must bring would mean more money for class action lawyers, which might not really be the best outcome, and implies that you don't think malicious reputation damage should be a cause of action, though absent the ability to bring suit only the more powerful and wealthy would have much effective remedy against systematic and large-scale attempts to maliciously defame them. What could the little guy do against a big newspaper badmouthing him, otherwise? Put up a blog comment somewhere saying none of it's true? How could he even hope to reach a fraction of the audience the paper could?)

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Johnson, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 12:16am

    Movierumor.com is down.

    It seems both Movierumor.com and Fomdb.com have taken down their websites. This is very sad to see an organization such as the MPAA bully small sites while they will not dare touch Google, the biggest copyright linker of all time. Just search videos, images or pages at Google and you will find something copyrighted.

    MPAA, you will never shut down the internet. Two sites may have fallen, but many others shall rise.

     

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  27.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jul 31st, 2008 @ 1:02am

    Re: In perspective

    "Sure, you may not host it yourself, but what if you found a video of child abuse or rape or soemthing else of an illegal nature, would linking to it constitute your condoning of such acts?"

    Not necessarily. For example, it would depend on what was originally linked. It's possible for any remote content to be changed without the linking site being aware of the change.

    "Copyright laws are there so people do not rip off someone's hard work and use it as their own."

    Copyright laws include a fair use doctrine that covers most uses of embedded video. The DMCA exempts service providers from the actions of their users. The copyright laws that remain are targetted (or should be) against the *person who is infringing*, not the easy target schmuck who happens to be embedding from that site.

    That's the issue - this is just another attempt to shut down the easy target rather than getting those responsible for breaking the law. It's also very effective - if there's an infringing video online that's embedded in 500 sites, which is going to be more successful at stopping the video? Shutting down the sites who embed the video, or killing the site that hosts the original? If you answered the latter, you have more sense than the MPAA monkeys in this case.

    "Copyright laws are there so people do not rip off someone's hard work and use it as their own. People have lost site of that for the simple pleasure of getting something for free. It is illegal."

    OK, two points to finish off. First, this isn't about people trying to pass work off as their own. There's some shady goings on with the sites being prosecuted, but pretending they made the movies isn't one of them.

    Secondly, and this cannot be stressed enough, just because it's free does *not* mean it's illegal. There are massive quantities of free, legal content out there.

     

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  28.  
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    Blaise Alleyne (profile), Jul 31st, 2008 @ 8:54am

    Re: No

    No, it's infringement nor should it be prosecuted.

    I assume you meant "it's not infringement."

     

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  29.  
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    Aceswild13, Aug 4th, 2008 @ 11:40pm

    Re: Search Engines

    I am in total agreement with mogilny. Okay.... okay so yes it suck that the movie industry does lose some customers base by having the pirated movies online..... but if i am not mistaken movies are still breaking records even though these sites are available. Should google be sued for showing the links to these websites. I was an avid user of Movierumor.com and still go to the movies. most th movies i watch are movies i would NEVER pay to see.. but had nothing better to so with my time. The sites in question do not send people to theaters to record these films but only offer you a direct link to sites that host these films.
    I do not believe you should hold these "movie search engines" responsilbe.
    The creators of these sites are genusis, they see a demand on the internet, and provide a service that makes it simple for a dimwitted user such as myself. It is a simple suppy and demand.
    If we hold these sites responsible then we must also hold anyone listing these sites responsible, Such as; google, ask.com, AOL, etc.

     

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  30.  
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    Aceswild13, Aug 4th, 2008 @ 11:51pm

    Re: Re: In perspective

    yes the MPAA is trying to shut down an easy target. So riddle me this... Why doesn't the MPAA go after TUDOU.com or Watch-Movies. It is because copyright laws do not apply to them.. they are Non USA based websites and Copyright laws have no bearing there. And the geek squad for Movierumor.com knows this.
    These site only provide with a direct link to the site.

    If streaming movies wasn't so easy the MPAA wouldn't be bothered with it. Movies are not losing money.... they continue to break records every year I.E. Dark knight, Spider man 2 and 3, Iron man. All in the age of the website revolution.

     

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  31.  
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    sm012, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 1:02am

    I'd like to ask if my site is illegal?

    http://topmoviestowatch.blogspot.com/

    damn it..if this is illegal..ill have to shut it down..another waste of time..-__-

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Baryal1299, Jun 1st, 2009 @ 8:22pm

    This whole issue is funny to me.

    If the site itself live movshare and vustage and youtube provide embed code to the public and focust on that code to get people in their site, how can it be illegal for a 3rd person to get what they they are giving through their site and as the embed code is titled "embed in your website" i love to do it and unless those monster heads get sued no once could touch the bloggers who are just using what they are gettin. Website are created for free, contents are available free and you earn money from organising it, i dont think we are stealing it from a hidden place, they are distributed so we are taking it.

     

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  33.  
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    دردشه, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 6:38am

    Secondly, and this cannot be stressed enough, just because it's free does *not* mean it's illegal. There are massive quantities of free, legal content out there

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Best Political Quiz, Nov 20th, 2009 @ 9:35pm

    embedding

    It is just ridiculous that sites on the internet can be bullied while search engines remain unharmed. Google does not even make an attempt to clean itself of illegal activity unless it is of the worst kind (child porn) but even at that is making a ***** attempt.

    I remember a case that a site got sued simply for being on google. For no other reason, google's response is they should have had a no follow on their bot.txt file.

    I find it ridiculous, why even try to enforce copyright rules on the internet, some sites will never give in to pressure and if they have enough experience in online anonymity they can get away with anything. They will never be taken down but will just go through multiple proxies, ect. One example is pspiso.com Oh no now this site will be taken down..lol ridiculous..

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Airmen, Apr 21st, 2010 @ 12:46am

    Re: Re: Re: Why are we in Iraq?

    I'm glad I'm fighting to protect everyone's right to free speech, even though some people may not agree with what is said. People may not even agree with me for fighting, but I'm garunteeing their right to disagree with me. I swore to uphold the Constitution, and I'll die for it before those rights are taken away. In other countries you can be shot, stabbed, hung, and have many other grusome things inflicted on you simply for disagreeing with those in power. Dissagreement only leads to new ideas, and moving forward as humanity. It's alright to disagree just dont tell people that they have no right to say it, or that it should'nt be allowed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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