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.

Filed Under: copyright, embedding, fair use, legal issues, linking
Companies: fomd, movierumor, mpaa

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  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 31 Jul 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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