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Is embedding an image copyright infringement? – a new case will find out

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The nature of copyright and copyright infringement online, web technologies, and liability of forum owners is being explored and could be reinterpreted in a new case filed in the United States.

The dispute involves the owner of a forum and a photographer who had one of his pictures deep-linked to by a user on the forum.

In other words, even though the image was visible on the Blade Forums – which is dedicated to knife enthusiasts, Reuters writes – it remained hosted on the website of the photographer, QT Luong – even if possibly not driving traffic to him.

But the practice of deep linking is something that the World Wide Web Consortium holds to be fundamental for the functioning of the web, the absence of which would undermine the web’s functioning.

However, copyright claims disputing the practice are nothing new, and in March of this year, the image linked by a Blade Forums user in 2007, landed the site’s owner Kevin Schlossberg in trouble.

Luong’s lawyers from Higbee & Associates asked Schlossberg to pay $2,500 to make the copyright infringement accusation go away – something he refused.

Now Schlossberg’s representatives from the Public Citizen group are asking a federal court to determine that deep linking does not constitute infringement – and that their client could not be held liable, as he made financial gain from it while being unable to monitor all content on his forum.

Reuters cites Public Citizen’s Paul Alan Levy as saying that the case should show if deep linking can indeed be considered a copyright violation, as forums who have not made sure to obtain safe harbor status under the DMCS and thus protect themselves face an increasing number of copyright letters.

Levy also pointed out that those websites whose actual concern are deep links themselves have technical ways to block them, without going to court.

Meanwhile, Higbee & Associates – whom the Reuters report stops short of describing as copyright trolls, as some others have done – wasn’t sure if Luong would decide to fight against Schlossberg’s declaratory judgment action, meant to serve as a liability and infringement “test case.”

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