When it comes to the usage of media on the Internet, there has always been a lot of debate about what's acceptable versus what's unacceptable. Here we are in 2014 still trying to hammer out exactly what all falls into "fair use," and who is ultimately responsible when copyrighted material is used in ways unintended by the copyright holder.
It always depends on the scenario in question, but the state of the social, user-generated Internet makes it virtually impossible for content owners to truly control what happens to their product.
The other day, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that it is not copyright infringement if someone embeds a copyrighted video on their website, even if that video itself was uploaded without permission in the first place. The basic logic behind the ruling is that embedding it isn't making it available in a new way. If you embed a YouTube video, that's still YouTube. It was on YouTube, and that's still where it is, so someone embedding that video on their site using the code made available by YouTube doesn't make that person responsible for infringement.
The Court argues that embedding a file or video is not a breach of creator’s copyrights under European law, as long as it’s not altered or communicated to a new public. In the current case, the video was already available on YouTube so embedding it is not seen as a new communication.
“The embedding in a website of a protected work which is publicly accessible on another website by means of a link using the framing technology … does not by itself constitute communication to the public within the meaning of [the EU Copyright directive] to the extent that the relevant work is neither communicated to a new public nor by using a specific technical means different from that used for the original communication,” the Court’s verdict reads.
As the publication points out, a previous case with a similar ruling about linking was used as the basis for this ruling. Essentially, the content is there whether a third-party webpage points to it or not. Pointing to it, even via an embed is not infringement, as far as the court is concerned.
Image via YouTube