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Retweeting Photos Could Make You A Copyright Violator, Japan’s High Court Rules
By Mikelle Leow, 24 Jul 2020
Image via Shutterstock
A simple retweet can now land you in legal trouble in Japan. A startling new ruling from the country’s Supreme Court affirms that copyright infringement charges won’t just affect violators who reupload the work, but possibly even those who retweet it.
The case centers on a photographer who, in 2014, discovered that one of his photos of a lily had been taken from his website and shared on Twitter without his knowledge, and then circulated by other users through the retweet function. The design of retweeted posts meant his watermark was automatically cropped out, as well, as reported by TorrentFreak.
The photographer then filed a complaint against the original person who reuploaded his picture, along with three others who purportedly retweeted it, to the Tokyo District Court, asking to have the users identified.
While the Tokyo District Court agreed that the uploader breached copyright, it denied that the retweeters were at blame.
Dissatisfied with the decision, the photographer brought the matter up to the Japanese Supreme Court, who sided with him as his name had been cropped out of the photo, although the hiding of the watermark was an effect of Twitter’s algorithm instead of a deliberate action by users.
The High Court also acceded that the photographer could obtain the email addresses of the allegedly offending users from Twitter, a decision that was contested by the social network in an appeal.
Twitter argued that users were not responsible for the cropping of the photographer’s name. However, its justification was overturned by four out of five judges of the Supreme Court.
The one judge who disagreed with faulting innocuous retweeters said that ruling in favor of the photographer meant that well-meaning Twitter users might have to check that everything they want to retweet would be safe to share in the future.
Twitter is the preferred social media platform in Japan, and the expectation for every bit of content to be evaluated for copyright by users could hold implications for the app’s 45 million monthly active accounts.
[via TNW, cover image via Shutterstock]
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