Meta defeats photographer's lawsuit over Facebook embedding, for now

A smartphone with Facebook's logo is seen in front of displayed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta in this illustration. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
  • Court rejects allegations that content-posting function violates copyrights
  • Judge gives photographer permission to file new complaint

(Reuters) - A Meta Platforms Inc feature that allows users to embed Facebook content on other websites does not violate photographers' copyrights, a San Francisco federal judge said Tuesday.

Photographer Don Logan's proposed class action lawsuit failed because he did not allege that any websites saved his photos onto their servers without permission, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said.

Breyer dismissed a similar class action copyright case against Meta's Instagram last year based on the 9th Circuit's divisive "server test," under which a website can only violate a copyright owner's exclusive right to display their works if it also stores copies of the works on its servers.

Breyer gave Logan permission to amend his complaint. His attorney Lee Squitieri of Squitieri & Fearon said in an email that he plans to refile the lawsuit and believes he can "cure all of the flaws noted by the court."

Representatives for Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Logan filed the lawsuit in February on behalf of a group of photographers whose pictures were allegedly embedded from Facebook onto third-party websites, or from other websites onto Facebook, without their permission.

But Breyer said Monday that Logan did not allege that the websites stored copies of the pictures, and therefore failed to argue the copies were fixed in a "tangible medium of expression" as required by copyright law.

Breyer also rejected Logan's claims that Facebook misused pictures from other websites because he had not shown that those pictures were registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. However, the judge also said that Logan may be able to show that Meta saved some of the photos to its servers.

Breyer also dismissed Logan's related false advertising allegations that Meta misrepresented the "creation and ownership" of his photos.

The case is Logan v. Meta Platforms Inc, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 3:22-cv-01847.

For Meta: Ragesh Tangri and Joseph Gratz of Durie Tangri

For the photographers: Lee Squitieri of Squitieri & Fearon

Read more:

Instagram dodges photogs' copyright lawsuit over embedding feature

Photographers’ new Instagram class action wants to upend online publishing

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com