Media & Entertainment Law

The Examiner isn't liable for infringing content posted by its independent contractors, court says

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The company that owns is shielded from liability for copyright infringement by independent contractors who posted celebrity photographs, a federal appeals court has ruled. is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which protects online and Internet service providers from liability for copyrighted content posted at the direction of their online users, the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in an April 25 decision (PDF). Reuters covered the decision and other legal materials in the case.

The plaintiff, the photo agency BWP Media, had contended the law does not apply to the independent contractors who are paid to write content for the Examiner. The website chooses its independent contractors, known as “examiners,” after evaluating writing samples and conducting background checks.

The independent contractors are paid based on factors such as frequency of posts and the clicks generated, Reuters explains. The 25 writers who posted the infringing content earned more than $400,000 between 2012 and 2012, according to information cited by Reuters from a brief filed by BWP Media.

The Examiner’s contracts with the writers specify that copyright infringement is prohibited. The Examiner had taken down the infringing material, a requirement for safe harbor under the law.

According to Reuters, the decision has “widened the divide between old-school journalism outfits like Reuters and online ‘journalism’ sites.”

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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