Case Study: Twitter Copyright Infringement?

Photographer Christopher Boffoli made “Twitter Copyright!” headlines after the social media company didn’t remove his images quickly enough. This is a summary of the case.

Miniature Food Photos Go Viral

Photographer Boffoli became Internet-famous for his foodie-inspired images, which he called the “Disparity Series.” They went viral.

Folks started using Boffoli’s photos without permission — and according to Ars Technica, unpublished early photo drafts were stolen off a server. Quickly, Boffoli found himself mired in DMCA takedown paperwork. He successfully dealt with Pinterest, Facebook, and the all-mighty Google — but according to Boffoli, Twitter wasn’t as accommodating (or, at least, not as quick to the draw).

Share My Work, Just Don’t Make It Yours

“I’m genuinely humbled and grateful that people are enthusiastic about my work and want to share it,” Boffoli told Ars Technica in a recent interview.

“If somebody puts a couple of my pictures on a Tumblr page, that’s totally fine.” What is happening, however, is that users are uploading Boffoli’s images to Twitter’s servers, which is a problem, because Twitter’s TOS says the company can use all uploads for any reason.

When Boffoli contacted some of the Twitter users directly and explained the situation, they were more than happy to remove the images. Nevertheless, not everyone was cooperative, and Boffoli’s intellectual property is still compromised.

Must Prove Willful Intent To Win A Twitter Copyright Case

Twitter doesn’t comment on pending litigation, but the legal peanut gallery seems to think Boffoli will have a hard time proving willful copyright infringement, which would be necessary to win.

Just because a website doesn’t respond to a DMCA request immediately, doesn’t mean it’s automatically in violation of copyright law. In Boffoli’s case, (thus far), Twitter sent automated responses with no further follow-ups.

There may be a few reasons Twitter didn’t reply:

  • They haven’t reached his request in the queue yet;
  • Boffoli’s DMCA complaint may not have been filled out correctly; or
  • Twitter is planning to fight the case in court.

It should also be noted that previous complaints by Boffoli were acted upon by Twitter – but not in the time range outlined in the lawsuit. It’s unclear why Twitter didn’t act on the requests, but Boffoli’s attorney, Keith Scully, feels they have a strong claim.

Boffoli’s photos have spread far and wide on the Internet, but haven’t brought him much dough…yet.

“I’m just a working artist, trying to support my studio and myself,” Boffoli said to Ars Technica.