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Fox News Settles Fair Use Lawsuit Over 9/11 Photo on Facebook

The Fox News Network has reached a settlement in a lawsuit filed over the posting to Facebook of a copyrighted photo taken on September 11, 2001. A federal judge recently ruled the network was not protected by fair use doctrine when it posted an iconic photo called “Raising the Flag at Ground Zero” to its Facebook page. A newspaper in New Jersey actually owns the image. Fox made news after the decision in saying that the judge’s decision would have “massive implications” for how fair use is applied in social media, but with this settlement the decision stays intact.

Fox claimed its posting of the photo should have been allowed because it was posting it as a part of a global conversation about the terrorist attacks, not as a way to promote the network. The case became very closely watched by copyright lawyers in particular, as it dealt with an area of the law not very well clarified in the way images can be spread on social media.

North Jersey Media Group owns the photo in question, and has filed more than 10 cases against people and entities within the last few years who have used the photo without first obtaining a license. This particular lawsuit arose after Fox used a slightly altered version of the photo on its Facebook page in 2013 as part of a way to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the attacks.

Terms of the settlement have not been revealed, but it’s a major win for North Jersey Media Group and could indeed set an interesting precedent for how copyright laws are applied in cases involving social media.

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