Photographer Files Seven Figure Lawsuit Against BuzzFeed over Soccer Picture

By Steve Anderson June 18, 2013

Copyright infringement lawsuits are usually started in big companies and sent to target individuals who infringe, but a more unusual suit has recently emerged with an individual targeting a firm.

Photographer Kai Eiselein is filing suit against BuzzFeed after the company used a photograph he took, depicting a girl playing soccer, without his permission. Eiselein's suit is reportedly seeking $3.6 million in damages, said to be the maximum allowed by law, and for reasons that may not be expected.

The photo in question started out on Eiselein's Flickr account, but quickly found itself incorporated into a BuzzFeed article called “The 30 Funniest Header Faces.” Court documents reportedly indicate that BuzzFeed is being targeted thanks to its encouragement for users to share images, and just about anything else, regardless of ownership of said content, or whether or not the content in question has actually been licensed to BuzzFeed. Additionally, there is reportedly the issue of subsequent infringements, based on those who published the photo after BuzzFeed posted it.

But the question that has plagued copyright holders for some time is likely to be the same question that ultimately torpedoes Eiselein's lawsuit: the question of “fair use”. There are provisions built into copyright law for the use of some materials without the requirement for authorization or payment – especially in a noncommercial fashion. Some have noted that the ambiguity of “fair use” principles leaves a lot of loopholes available – loopholes that BuzzFeed, or its lawyers, may be able to take advantage of. Reports indicate that BuzzFeed's CEO has in turn argued that a post to BuzzFeed constitutes “a transformative use of photos” which is covered under the fair use principles. 

While only a court of law can establish whether those uses are truly encompassed by fair use principles, some have already suggested that BuzzFeed's use of Eiselein's image would indeed be part of such an action thanks to what BuzzFeed does with the images posted to it; things like sequencing, framing and so on, become part of a process that “advances knowledge or the progress of the arts through the addition of something new,” part of the concept of fair use.

With the lawsuit reportedly already filed, and BuzzFeed unlikely to settle, the issue of “fair use” is likely to get a little more consideration over the coming months. Indeed, should Eiselein win, some have already suggested a likely “chilling effect” in the nature of social sharing online. After all, if people are afraid to share images found due to the threat of lawsuit—if websites are afraid to show images that viewers find—what other outcomes could there be? The results of the court case and its doubtless subsequent appeals will likely chart a course for the Internet in general for some time to come.




Edited by Blaise McNamee

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Related Articles

Google says Encryption Keys are in the Ignition

By: Peter Bernstein    7/31/2015

It has been such a wild few days in the cyber security area with all of the hacks, data breaches, exposures by security folks that all Android and wea…

Read More

Chattanooga Fiber Network Triple Play: Smart Grid, Gigabit, Green Energy

By: Doug Mohney    7/31/2015

Chattanooga is unique for a gigabit class network that covers the entire community, serving over 150,000 homes and businesses. Its advantages go far b…

Read More

Strategy Analytics: Shakeups Abound in the Tablet Market

By: Steve Anderson    7/31/2015

While the tablet market is something of a lesser phenomenon compared to the smartphone market, there's still quite a bit happening. A new report from …

Read More

Chattanooga: Much More than GigCity

By: Doug Mohney    7/31/2015

It is far too simple to say Chattanooga's high-speed fiber optic network is the cornerstone to the city's future growth. While city leaders and operat…

Read More

Taking a Look into Windows 10

By: Joe Rizzo    7/31/2015

On July 29, 2015 the long awaited release of Windows 10 arrived. You may have noticed that Microsoft went from version 8.1 to Windows 10, which is due…

Read More