Pinterest Triumphs in Photography-Related Copyright Lawsuit

A federal judge has recently granted summary judgment to Pinterest (image-sharing, social media platform) in a Copyright Lawsuit filed by a photographer who claimed that the platform infringed upon over 50 of his copyrighted works by displaying them way too close to other advertisements.

The ruling has come after an award-winning author and photographer from Princeton, New Jersey, Harold Davis, sued Pinterest in November 2019 by claiming that the company displayed 51 of his photographs without his consent on its platform.

In his lawsuit filed, Davis claimed that the issue wasn’t with Pinterest users enjoying his creative work, as he did not quarrel with the ones who pinned his photos to their personal Pinterest boards. Instead, his dispute was with Pinterest displaying his creative works too closely or in the same feed as other promotional posts. For instance, he claimed that one of his creative works, “Kiss from a Rose,” was displayed next to a promoted pin for another art print, which, according to him, is an act infringing upon his copyright.

After dismissing a series of multiple related infringement claims, Haywood Gilliam Jr., the US District Judge in the Northern District of California, has finally granted summary judgment in favor of the social media company on the sole surviving the copyright infringement claim. He found that Pinterest is well-protected from the claims put forward by the photographer under the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennial Copyright Act. Also, most importantly, according to Gilliam, Davis has been unable to prove how Pinterest or its content algorithms directly profited from his works by displaying them so close to the promoted pins.

In a 28-page order, Gilliam wrote that Davis’ evidence concerning Pinterest’s overall business model doesn’t establish that the social media platform obtained a financial benefit uniquely attributable to the infringement alleged in the said lawsuit. He further mentioned that the advertisements might have been displayed in proximity to Davis’ creative works; however, the algorithms that Pinterest uses for its advertisements were not connected to such works.

Additionally, Gilliam stated that even if Pinterest was extracting financial benefits from Davis’ creative works, the legal precedent doesn’t shift the lawsuit in the photographer’s favor. In many previous copyright infringement lawsuits presented before the Ninth Circuit, where different plaintiffs sued websites containing clips from their copyrighted movies, the Court paid attention to the fact that the individual users of such websites uploaded the infringing content in the first place. The Court cleared its stance by saying that the websites could incentivize users to upload such popular content; however, ultimately, the users remain responsible for uploading the content.

As per Gilliam, the same reasoning applies to the lawsuit in question. Davis’ creative works were uploaded on Pinterest by individual users and not Pinterest. Also, the fact that the social media platform uses algorithms designed to increase and enhance consumer access to content does not hold it responsible for any instance of copyright infringement.

Davis did attempt to argue by saying that Pinterest had direct control over the photos shared on its platform even if it didn’t put them there; however, Gilliam ruled that Davis had never submitted any proof concerning how Pinterest’s advertisement practices infringed upon his copyright.

As Davis’ last claim was ruled in Pinterest’s favor, the judge ordered the case closed. For more visit:

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