Copyright Suit Against Tumblr May Affect All Photo Sharing Sites

Back in 2006, a pornography publishing company named Perfect 10 attempted to sue Google over copyright infringement, claiming that the thumbnails displayed on Google’s image search did not fall under “fair use.” Ultimately, the Supreme Court wouldn’t even hear the case, allowing the ruling that thumbnails are fair use to stand and handing Perfect 10 yet another loss (they’ve sustained many in this area).

Now, however, Perfect 10 is at it again and this time they might win. This suit is against the blogging/sharing platform Tumblr, claiming that the website ignored six separate take-down notices and that Tumblr employees knowingly posted infringing content. The major concern with this lawsuit is that if the courts rule in Perfect 10’s favor, the repercussions for all sharing platforms (read: Pinterest, Twitpic, etc.) could big; essentially opening up a potential pandora’s box of copyright infringement cases.

A trial date hasn’t been set yet, nor has Tumblr responded in any form or fashion regarding the case, but this is one that everybody should follow closely — especially since Tumblr could drag users into the fray very easily. Back in 2006 Google had a strong case for why its thumbnails were fair use, but Tumblr won’t have it nearly as easy.

(via Photo District News)

Image credit: Tumblr Photos by COG LOG LAB.

  • Eric

    I don’t really see this as a case for bringing repercussions on other photo sharing sites.  The allegations that Tumblr ignored the DMCA takedown requests seem pretty straightforward and, if true, pretty damning for Tumblr. 

    If those are the only facts that are at issue, then it’s a pretty open and shut case with no novel issues of law.  In the end, the same DMCA rules already apply to Pinterest, TwitPic, etc.  As long as they are diligently responding to DMCA requests, then there is no liability as a web service.

  • Peter Beckley

    I agree, unless there are facts about this case that we’re not getting from this article, and I suppose that’s entirely possible (no knock on the awesome work PP does), then this appears to be a straight forward case unrelated to the Google fair use case.

  • Richard

    My experience with tumbler has been terrible. There is a free and easy attitude about lifting images among users and the tumbler admins. I’ve only had one user take down an image of mine, lifted from flickr (not embedded, lifted). I’ve had dozens (that I know of) users who ignore polite messages and I’ve never had a single reply from tumbler on my reports of image theft to them. Frankly, I hope they have a reality check with this lawsuit.

  • bob cooley

    Love PetaPixel, but this is just a bad (PP) article.

    First off, re-read the article – it wasn’t Tumblr Employees that posted the images (as stated here), but Tumblr users (stated in the article).

    This won’t have repercussions for other photo posting sites, as long as they follow the DMCA (take down copyrighted images that your users illegally put up as per request, and no harm comes to your company) That’s the very point of the Safe Harbor provision of the DMCA… 

    Sorry guys, you missed the boat on this one…

  • Michael Godek

    really…..a porn site (who clearly is just after winning frivolous lawsuits for money) is going to ruin it for everyone….especially after flickr and pintrest just made an agreement…….that should hold more weight than freakin tumblr

  • Michael Zhang

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for your feedback on the article. Here’s the relevant section from the PDN report: 

    “Tumblr allows its account holders to post and share images, music, and videos on its servers. Perfect 10 alleges that Tumblr employees “posted infringing content,” including Perfect 10’s copyrighted works, to Tumblr servers “to help start the business.””

    Also, regarding other websites like Pinterest — while it’s true that they should still be safe if they comply with takedown notices, the fact is that many of these websites are filled largely not with original content but with copyrighted work. If you were to remove all the copyright infringing material from Pinterest, how much of the site’s total traffic (and value) do you think would be instantly wiped out?

    Thanks again :)

  • John Rix

    I have had dozens of images removed promptly by Tumblr (not their users). Still a pain. They should re-architect their service to not store (only link/embed) material on their servers.

  • Gergo_from_Stockfresh

    Well, there is a slight chance that this trial can change copyright holders’ attitude towards image sharing sites. But I don’t think it would make a huge impact. There might be a few other sites who feel they are seriously hurt by image sharing and will act based upon their rights given by DMCA but I don’t expect many. 

  • Richard

    Agreed. Maybe I’m writing the wrong admins.

  • OSAM

    Tumblr is garbage. I’ve had nothing but issues with users posting my images without attribution and without a trackback.  I’d actually have little issue if I was asked for permission and got attribution, but to just go ahead and do it… that’s brazen. And illegal.

  • Rob LaRosa

     Clearly after winning frivolous lawsuits for money? The article states Perfect 10 has lost several lawsuits. There’s no money making in losing suits! Regardless of the subject, content owners should be allowed to control their content. It’s that simple.

  • ReyesRamon89

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  • Aaron Tsuru

    I love tumblr. I’ve made it my main portfolio / blog site. I put up work knowing full and well it may get reblogged and credit might get wiped.

    My thought on this is, if I’m willing to give away a low-res 700 px on the long side image online for free, I must be willing to let it venture out into the dirty world to be manhandled by ne’er-do-wells.  

    But that’s true of the entire internet, so, that’s that. I’m certainly not going to police every blog to see who’s swiping my images and removing watermarks or changing colours or whatever.

  • maniacfive

    Wait, Tumblr ISN’T just for porn? I Did not know that.

  • Joho

     It’s the internet. If you don’t want things shared…Don’t post them online!

  • Jojo

    It’s the internet. If you don’t want things shared…Don’t post them online!

  • Jojo

    It’s the internet. If you don’t want things shared…Don’t post them online!

  • John Kantor

    Not much of an article, but if those are the facts, all it means is that Tumblr will have to pay for not taking down six pictures.

  • Madison Gerritsen

    I’ve just discovered ten of my pictures were used (not reblogged, just lifted from a different website) on a pornography tumblr. Great. Now. Is there a way I can force that user to take down my work? The modeling agency is furious, and with good reason because fashion photos of mine are not surrounded with hardcore gay porn.

  • Mike

    I have never heard of an agency getting mad about photos being on Tumblr. Most agencies are on Tumblr now, and many fashion photographers, including some very well known names, have blogs on there. Maybe you should tell them to step it up and stop being amateur about it…

  • Mike

    You should explore more than just the porn sites on there, pervert. Porn on Tumblr is a small minority…