It is common for content generators and social media influencers of various digital platforms to monetize their brands by driving their followers to third-party links or retail sites. These content generators are then paid for that traffic and the sales the traffic brings. So it makes sense that fashion blogger Nitra Mann started a class action suit against celebrity news site PopSugar. In a suit filed in June 2018, Mann claimed that PopSugar stole thousands of Instagram images from various content generators and then reposted them with PopSugar’s own third-party links.
The suit alleges that PopSugar violated copyright and other related laws in a number of ways:
- It infringed plaintiff’s copyrights in the posts.
- It infringed upon the plaintiff’s right to publicity.
- It intentionally interfered with the plaintiff’s business relationships.
- It made false and misleading representations (including the use of the defendant’s likeness) that violate the Lanham Act.
- It violated the California Unfair Competition Law.
Judge rejects motion to dismiss
PopSugar asked for the class action suit involving Mann and other bloggers to be dismissed, but a U.S. District Court judge in California motion, ruling that he considers the allegations to be valid because an Instagram caption is copyright protected and the plaintiff and defendant are in the same line of work.
“Both the plaintiff and PopSugar provide an online platform for users to shop for fashion and accessories through other affiliated platforms, by posting 'shoppable' images of influencers and products," writes Judge Haywood Gilliam in his ruling. "Plaintiff has alleged a likelihood of consumer confusion regarding Defendant’s service of providing these 'shoppable' images.”
Mann will still need to establish that there is copyright registration of her content, which will then enable her to serve as a class representative. Nonetheless, Mann and her legal team are off to a good start.
Protecting your content
Some believe that digital copyright laws do not apply to them or that the laws do not keep up because issues evolve at such a rapid pace. Even so, it is wise to protect original online content against exploitation by others. These issues can sometimes be resolved without litigation, but it is always a good idea to consult an attorney about potential legal remedies for protecting online intellectual property.