Buzzfeed is now the central figure in what is likely to be a landmark lawsuit for the internet.
Kai Eiselein, an Idaho photographer, has alleged that the social media aggregate site Buzzfeed owes him $3.6 million for appropriating a photograph from his Flickr account. It isn’t so much that they used the photograph without compensation in the first place — it is that they allowed it to be disseminated to 64 other sites via their active content sharing model. Essentially, because Buzzfeed encourages use of their articles on other websites, they negligently allowed the continued infringement of Eiselein’s intellectual property. And as such, BAM, $3.6 million lawsuit.
The photo, showing a girl being hit in the face by a soccer ball, was used as part of a Buzzfeed image gallery entitled “The 30 Funniest Header Faces,” and while, sure, it is debatable that it is one of the 30 funniest “header faces” of all time (I can’t name any I like better off the top of my head), no way is it worth $3.6 million. In fact, because Eiselein has showed himself to be a litigious little runt, we’ve opted not to show you the photo, but instead have decided to show a similar photo for context — hopefully the photographer of this image would be more fun at a party, if you get my drift.
The case is particularly fascinating because a decision on the matter in an official court setting will help to establish 21st century copyright laws (as the current precedents are now woefully outdated). Should the judge find in Eiselein’s favor, potentially thousands of sites, which rely on a sort of eminent domain theory for shared images online, could be open to litigation. The entire nature of the internet could be threatened.
Because of this, it is not likely that the judge will find on Eiselein’s behalf, but the case is certainly compelling nonetheless.