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(graphics courtesy of Supertrooper and freedigitalphotos.net)

It’s no secret that sharing sites like Pinterest have been a double-edged sword for photographers, artists and other creative types. Pinterest’s inner workings naturally expose a shared “pin” to many, many sets of eyeballs- and in many cases that can be a good thing. Some artists, though, aren’t at all happy with the way that Pinterest and similar websites “share” their work. Christopher Boffoli, a photographer, is one of those artists.

Back in September, Boffoli sued Imgur, a site which describes itself as a “home for the Internet’s most viral images.” Boffoli filed suit in the United States District Court in Seattle, claiming that Imgur had allegedly infringed copyrights on about 73 of his photos (complaint, courtesy of TorrentFreak, can be found here). According to the complaint, Boffoli is a commercial photographer who had his work published in major publications, including the New York Times and Washington Post. The complaint also claims that Boffoli’s business is based upon revenue derived from licensing of his work. Boffoli alleges that he sent Imgur a “take down” notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA), but that Imgur failed to remove Boffoli’s photos from its site, notwithstanding its alleged promise to do so.

Boffoli recently (on December 2nd) dismissed his case against Imgur before Imgur had answered the complaint. While any settlement is likely confidential, the case’s status and recent termination hints that the parties have come to some sort of agreement.

But Boffoli had a bone to pick with Pinterest, too. He filed suit against Pinterest on November 25, 2014, leveling pretty much the same allegations as in his suit against Imgur. The Court issued an initial case management order yesterday (December 8, 2014) and it’s likely that the case will be pretty quiet until after the new year.

It will be interesting to see how Boffoli’s case against Pinterest turns out, but the case might not progress very far for a couple of reasons. First, Pinterest likely considers itself entitled to the safe-harbor provision of the DMCA- via being an “ISP” provider- and is likely to press that point. Also, the parties are likely to reach a settlement early on in the case.

Nonetheless, artists are not without a few tools to help protect their work on Pinterest. For example, Flickr allows artists to disable content sharing for their work, if desired. Apparently, Pinterest helped formulate the “do-not-pin” code to help artists protect their work from being “pinned’ on the Pinterest website. For an overview of this feature, see Lim Yung-Hui’s Forbes 2012 article, here.

While we’ll be watching Boffoli’s case against Pinterest, we expect that it will be settled before the Court gets to substantively consider Boffoli’s allegations. In the meantime, we’ll look at some additional tools to consider, (e.g. “take down” notices) in future posts.

Has your artwork been shared on Pinterest without your consent? If so, tell us your story- did you contact Pinterest about the problem? What action, if any, did Pinterest take to remedy the situation?

This post is intended to convey general information only and should not be construed as a legal opinion or legal advice.  Any opinions expressed are our own. Readers should not take any action, or refrain from taking any action, based upon the information contained in our site and posts, but should consult with their own attorney concerning their own situation and  their specific legal questions. Visiting our website, reading posts and/or posting comments does not establish any form of attorney-client relationship with us.

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