Photographer Beats Buzzfeed After It Removes His Photo Credit in 'Landmark' Legal Case

Photographer Beats Buzzfeed After It Removes His Photo Credit in 'Landmark' Legal Case

A photographer has won a lawsuit against BuzzFeed which some are hailing as a landmark case, after the entertainment platform removed the photographer’s copyright from the images in question.

It is understood that a BuzzFeed writer took the image from an article by the New York Post, who photographer Gregory Mango had previously licensed his image to. In using the image, the writer removed Mango’s name and instead credited the law firm that the article he was writing concerned. The writer alleges the law firm recommended he used the photo from the New York Post article, which is how he came to credit the image to the firm.

Upon spotting the lack of credit, Mango launched legal action against BuzzFeed. He cited usage without permission, as well as removing his copyright management information, which is a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

BuzzFeed counteracted the claims, on the grounds that “there was no evidence that [BuzzFeed] knew its conduct would lead to future, third-party infringement.” However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit last week shot down that notion, awarding Mango $3,750 for the copyright infringement, as well as $5,000 in statutory damages for violation of the DMCA. He also received a $65,132.50 reimbursement for his legal fees.

What this means is it’s getting harder for platforms such as BuzzFeed to turn a blind eye to the consequences of knowingly removing a photographer’s photo credit.

Speaking to PetaPixel, NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher said:

The NPPA is very pleased with the Second Circuit’s opinion regarding the CMI provisions of the DMCA in what it called a ‘relatively novel issue’ and ‘a question of first impression for this Court,’ which will greatly alleviate the burden of proof for photographers and require users to exercise greater due diligence when appropriating images. As we have often said, copyright is ‘complicated’ and takes a great deal of work to bring a claim, with attorney fees and costs often dwarfing the award as is the case here.

Lead image: Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

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8 Comments

Alan Myers's picture

$75,000 award... I bet Buzzfeed will be more careful in the future!

This does illustrate the importance of copyright registration. If not registered, the photographer wouldn't have been able to sue in this manner, would not have gotten punitive damages and... most importantly, would not have gotten reimbursed for those $65,000+ in legal expenses.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Oh, hell yeah!

Hopefully, Volvo is next on the chopping block.

Elliot Sander's picture

“there was no evidence that [BuzzFeed] knew its conduct would lead to future, third-party infringement.” is so weak though. I would be more surprised if they won with that kind of argument.

Wolfgang Post's picture

BuzzFeed counteracted the claims, on the grounds that “there was no evidence that [BuzzFeed] knew its conduct would lead to future, third-party infringement.” - Damn cheeky. In German we have a saying: 'Ignorance does not protect from punishment.' Especially companies that work with loads of media from all kinds of sources should be familiar with the legal baselines and do their frigging homework.

paul aparycki's picture

Buzzfeed knowingly, and demonstrably stripped the copyright notice. There is no, "well but", "if", "we didn't" here. They knowingly and willingly committed a crime, and in all honesty, should be forced to pay the maximum ($150,000), just so they might have second thoughts next time. It is interesting though to note the accessory to the crime . . . not surprisingly "lawyers" or more precisely liars. $65k in legal fees? There is a good reason why liars (lawyers) are pissed upon, disparaged, and held in contempt . . . because they deserve it.

Robert Nurse's picture

I mean, wow! You couldn't have just paid the photographer to begin with. I bet he wouldn't have charged anywhere near what those legal losses were. Just stupid all around.

Steve Powell's picture

Does the Buzzfeed writer still have a job?

Harlan Erskine's picture

This is great news. But why the Unsplash picture? I can't understand how fstoppers use them if they want to create a sustainable industry PAY PHOTOGRAPHERS. I mean that's really the bottom line of this article. license the images!