Perfect 10, the company behind a nudie magazine and website celebrating the standout examples of the unenhanced female form, has filed a lawsuit against Tumblr for copyright violations. In a complaint filed in the Southern District of New York on Friday, Perfect 10 alleges that Tumblr failed to respond to repeated requests for takedowns and–perhaps, more damningly–that “Tumblr employees have posted infringing content to Tumblr’s servers to help start the business.”
The case could have wide-ranging implications as Pinterest, Tumblr’s consumer-oriented micro-blogging cousin, braces for similar complaints as photo-sharing apps and websites proliferate.
As Paid Content notes, the lawsuit from Perfect 10 “appears crafted to attack a safe harbor defense by Tumblr.” Sites like Tumblr that host user-generated content are typically protected under “safe harbor” laws, which hold that the user, and not the host is liable for copyright violations. But websites can lose protections under “safe harbor” if they fail to delete infringing content or play an active role in hosting it.
Perfect 10 President Norm Zada told PaidContent that his company sent six detailed takedown requests to Tumblr without response.
“I’m not sure anyone’s checking that email,” said Zada. “Twenty-five other Internet Service Providers have taken down material that Perfect 10 has identified in our DMCA notices, Tumblr did not.”
Ouch. On the heels of Tumblr’s unresponsiveness to brands during last year’s Fashion Week, any accusation of being asleep at the wheel has to smart. Betabeat reached out to Tumblr for a response, but was told that the company spokesman, “can’t comment on this at this point.”
Legal eagles will note this is not the first time Perfect 10 has turned to the courts in the face of copyright violations. In 2004, Perfect 10 filed a suit against Google for using thumbnail images from Perfect 10 in its search results. A claim Perfect 10 reiterated in the suit against Tumblr:
Tumblr’s services also permit its subscribers to search for images. An example of the search results of a Tumblr search for model Luba Shumeyko, which includes infringing copies of Perfect 10 Copyrighted Works [...] Tumblr turns a blind eye to the extensive copyright infringement taking place through its services.
In the Google suit, the court ruled that the search company was permitted to use thumbnails according to fair use under copyright law. A search for someone who has appeared nude on Tumblr, on the other hand, tends to return a series of NSFW images in their full-sized glory.
Along with its sudden focus on monetization, Tumblr has started policing its users for posting about self-harm, suicide, and eating disorders. But a crackdown on copyrighted images won’t be as easy. Last September, CBS News wrote that, “Tumblr’s visual appeal has made it a haven for photoblogs, almost all of which rely on stealing the copyrighted works of others and publishing them without payment.” CBS also noted data from Web.App Storm, which showed that the “majority of Tumblr searches are porn related.”
Considering this is the platform that launched a thousand underage crushes on James Deen, what would Tumblr minus porn look like? We’re tempted to post a still from that scene in Page One when David Carr holds up the filmsy front-page of Newser with all the original reporting from other outlets cut out, but we’re pretty sure that’s copyrighted.