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Summary:

Goodreads is being sued after a member of the book-sharing social network posted a celebrity photo to the site.

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A photo agency has filed a lawsuit against Goodreads, the Amazon-owned social network for book lovers, over a celebrity image posted by one of the site’s members.

In a complaint filed last week in Los Angeles, BWP Media is seeking $150,000 in copyright damages related to the unauthorized posting of a photo showing Dalton Rappatoni, a member of boy band IM5.

The photo appears as part of a “Group” page on Goodreads dedicated to the boy band. The Goodreads group has four young female members and the photo in question appears at the center of a montage at the bottom of the page:

Screen shot of Goodreads photo

The lawsuit, one of several filed by BWP, appears to be part of what some describe as a “copyright trolling” operation in which image owners use software to find unauthorized use of their photos on the internet and then work with law firms, sometimes on a contingency basis, to demand large sums of money. In the last year, federal judges have begun to take a dim view of certain aggressive trolling tactics.

Craig Sanders, a lawyer for BWP Media, did not return repeated requests for comment about the lawsuit. BWP Media may face an uphill fight against Goodreads, which is likely shielded by a law called the DMCA, which can protect websites from legal liability for content posted by third parties.

  1. Jack W Perry Monday, July 15, 2013

    I had not heard of ‘copyright trolling’ but this definitely sounds like an example. Would this even be an issue if Amazon had not purchased Goodreads earlier this year?

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Jack. Copyright trolls typically target whoever they can though, in general, the preferred targets are individuals or small blogs, who are more likely to settle. In this case, Amazon is unlikely to give them a dime, though it is obliged to take down the photo upon receiving notice.

      In general, the business model of copyright trolling is based on sending hundreds of demand letters and extracting small settlements of a few thousand dollars. While photographers defend the practice as necessary to protect the integrity of their work, critics (including me) don’t like copyright trolling because it doesn’t distinguish between bad guys like pirates and situations like this — where a teenage girl appears to have posted a photo of a band she likes.

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      1. Jack W Perry Tuesday, July 16, 2013

        Thanks. Learn something new every day!

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  2. Down with the Trolls Monday, July 15, 2013

    The sad thing about it is, this little girl will unfortunately go on to buy more of their work and work from other artists who are represented by trolling groups such as this, as will a million more like her. Thus the money for such companies weighing the slap on the wrist for aggressive copy trolling vs landing big clients, will be irresistible .

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  3. Good – protect the value of the artist. Content is not free.

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  4. Why is GR not immune under DMCA? If the user posted the image, the host is immune.

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  5. A picture of a member of a boy band is not content. Their music would be. It’s not like this teenage girl was sharing a high-res image of the doofus so people could take the file to Kinko’s and print out their own posters. Please, think before you let your fingers talk for you.

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    1. Nope. Wrong.

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  6. You would think a boy band would be grateful for the publicity. It’s not like anyone else made a profit, and it gave them free exposure.

    I’ll never buy another IM5 CD. Oh, wait…

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  7. Goodreads steals content and refuses to remove it under the fair use dodge. How can it be fair use to post copyrighted material against the expressed wishes of the copyright holder, in a hostile environment where the owner has been banned thereby allowing continued personal attacks in a venue where the victim cannot defend their reputation, career or livelihood?
    Goodreads and Amazon harbor criminal cyber-stalkers who stalk, bully and harass indie writers with the intent of destroying reputations, careers and livelihood of the indies authors. if one complains about the personal attacks it is marginalized as a disgruntled authors unhappy with poor reviews, continued complaints result in a ban but the continued posting of the authors work so the attacks can continue without the author being able to defend themselves.
    I and seven of my friends were all attacked on goodreads because of an intentional miss-quote from another site. I complained about the personal attacks and never was a review or a particular book mentioned. Goodreads banned me for complaining about poor reviews and has refused to remove my books after two DMCA take down orders, which are still being attacked by this criminal element on the goodreads site. Much of the content on goodreads is there against the wishes of the copyright holders and goodreads absolutely refuses requests to remove it.

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  8. Interesting story and terminology. Never heard of copyright trolling, but it makes sense with all of the technology available in todays markets.

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  9. Wonder why facebook isn’t sued? There are millions of stolen images posted in groups and fan pages every day. Too big to sue I guess.

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