LiveJournal Prevails In Lawsuit Over Paparazzi Photos

Blogging platform LiveJournal has defeated a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by Mavrix Photographs, which alleged that the online service wrongly displayed paparazzi photos of celebrities Katy Perry and Beyonce.

U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney in the Central District of California ruled this month that LiveJournal was protected from liability by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's safe harbors. Those provisions state that Web service companies are immune from liability for copyright infringement by users, provided the companies don't know that the material is infringing and remove it upon request.

“Before this lawsuit was filed, LiveJournal did not know of the allegedly infringing posts and was not aware of “red flags” of specific infringement,” Carney wrote in a decision granting LiveJournal summary judgment. “Upon learning of the posts it promptly removed them from the site.”

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Carney specifically noted in the opinion that Mavrix didn't ask LiveJournal to take down the posts before bringing a lawsuit.

The battle dates to 2012, when Mavrix sued the Web company about photos uploaded to Oh No They Didn't, a LiveJournal online community devoted to celebrity gossip.

Mavrix, which says it owns the rights to the photos, argued that the blogging platform wasn't entitled to safe-harbor protection because it should have known the photos were taken by professionals.

Carney rejected that theory, ruling that the Web site had no obvious way of distinguishing between a paparazzi shot and a photo taken by a consumer.

“The images are candid photographs of celebrities in public settings, unposed, mostly taken from the back or the side without the subject looking at the camera,” the judge wrote. “It would be nearly impossible for a provider to distinguish between 'professional paparazzi' photographs, which Mavrix contends would be objectively obvious infringing content, and photographs taken by any member of the public with a digital camera or smartphone.”

Mavrix also argued that LiveJournal isn't entitled to rely on the safe harbors because a moderator approves posts. But Carney ruled that the material still originates with users, and that the sites' moderators don't wield the “high levels of control” that could deprive the platform of its safe-harbor protection.

Mavrix has brought similar copyright infringement lawsuits against dozens of other companies. Among the more high profile defendants are Buzzfeed and CBS Radio. Neither of those lawsuits are still pending, according to court records.

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