Photographer loses copyright infringement lawsuit against Pinterest

Photographer loses copyright infringement lawsuit against Pinterest

A federal judge has ruled in favor of Pinterest in a lawsuit brought by a photographer who claimed the company infringed more than fifty of his copyrighted works by displaying them alongside advertisements as “pins.” promoted”.

New Jersey photographer Harold Davis sued the social media platform in United States District Court for the Northern District of California in November 2019 for posting 51 of his photographs without permission on his site.

In his costume, Davis did not challenge Pinterest users – saying he “has no quarrels” with profiles who pinned his photos to their personal Pinterest boards, reports Courthouse News.

In Davis v Pinterest, Inc, the professional photographer and artist took issue with Pinterest showing his images too closely or in the same feed as other promotional posts.

In one example, Davis’ artwork, “Kiss from a Rose,” was displayed alongside a promoted pin for an art print titled “White Tea Roses by Neicy Frey,” which Davis said was a use. unauthorized commercialization of his work.

He also took issue with the display and dissemination of his works in emails and push notifications to users.

He estimated Pinterest’s “infringements during the three-year statute of limitations to be in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions”, and noted that “only one of his works, ‘Duet of Daffodils’, appeared on the Pinterest website 4,676 times in just two weeks.

However, on May 3, U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. for the Northern District of California granted summary judgment in favor of Pinterest.

In a 28-page order, Gilliam discovered that Pinterest was protected from claims thanks to the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennial Copyright Act.

According to court documents, Davis was unable to show how Pinterest or its content algorithms directly took advantage of her works by displaying them so close to promoted pins.

Gilliam found that while Pinterest was making financial gains from Davis’ works, the legal precedent doesn’t tip the case in the photographer’s favor.


Davis’ works were added to Pinterest by individual users, not Pinterest, meaning users remain ultimately responsible for uploads. The fact that Pinterest uses algorithms designed to increase consumers’ access to content does not render it liable for any infringement.

Davis tried to argue that Pinterest had direct control over the site’s images even though he didn’t put them there, but Gilliam found the photographer never showed how the company’s advertising practices violated its Copyright. Davis originally sued Pinterest for copyright infringement of 51 of her copyrighted photos. But on summary judgment, this was reduced to 35 works.

With the last of Davis’ claims having been decided in favor of Pinterest, the judge ordered the case closed. This isn’t the first time a photographer has accused Pinterest of copyright infringement. In 2015, Seattle-based fine art photographer Christopher Boffoli filed a lawsuit against the social media website.

Picture credits: All photos licensed via Depositphotos.