A federal court may finally have the opportunity to address the widely debated copyright issues surrounding social media websites such as Pinterest, Facebook, and Tumblr. In a complaint filed on May 4, 2012 in the District Court for the Southern District of New York, Perfect 10, Inc. (“Perfect 10”), a publisher of adult entertainment photographs, magazines, and other copyrighted media, sued Tumblr, Inc. (“Tumblr”) for direct and contributory copyright infringement. Tumblr is a social media website that allows users to post content such as text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos, and publicly share the content with other users through the website. Subject to Tumblr’s terms, users are able to post and re-post their own content or content from other sources.
Perfect 10 alleges that the unauthorized display of over two hundred images on Tumblr’s website violated the Copyright Act in two ways. First, Tumblr’s employees allegedly posted some of Perfect 10’s content, thereby directly resulting in copyright infringement. Second, by allowing users to post and re-post Perfect 10’s copyrighted works, Tumblr engaged in contributory copyright infringement. Contributory copyright infringement occurs when a defendant is not actively infringing a work, but materially assists or induces a third party to infringe. Here, Perfect 10 asserts that because it repeatedly notified Tumblr of the infringing content pursuant to the DMCA, and because Tumblr did not comply with the DMCA’s requirements or sufficiently police its users, “Tumblr has induced, caused and materially contributed to the infringing activities of its subscribers.”