Don’t get between an influencer and her affiliate

Profit Chain

Nita Batra, who goes by Nita Mann (@nextwithnita), is an influencer par excellence. Her Instagram feed runs hot with more than 200,000 followers and sports almost 1,500 carefully crafted photos stretching back to 2012. Her style is aimed dead at the heart of the millennial demo, with fashion-forward outfits and accessories and a slew of links to products she endorses.

One of Batra’s favored social media partners is liketoknow.it, an affiliate service. Following a liketoknow.it tag off one of Batra’s photos leads you to her liketoknow.it feed, where the photos appear again, linked in turn to the retailers of the product she’s wearing or using in the original post. When a user purchases a product through the liketoknow.it feed, Batra gets a percentage of the sale.

A strain was placed on this relationship, Batra claims, when popsugar.com, a subsidiary of PopSugar Inc., allegedly started scooping up her photos and posting them to ShopStyle, one of its former shopping platforms. To make matters worse, Batra claims, PopSugar removed the affiliate links to liketoknow.it and replaced them with links to ShopStyle.

PopSugar is a substantial global media and technology company whose various platforms overlap quite well with Batra’s fan base – with more than 27 million audience members, the company claims to reach half of the female millennials in the United States. In her complaint against the company, filed in the Northern District of California in June 2018, Batra claims that the company has been infringing her images since 2017, hoping to generate affiliate revenue for itself and using the images to conduct market research at the same time.

Batra, who has a law degree from Southern Methodist University, is hitting PopSugar with a slew of charges, including removal of copyright management information in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, copyright infringement, violations of her right of publicity, violation of the Lanham Act and violation of California’s unfair competition law. She seeks profits or statutory damages up to $150,000 per photo.

The Takeaway

Batra is asking the court to approve her proposed class action lawsuit, which would enable any other influencers impacted by PopSugar’s acts to join in. If successful, various other influencers may assert similar claims that the company infringed their personal social media content.