The publisher of Mediaite.com and Syleite.com is being taken to court for allegedly posting and then linking to images of Charlotte "Lotte" Moss, the teenage half-sister of supermodel Kate Moss.
A copyright infringement lawsuit was filed last week against Abrams Media Network, founded by Dan Abrams, who is currently a legal analyst for ABC News and formerly was a general manager and anchor on MSNBC.
Abrams' network of websites are known for their aggressive aggregation of news and opinions from other outlets, from recapping highlights on The Daily Show and The O'Reilly Factor to identifying choice quotes in magazines and newspapers. The network claims a readership near 10 million consumers.
Last week, photographer Andrea Carter-Bowman filed a federal lawsuit in New York against the company, objecting to alleged use of her copyrighted photograph of Lotte Moss, a 14-year-old who set the fashion press on fire upon her appearance at her older sister's wedding.
Carter-Bowman is suing for direct copyright infringement for posting the photograph, but what makes the case of note is a claim for contributory copyright infringement.
According to the complaint, the Abrams Media Network received a cease and desist letter last December after Carter-Bowman's photos of Moss went up on Mediaite and Stylite. The defendants purportedly responded, saying they had removed all of the photos from the Styleite post, but made no mention about Mediaite. Now the plaintiff is saying that photos were taken down, but in their place, on both websites, a link went up to another website where the photographs were displayed without permission. (The link now appears to be down.)
Is linking to copyrighted material dangerous?
The key case on this subject is Perfect 10 v. Google, which in 2007 went before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Perfect 10, a publisher of adult images, sued the web giant over thumbnails of images displayed on Google Images. The case is primarily known as a big victory for Google as the appellate circuit rejected on fair use principles the arguments over how the displaying and linking could constitute direct infringement, but what's often missed is that the judges also ruled that "Google could be held contributorily liable if it had knowledge that infringing Perfect 10 images were available using its search engine, could take simple measures to prevent further damage to Perfect 10’s copyrighted works, and failed to take such steps."
The issue of knowledge is the key determining factor, and the case was remanded back to the a lower court.
Abrams Media Network will now have to fight a lawsuit that takes issue with linking used as a proxy for access to a copyrighted work. In the lawsuit, Carter-Bowman calls the defendants' acts "willful, intentional, and purposeful" and she's seeking actual damages, defendants' profits, and maximum statutory damages.
We've reached out to Abrams and if we hear anything, we'll update.
Carter-Bowman last week also sued Perez Hilton in California court over these Lotte Moss photographs.