RewardStyle has “created a new industry—and a new way to look at careers and entrepreneurship,” and it is readying to sue fashion/celebrity news site for interfering with that. Less than three months after news broke that PopSugar allegedly stole millions of influencers’ photos and replaced their monetizable rewardStyle/LIKEtoKNOW.it links with affiliate links of its own, Dallas-based rewardStyle appears to be preparing to file a lawsuit against the site, filing a pre-suit deposition petition in a Texas state court late last week.
According to rewardStyle’s petition, which was filed in the Dallas Country 95th Judicial District, the influencer platform “seeks to perpetuate testimony and investigate potential claims, including misappropriation, theft, and conspiracy, arising from the copying, alteration, and unauthorized use of content from rewardStyle’s LIKEtoKNOW.it platform.”
Under Texas state law, a party may file a pre-lawsuit petition, which, if authorized by the court, enables it to take a deposition – either via oral examination or written questions – in order to obtain testimony in anticipation of a forthcoming lawsuit or to investigate a potential claim or suit.
As rewardStyle asserts in its filing, during the summer of 2017, “PopSugar stole millions of images from rewardStyle’s LIKEtoKNOW.it website, stripped the affiliate links and technology that facilitate payments to rewardStyle and its influencers, rebranded the images with a new logo where LIKEtoKNOW.it’s logo would normally appear, added affiliate links for rewardStyle’s competitor ShopStyle, and then posted the images on PopSugar’s own website.”
The imagery at issue created “nearly $500,000,000 in retail sales for rewardStyle,” which alleges that “ShopStyle had just as much to gain from the misappropriation of influencer images and re-direction of the sales they generated.” Such a “motive,” according to rewardStyle “is only reinforced by the previous interrelationship between PopSugar and ShopStyle … a continuing economic interest by their common founder Brian Sugar in ShopStyle’s financial performance.”
RewardStyle is seeking to depose corporate representatives of PopSugar, Inc. and ShopStyle, Inc. to elicit from testimony regarding “the manner in which PopSugar obtained, altered and used LIKEtoKNOW.it influencer content, the persons involved, and the proceeds that PopSugar received from use of the misappropriated images,” among other things, as well as ShopStyle’s “knowledge of and involvement in PopSugar’s misappropriation, and financial arrangements between ShopStyle and PopSugar and/or Brian Sugar that may have incentivized the misappropriation of influencer content from LIKEtoKNOW.it.”
The filing comes just a week after Nita Batra filed suit against PopSugar, claiming that she was one of the hundreds of influencers whose imagery was allegedly stolen by PopSugar. The Los Angeles-based influencer filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in a California federal court, alleging that PopSugar “decided to capitalize on the influencers’ social media following by copying and posting thousands of influencers’ Instagram images, [as well as their Instagram profile photos and bio line information] on its own website without authorization.”
According to a statement provided to TFL from rewardStyle/LIKEtoKNOW.it co-founder and president Amber Venz Box, who found "more than 1,800 of [her own] personal images displayed on Popsugar.com, stripped of all rewardStyle commissionable links and instead monetized through ShopStyle," the company, "as the advocate and ally of influencers around the world, rewardStyle has determined that it is necessary to pursue legal action."
Ms. Box says that such action will "further investigate the actions of PopSugar and ShopStyle, as documented in our recently filed petition seeking depositions from PopSugar and ShopStyle to preserve evidence and to evaluate possible legal claims."