Hundreds of influencers may be able to join a new lawsuit filed against PopSugar after the fashion and celebrity news website made headlines this spring for allegedly stealing their images and posting them on its website in furtherance of a “massive infringement” scheme. One of those influencers, Los Angeles-based Nita Batra filed suit in a California federal court this week, 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 her multi-million dollar complaint, Batra, who boasts a following of 215,000 on Instagram, alleges that things went down in mid-April when PopSugar swiped thousands of influencers’ Instagram imagery to create shoppable pages and individual influencer “subpages” on its own website. But PopSugar did not stop there; Batra claims that PopSugar also “removed the products’ affiliate links,” which – thanks to a partnership with content platform/shopping discovery app rewardStyle/LIKEtoKNOW.it – enables influencers to earn commissions if their followers purchase any of the linked products.
In place of the rewardStyle/LIKEtoKNOW.it affiliate links, PopSugar allegedly inserted its own affiliate links, which pointed “to ShopStyle, a competing shopping platform that PopSugar previously owned, and [was using] at the time of the acts alleged herein.” As a result, PopSugar actively “diverted commissions from the sales of products featured in the [influencers’] images to itself … in order to monetize the content for its own benefit.”
“When caught, PopSugar’s co-founder and CEO, Brian Sugar, attempted to minimize PopSugar’s culpability,” Batra’s complaint states, “tweeting on April 17, 2018, that the misappropriated pages were ‘intended for internal use only, [but] were mistakenly left open, albeit hidden from search engine indexing and social media.’”
The problem with that, according to Batra? “It is false. The pages were picked up by search engines, and were available through PopSugar’s public website, under the ShopàLooks directory.”
Batra argues that “PopSugar’s unlawful conduct harmed [her] and the class members in a variety of ways,” including by infringing their copyright-protected imagery, violating their “statutory right of publicity under California law by using their names and likenesses in connection with its own marketing efforts,” and “unlawfully interfering with the contract[s] that [she and] the class members [have with] LIKEtoKNOW.it, by diverting commissions from the sales of products” featured on their Instagram accounts.
Still yet, Batra – who attended law school before choosing a career as an influencer – claims that PopSugar ran afoul of the law by “creating the false impression that [she] and the class members endorse or are otherwise affiliated with that company.”
As a result of the aforementioned, 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 the lawsuit. She is also seeking an array of monetary damages, which in accordance with the class action lawsuit minimum, exceed $5 million.
A representative for PopSugar was not immediately available for comment.
* The case is Nita Batra v. PopSugar, Inc., 4:18-cv-03752-KAW (N.D.Cal.).