For some years now, the number of companies that filter, gather and publish external content under a common topic has been steadily increasing. BuzzFeed is one of the biggest so-called web-aggregators for viral content. Frequently this content, mostly funny pictures and videos, is made available on the website without reference to the originator (which should be the least one can do). Contacting the originator in order to ask for permission is pretty much never done. The exact thing happened recently, when BuzzFeed published the article „The 30 Funniest Header Faces”, including a picture of photographer Kai Eiselein.
Image: Screenshot of the photo by Kai Eiselein
Much to his surprise, the Idaho photographer found the article along with his photo and prompted the company to delete it. But it was too late. Since web-aggregators are mutually interconnected and quickly repost content, his photo spread on 61 further pages and has being viewed by millions of viewers without his permission. As a result, Kai Eiselein sued BuzzFeed for damages in the amount of $3.6 Mio. Some of you might think that the requested sum is in no relation to the damage done, or that maybe that the photo wouldn’t even be worth $10. If the photo is worthless to BuzzFeed, however, why would it be ranked among the “30 funniest”? One needs to keep in mind that web-aggregators, as any commercial page on the web, generate revenue by means of adverts. Isn’t it pathetic to enrich oneself with someone else’s work and let the originator come away empty-handed? The way I see it, the requested sum is indeed set too high, but how else can you establish a precedent in order to discourage others from doing the same in the future?