How Buzzfeed infringes on copyright and TOS

BuzzFeed is (in)famous for its photo gallery stories. A guaranteed click-through engine, but what about the ethics (and legality) of the practice?

Last month, in an article about copyright and photos for PBS MediaShift, I wrote:

In a sponsored post from 2010, BuzzFeed appropriated a copyrighted photo published first on The Daily Mail. The photo on BuzzFeed was cropped to remove the photographer’s ID and copyright line. And someone slightly modified the color of the sky.

Last year, Alexis Madrigal delved into BuzzFeed’s practice of lifting photos from the web. BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti argued “fair use”:

But it’s not just sponsored posts (aka ads). It’s regular “stories” too, as this deconstruction shows.

Just say no to Buzzfeed. And for the sake of all that is holy, don’t share posts like these. It’s a corrupt business model. (We can talk about the Imgur and Tumblr business models another day.)

***

A friend shared this on Facebook: The 49 Most WTF Pictures Of People Posing With Animals.

I admonished her to not be a BuzzFeed enabler. Then I decided to check out the sourcing for each of the 49 images. (Yes, sometimes I’m a little OCD.)

Almost all of the images are lifted from Tumblr, lifted in many cases from someone who has reblogged the image and thus has no rights to the image. Some are lifted from sites that say “all rights reserved” – a clear copyright violation. And by lifted I mean that Buzzfeed has made a copy of the image on their server; there may be a tiny link back to the account or site; in some cases, the link is to the home page and not to the image post. In a few, the links are 404 or useless. And Buzzfeed has done this despite the fact that some of these sites provide embed code; in other words, the Buzzfeed practice of not using the embed code violates the TOS on those sites.

  1. Giant Squash. Photo from Tumblr (jtebaise) but copied and saved on BuzzFeed server. Tumblr TOS allows Tumblr to sub-license to partners. Is BuzzFeed a Tumblr partner? Well, these images aren’t showing up via an API (how Tumblr describes its partnership), they are picked by hand. In any case, it is doubtful that the Tumblr account holder has the right to post this image, based on the content of the account.
  2. Sword. Photo from snnantn.blog115.fc2.com: “All rights reserved” – clear copyright violation.
  3. Family. Photo from Tumblr (peterfromtexas). Doubtful that account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  4. Man on small horse. Photo from Tumblr (nickholmes). Doubtful that account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  5. Cat on curb. Photo from ziza.qip.ru. Link is not to the image post but the website, which is in Russian.
  6. Pug at desk. Photo from imgur.com (479+K views). Clear violation of Imgur TOS; note, Imgur provides embed code.
    By downloading a file or other content from the Imgur site, you agree that you will not use such file or other content except for personal, non-commercial purposes, and you may not claim any rights to such file or other content, except to the extent otherwise specifically provided in writing.”
  7. Girls with dog. Photo from imgur.com (1.3M views). Clear violation of Imgur TOS; see #6.
  8. Moon. Photo from Tumblr (memewhore – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Doubtful that account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  9. Bed. Photo from Tumblr  (bunnyfood – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Reblogged; account holder does not have the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  10. Handstand. Photo from Tumblr (bunnyfood – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Reblogged; account holder does not the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  11. Bed. Photo from Tumblr (ghscath – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Doubtful that account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  12. Christmas. Photo from Tumbr (lokalrunde – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Doubtful that account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  13. Beaver. Photo from Tumblr (old-chum.com  not IDed as Tumblr in post). Doubtful that account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  14. Baby. Photo from Tumblr (spiceee – links to home, not image; not not IDed as Tumblr in post). Doubtful that account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  15. Christmas. Photo from  imgur.com (602+K views). Clear violation of Imgur TOS; see #6.
  16. Cat and baby. Photo from Tumblr (caturday – links to home, not image; not IDed as Tumblr in post). Doubtful that account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  17. Noses. Photo from Tumblr (rdmillertime – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Doubtful that account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  18. Deck door. Photo from  imgur.com (726+K views). Clear violation of Imgur TOS; see #6.
  19. Wrestling. Photo from imgur.com (16+K views). Clear violation of Imgur TOS; see #6.
  20. Costume. Photo from Tumblr (vonnit – links to home, not image; not IDed as Tumblr in post). Doubtful that account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  21. Tongues. Photo from Tumblr (pjxel –  links to home, not image; not IDed as Tumblr in post). Doubtful that account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  22. Tin foil. Photo from Tumblr (bunnyfood – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Reblogged; account holder does not have the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  23. Ballet. Photo from Tumblr (instagrampa -not IDed as Tumblr in post). Reblogged; account holder does not have the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  24. Unicorn. Photo from Tumblr (deadbodiesondancefloors – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Doubtful that account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  25. Pug. Photo from (Tumblr medieval-princess – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Doubtful that account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  26. Rooster. Photo from  bitsandpieces.us. Copyright © 2013 Bits and Pieces – clear copyright violation.
  27. Hoodies. Photo from Tumblr (bunnyfood – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Reblogged; original at Imgr (939+K views). See details about Tumblr TOS in #1. Clear violation of Imgur TOS; see #6.
  28. Flash stare. Photo from Tumblr (billcosbeezinthetrap – link to home page, not image; not IDed as Tumblr in post). Unclear if account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image.
  29. Buffalo. Photo from Tumblr (bunnyfood – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Reblogged; account holder does not have the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  30. Chicken. Photos from Tumblr (fantasy-sack #1,  fantasy-sack #2 – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Unclear if account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image.
  31. Take-out. Photo from Tumblr (bigblacks – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Doubtful that account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1
  32. Cat. Photo from Tumbr (izkyoot – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Unclear if account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1
  33. Bulldog. Photo from Tumblr (bunnyfood – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Reblogged; account holder does not have the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  34. Tinfoil. Photo from Tumblr (tindink – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Doubtful that account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  35. Cow. Photo from Tumblr (kimlundgren –  not IDed as Tumblr in post). Link is 404. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1
  36. Fig leaf. Photo from awkwardfamilyphotos.com. © 2013 Awkward Family, LLC – clear copyright violation.
  37. Growl. Photo from twitpic.com  /  via: @xkaraxcupcakex. As the court ruled in AFP v Morel, it is illegal to lift photos from Twitpic without permission. Twitpic provides embed code.
  38. Startled cat. Photo from Tumblr (babylizard – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Doubtful that account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1
  39. Leather. Photo from Tumblr (tuesday-is-playday.com – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image assuming she has a model release. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1
  40. Chains. Photo from Tumblr (fashion-wh0re – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Reblogged (last in chain); account holder does not have the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1
  41. Horse mask. Photo from Tumblr (stagqueen  – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Unclear if account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1
  42. Smile. Photo from Tumblr (uniqueanimalsblog – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Doubtful that account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  43. Backside. Photo from Tumblr (benthead.net – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Doubtful that account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  44. Polar bear. Photo from Tumblr (bunnyfood not IDed as Tumblr in post). Reblogged; account holder does not have the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  45. Yawn. Photo from 2.bp.blogspot.com. Links to uploaded image, not blog post (no owner IDed). Appears to be Google TOS violation and could be copyright violation.
  46. Poodles. Photo from Flickr (lucydogdesign). “All Rights Reserved” – clear violation of copyright and Flickr TOS.
  47. Poodles. Photo from Tumblr (elementaryschoolgraduate – not IDed as Tumblr in post). Doubtful that account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1..
  48. T-shirt. Photo from Tumblr (distinguishedbaloney not IDed as Tumblr in post). Doubtful that account holder has the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.
  49. Rap. Photo from Tumblr (bunnyfood not IDed as Tumblr in post). Reblogged; account holder does not have the rights to give Buzzfeed permission to post this image. See details about Tumblr TOS in #1.

***

Note: there is nothing in the post that says the images were used with permission. And when I talked to people on Flickr whose work had been lifted for the story I wrote for PBS MediaShift, all said that no one from BF had contacted them about using their work commercially.

If you think BuzzFeed is using your images without permission, send your DMCA request to copyrightagent@buzzfeed.com

It probably took me longer to vet these images that it took the BuzzFeed writer to steal them.

2 thoughts on “How Buzzfeed infringes on copyright and TOS

  1. Pingback: Beautiful Flower Pictures Blog – Links – February 15, 2013

  2. Pingback: Just say no to Buzzfeed photo galleries | The Moderate Voice

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