On May 3, 2022, Judge Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted summary judgment to Wilson Sonsini client Pinterest on a copyright-infringement claim that challenged core aspects of Pinterest’s online service. This hard-fought case dates back to 2019, when plaintiff Harold Davis sued Pinterest, alleging that the company’s use of his copyrighted photographs in the routine operation of its service constituted both contributory and direct copyright infringement. Through early motion practice, Pinterest secured the dismissal of the plaintiff’s contributory-infringement claim, leaving only the direct-infringement claim.
After discovery, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment on the plaintiff’s remaining claim of direct copyright infringement. Mr. Davis pressed a novel theory that attacked Pinterest’s use of algorithms to select and display his photographs near advertisements on its service. The court soundly rejected that theory, holding that Pinterest’s algorithmic curation of content fell within the safe harbor provided by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for infringements that arise “by reason of storage at the direction of a user.” The appearance of ads near the plaintiff’s photographs did not change the court’s conclusion that Pinterest’s activities facilitated user access to content uploaded to the service by third parties. As the court put it, “[t]he DMCA does not permit copyright holders to dictate the manner in which service providers run their platforms.”
The Wilson Sonsini team that represented Pinterest in the matter included partners David Kramer, Brian Willen, and Dylan Liddiard; associates Tom Wakefield, Andrew Kramer, Qifan Huang, Nathalie Gorman, and Mikaela Burkhardt; and senior paralegals Sissel Browder and Soo Kim.
For more information, please see the court’s order.