PopSugar's "stolen" content is a perfect example of why data protection is crucial & may expose you to litigation
I recently wrote about the GDPR and how data privacy protection is becoming tighter and expanding across borders here. Well data privacy is also relevant in the highly discussed rewardStyle/PopSugar feud.
Remember when it was discovered that PopSugar had taken “millions of pieces of original content from LIKEtoKNOW.it influencers" and did so "without rewardStyle/LIKEtoKNOW.it’s knowledge or consent”? If not, let me explain in more depth what happened.
RewardStyle/LIKEtoKNOW.it is an affiliate platform that allows invited-only bloggers and influencers to earn commission on clothing and products they feature on their photos through affiliate links. Say a rewardStyle blogger posts a photo wearing a dress onto instagram. Any consumer who also has the LIKEtoKNOW.it app downloaded can screenshot the bloggers photo and will then be sent an email with links to purchase the dress - as well as any other products the blogger chooses to link from the photo. If the consumer then clicks a link in that email and makes a purchase, that blogger will receive commission from the sale.
PopSugar is a media and technology company who owns the shopping platform ShopStyle, which operates very similar to rewardStyle, which allows approved bloggers or influencers to obtain commission from their content through generated personalized affiliate links.
This is where it gets ugly. Back in April 2018, rewardStyle was informed that millions of original photos used with rewardStyle affiliate links had been taken by PopSugar - without rewardStyle or the blogger's consent. Not only did PopSugar take blogger photos that were originally linked by rewardStyle affiliate links, but PopSugar redirected those photos to affiliate links through its own affiliate program, ShopStyle. PopSugar was then collecting profits from shoppers who were purchasing those products from their new affiliated links; profits that rewardStyle users were not being paid for.
The photos and links were accessible through PopSugar's webpage under the sidebar link “Shop” and then under “Looks.” Once rewardStyle was alerted of these photos and influencers made their frustrations public on instagram, PopSugar responded by claiming the live links were the result of a "hackathon." Admitting PopSugar took the photos for internal research purposes, the links were publicly available and "should have been password protected so only PopSugar employees could use the feature."
Not understanding that these links... which may constitute copyright, misappropriation, and other violations as rewardStyle's recent complain alleges, it shows what happens when a company's collected data is not carefully protected or even tracked. If PopSugar was using these photos for internal reasons and not in a commercial sense, then that information should never have been available to the public; but that argument doesn't work since PopSugar was tracking "click links to retailers to understand trends internally."
Since then, Nita Batra, an influencer who was affected by PopSugar's unauthorized taking of her photos, has filed a complain in the Northern District of California for several counts, including copyright, right of publicity, intentional interference with contract, and unfair competition. Shortly thereafter and not surprisingly, rewardStyle filed a complain against PopSugar alleging conspiracy, misappropriation, and theft that arose from PopSugar's copying and unauthorized use of rewardStyle's LIKEtoKNOW.it platform.
This potential "misuse of data" has forced PopSugar into serious hot water and exposed it to a host of other intellectual property and legal issues it may be liable for. Stay tuned as these cases play out.