Notably, this is the first lawsuit targeting a revenge porn site that focuses on copyright. I think intellectual property claims present the best chance victims of revenge porn sites have in prevailing in civil cases against site owners.
While sites even as despicable as YouGotPosted might have a CDA Section 230 defense against tort claims (although I think that’s debatable), CDA 230 expressly exempts intellectual property rights claims (like copyright) from its protection against liability. That is, although under CDA 230 many sites have immunity from liability for tortuous content submitted by users, they don’t have immunity when it comes to copyright and trademark claims. Rather, they can attempt to argue that they are exempt from copyright liability by way of the DMCA’s safe harbor, but they’re screwed on this front, having not registered an agent to receive DMCA takedown notices (among other failings).
While this will be a case to watch, I doubt that the main operators of the site (Eric Chanson and Kevin Bollaert) will respond. They failed to respond (at least in court) to the trademark lawsuit filed against them by Bullyville/ViaView, and a default judgment in excess of $300,000 was issued against them. Chanson’s parents, however, are now asking the court in the Bullyville case to set aside the judgment, claiming they weren’t properly served and had no idea about the lawsuit until recently. (They also claim that they had no idea about their son’s revenge porn site until Bullyville offered to pay Eric and Kevin to shut down their site).
Though Chanson and Bollaert’s scumbaggery is well-established by virtue of their running a revenge porn site, I’m surprised this lawsuit made no mention of the extortionate “ChangeYourReputation” scam. The only way their site makes a profit (its advertising affiliate jumped ship following a tip from yours-truly — oops!) is by charging victims to have their pictures removed. That idea was ripped off of the “Takedown Hammer” scheme operated by Craig Brittain (and probably Chance Trahan) of “ObamaNudes.”
And this suit is probably a preview of what’s to come for Craig Brittain and Chance Trahan — who are more likely to fight any claims against them. (I’m not saying they’ll fight well — but they’ll fight.)