Website removed picture after initial complaint, but lawsuit alleges 'direct and contributory infringement'.
A photographer who failed to see the funny side of a Buzzfeed post on "The 30 Funniest Header Faces" is suing the site for $3.6m (£2.3m) over claims it breached his copyright.
The professional photographer, Kai Eiselein, filed a legal claim against Buzzfeed after finding his picture had been used without permission in a comic compilation of football mishaps.
But in a lawsuit filed in New York, Eiselein accused Buzzfeed of "direct and contributory infringement" and claims he is owed $3.6m after his work was shared widely across the web.
He wants Buzzfeed to pay $150,000 in damages for each of the 23 sites that used his picture after the initial post, plus a further $150,000 for "contributory infringement" by another site, luuux.com.
Eiselein confirmed he was taking legal action against the popular site and said: "It is time for creatives to stand up and say 'This is enough'. We work hard at our crafts and others should not be able to profit from our talents without compensating us."
Asked why he is claiming such an inordinate sum in damages, he added: "In the suit I have asked for the maximum allowed by law. Ultimately it will be up to a judge and/or jury to decide the amount of damages, if any."
In the lawsuit, published on news site paidcontent.org, lawyers for Eiseleen said Buzzfeed is "unequivocally responsible both directly and indirectly for all subsequent infringements" because it published the original article".
If the claim succeeds, Buzzfeed is likely to find itself open to lawsuits from other photographers whose work has been used without permission on its site. The site's lists often use pictures taken from Flickr, where the provenance of some images is unclear, alongside photographs from agencies including Reuters and Getty.
A spokeswoman for Buzzfeed declined to comment.
[Sad tabby cat kitten via Shutterstock]