Facebook and Princeton Sued over Allegedly Scraped Data

UAB Planner5D filed a complaint against defendants Facebook and Princeton University for copyright infringement. Planner 5D maintains a collection of digitized 3D objects and scenes; information that can be used to help in computer vision and scene-recognition technology. Princeton computer scientists allegedly used Planner 5D’s once-free data collection.

The suit was filed in the California Northern District Court. Planner 5D is represented by The Business Litigation Group. They had previously filed this suit, but the court dismissed Planner 5D’s copyright claims, giving leave to re-file a new lawsuit.

Planner 5D believes the scientists used special tools to access the files creating Planner 5D’s objects and scenes. Instead of only being able to manipulate and see the image, the plaintiffs allege that Princeton scientists used software tools to intercept communication between Planner 5D and its servers, determined the location of the data and scraped the files and created its own collection. Princeton published this data in multiple articles and made the data available online. The article authors stated that the data came from Planner5D. 

Additionally, Facebook, which runs the virtual-reality brand, Oculus, was interested in the data for scene recognition for virtual reality. Facebook allegedly worked with researchers at a few universities, including Princeton, for scene recognition; it created a competition. Facebook used Princeton’s scraped dataset, called SUNCG dataset, for the competition and made it available to those competing. Facebook ensured that it would be able to use their creations. The plaintiff is not sure how many contestants had access to this data set but argues it has caused financial damage.

Planner 5D alleges that “[t]he gigabytes of data Princeton, Facebook, and an unknown number of others have downloaded and used are the intellectual property of Planner 5D. Planner 5D’s data was scraped, copied, and used without its knowledge or permission. The defendants’ copying, use, and public disclosure and dissemination of Planner 5D’s core asset has caused catastrophic and potentially permanent damage to the company.” Planner 5D states that at the time, Princeton scraped more than 2,600 object files. Planner 5D claims that Princeton scraped each of its original and creative scenes and objects within these scenes. Consequently, Planner 5D states that Princeton violated its Terms of Service. Additionally, they state that it has significantly invested to develop algorithms for three-dimensional files to use for 3D recognition.

The plaintiff added that Princeton and Facebook are continuing their wrongdoing. They are allegedly “exploiting the Planner 5D dataset for the same purpose Planner 5D set for itself: to train artificial intelligence applications to recognize 3D interior scenes. Worse, Facebook explicitly secured from SUMO Challenge participants the right to commercialize the fruits of their work. This strikes at the heart of Planner 5D’s business objective.”

Planner 5D alleges Facebook and Princeton have infringed on its copyrights through “duplicating, distributing, publicly displaying and/or creating derivative works” of the copyrighted content. They have sought an award for damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, injunctive relief, the destruction of infringing copies and other relief determined by the court.