Image Copyright Infringement & Information if Threatened by Litigation. I’m writing to inform all readers about image copyright infringement and what recently happened to me.
Mid-February, I was contacted by a large Image Stock company that specializes in selling images over the web. They sent a letter and evidence regarding my website and the images used. Apparently, over the last 6 years of building the site, I had used 2 of their images on my home page and interior pages. The letter mentioned a cease & desist order and the threat of a lawsuit for “damages” if I didn’t settle with them in the next 15 days, $10,000. That’s right, they wanted $10,000!
Being an honest person, I quickly tried to figure out how I came across these images and, not being able to pinpoint them, quickly removed them from the website. To make myself clear to this company, I wrote an email explaining myself and that they had been removed. I also told them they would be getting ZERO as I strongly felt I had not caused any “damage.” Emails followed, and they had every comeback to justify my wrongdoing. I thought maybe I found it on Google images, and in looking into this, Google does give a disclaimer that the image may be subject to copyright (I never noticed this). My understanding was that a picture had to have something on the image showing it was copyrighted. Come to find out, that just isn’t so.
Scare Tactics & Litigation
There are people & companies out there who make a living going after people who’ve used their images with scare tactics like the threat of litigation. Yes, they have a case, especially if you’ve made money on their image. I also found it interesting that these large companies hire third-party companies to track each image. You can also easily go into web archives (Archives Here) to see the duration of use. The company then goes after the individual for settlement, which is a very lucrative business. Many of these letters are scare tactics because they do work.
Do I Hire an Attorney?
Here’s where it gets interesting. A month later, I received a letter from the company’s attorney stating I now owed them $13,000 or would be sued for damages. OUCH! This nuisance would not go away… I called my attorney, who linked me with Coral Gable’s finest infringement attorney. However, to my dismay, the retainer was $25,000 to hire them… I decided to sleep on it.
Information if Threatened by Litigation
That afternoon I began researching image copyright infringement and ended up getting great advice from the web. So here’s what I did… I wrote (by hand) a letter claiming financial hardship and not being capable of paying $13,000 for settlement. I said, “Do what you want to do and sue.” Luckily, the attorney was once a Realtor, so he understood, and I agreed to pay an out-of-court settlement for $750. Today the check has cleared, and I’m glad to relay what I’ve learned from this.
How serious is copyright infringement?
How serious is copyright infringement? If a case goes to court, statutory damages can be as high as $150,000 per copyrighted work if the infringement has been shown to be blatant and willful. In one of the first precedent-setting cases involving copyright infringement on the web, Atlantis New Media lost a case against the Florida agency SuperStock. It was ordered to pay $10,500 in damages. Atlantis illegally scanned three images from one of SuperStock’s stock photography catalogs for use on its corporate website. James Ong, Co-President of SuperStock, said, ” people think they are safe in the black hole of the Internet. We trust that this case is evidence that they will be caught, and they will be punished.” Read Article Here
In fact, this is what I did in my early days, and I found that some paid and others didn’t. Big companies were more likely to do so and to pay better; little companies usually said, “Go ahead, sue us.” In the end, the time and energy were draining, not to mention the constant, distasteful “conflict,” which made the whole practice, not to my liking. – Read the Blog Here
Is The Image Registered?
My last AH HA is that ‘Registration’ is Critical. Question one in a copyright infringement lawsuit case is whether the work has been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. This is because even though photographers have copyright protection from the moment they shoot, the protection is often useless regarding getting infringement damages paid if the image was not registered before the infringement (or within three months of the image’s first publication). Registration is required to recover attorney’s fees and statutory damages, which often motivates infringers to pay without litigation. Courts may award statutory damages between $750 and $30,000 per work, with the minimum damage award reduced to $200 if the infringement is innocent and the maximum increased to $150,000 if willful. Willful infringement usually means knowledge of copyright protection, which is a good reason to place a copyright notice on all of your work.
In my case, I didn’t care whether or not it was registered, but I was glad to get the annoyance off my back for $750. My time is money, and spending more on this was not worth it. If you’re in a similar circumstance, let us know what’s happening to you by commenting below.