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This 129 message thread spans 5 pages: < < 129 ( 1 2 3 [4] 5 > >     
Panic Stations! Lawsuit threat for using an image
Must I pay?

 12:35 pm on Dec 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

A couple of years ago I was offering websites built with a commercial shopping cart. As far as I can remember at this time I used a thumbnail size shopping cart icon from one of their sites. I no longer offer this cart but the image was still used twice on my site basically because I forgot to remove it. I appreciate that I should not have used it in the first place but I did.

This morning I received a letter from a solicitors in London sent on behalf of Corbis and demanding that I pay £2,385.25 for the use of this image. This is clearly an extortionate amount for a small icon. They say it is to cover the period from Dec 2005 to Dec 2006 and that I can pay more if I want to use it beyond this date.

They also say that if I do not pay by 18 December they will instruct their client to commence legal proceedings against me ... seek legal costs, etc. They make reference to "English Law" but I am based in Scotland where we have a separate legal system. I obviously extremely worried because this is a lot of money to me and I don't know where I stand on this.

Has anyone else been in this situation? Must I pay?

I would very much appreciate any advice.

Edited: Spelling

[edited by: BeeDeeDubbleU at 12:39 pm (utc) on Dec. 7, 2006]



 11:27 am on Jan 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

Interesting discussion and one thing which cropped up in my mind was what if you are only linking to the graphic (i.e. being an bandwidth thief and using a direct link to the graphic etc on the other's server). Is this considered breaking copyright?

I'm not sure where the position is of Google et al regards their caching of images. Does anyone have an update about this?

Good luck BeeDeeDubbleU!


 1:30 pm on Jan 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think you will find that Getty and Corbis have this covered in their copyright statements.


 9:16 pm on Jan 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

It doesn't matter where Google is on this as far as their caching of images. The courts will view a Search engine differently than they will view a ecommerce site.


 7:45 am on Jan 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

You're right. They courts may rule in their favour but perhaps they shouldn+
't. A law is a law.

I someone was taken to court for linking to a image they could argue that Google and the others search engines do the same and that they all do it for commercial purposes.

However this is taking things a bit OT. I did not link to the image, I saved it and used it.


 8:26 am on Jan 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

They courts may rule in their favour but perhaps they shouldn't. A law is a law.

Yes, a law is a law. And if the law is Fair Use, then part of the law is to consider the use. In the case of search engines, they are seen as being a public good, so they get a lot of slack, as they should.

But like you say, it is OT.


 9:24 am on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

Today is three weeks since the last deadline they gave me for payment and I have yet to hear anything more.


 2:32 pm on Jan 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

Bet you dont hear anymore.

Trying to scare teh hell out of people and it works, so next time you put a site up youll check that all the graphics are yours and one elses.

Self policing.


 4:47 pm on Jan 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think it's worth pointing out that since this thread started several people have advised me to consult a lawyer.

Well, this subject is also being discussed on another forum where several people have received these demands. Some of them have consulted lawyers and the frightening thing is that no two lawyers have given the same advice. It makes one wonder just how much trust we can afford to put in these people?


 5:40 pm on Jan 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

Lawyers are like physicians: lots of different flavours. If you need a brain tumour removed your family practitioner is not likely qualified. One of my criteria for selecting a professional is that they know their limitations and who are appropriate specialists.

Copyright law is a specialty most lawyers learn about in class and promptly forget. That the answers varied is to be expected.

Rhetorical questions:
* was the conflicting advice from general practice, commercial/contract, entertainment, or specialist copyright and service/trademark lawyers?
* did any acknowledge their ignorance/limitations and refer to an appropriate expert?

I raise my glass to you and your cause, sir.
Hurrah! the Scots! Hurrah!


 7:48 am on Jan 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

Lawyers are like physicians: lots of different flavours. If you need a brain tumour removed your family practitioner is not likely qualified.

Well yes, but I would not expect my GP to attempt to remove anyone's brain tumour. I would expect him to tell patients this and refer them to someone who could.

Surely if a lawyer is not versed in an area of law they should not be advising on it? I thought these guys had a code of ethics?


 6:52 am on Feb 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

I wouldnt bet on that.

On more than occassion Ive had to brief a solicitor representing a defendent (i.e some one we are sueing) on the housing law, they just wont admit they dont know something.

The thing is its never been really technical just the real basics.

Its a worry


 8:49 am on Feb 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

Its a worry

You bet!


 11:58 am on Feb 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

Whenever you get even the smallest HINT of a lawsuit involving you being possible immediately say nothing about the subject to anyone in any way. No appologies, nothing over the phone and definitely nothing written. Once the other side has mentioned lawyer let THEM rant and rave and make threats and such, keep your cool. You may actually laugh at how seriously the other side takes themselves sometimes but dont do it where they will catch wind of your amusement. If its headingto court its out of your hands, court is a lawyers battlefield, not yours.

Why say absolutely nothing? Because if its worth saying or should be said, do it through a knowledgable lawyer. Doing anything else when having been threatened is stupidity imo.


 12:35 pm on Feb 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

Why say absolutely nothing? Because if its worth saying or should be said, do it through a knowledgable lawyer. Doing anything else when having been threatened is stupidity imo.

How do you tell the difference between a knowledgeable lawyer, a shark who just wants to take your money and a downright numpty?

The value of this and other forums is that many people can exchange their stories and from this we see that different lawyers are dispensing different advice. Here are some of the things lawyers have "advised" in relation to this case.

* Pay up - you have no option
* Ask for proof of ownership
* Query the amount requested
* If you don't pay and lose the case you will have a criminal record
* If you don't pay and lose the case you will not have a criminal record
* They have to prove the image is theirs
* They don't have to prove the mage is theirs

This does not give me any confidence in the ability of these guys to defend my corner. You say do it through a knowledgable lawyer. How do you know that you have a knowledgable lawyer?


 1:51 pm on Feb 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

Its a real problem, I had a reason to consult with a solicitor over a driving offence id been involved with earlier in the year.

Looking of a solciitor I just checked their websites, the one I went with was local to the court - so he knew how it would operate.

He also had been hired by the gov't for consulting work, so I guessed he knew more than the others who didnt say such things.

I got a £50 fine and a £750 solictors bill, just in case you wondered, the prosecutions reasoning was based on flawed evidence - their records were incorrect and shouldnt have gone to court.

So always challenge any statement, even if you do so by ignoring it!


 11:39 am on Feb 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

As a matter of interest I have still heard no more from B&M. Their deadline for payment was 2 January.

It may be worthwhile letting this run as record of what others who are similarly affected know what to expect. Is there a limit to how long a thread can run?


 3:14 pm on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

No further movement on this one but on a couple of other forums it is apparent that new "victims" are coming on board all the time. A couple of us have exchanged reference numbers from the letters we received and this suggests that this is big business for Corbis.


 5:42 pm on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

If I recall you said this was being treated as an unpaid invoice, it seems odd you can be sent an invoice for something without ordering anything from a company - do you agree.

Just ignoring the rights and wrongs of your case this should be a case of content theft not an unpaid invoice - which you can then dispute.

I really cannot see their claim being upheld, especially when the amount being claimed against you is far in excess of the true amount of buying the images - if they want to send you an unpaid invoice then that invoice at least has to reflect the true cost of the goods?

There has just been the UK ruling against the banks for claiming charges in excess of their true value, this claim is going along similiar lines.

Anyway, all the best with this, you deserve to get these creeps off your back.



 6:32 pm on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

It all boils down to the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.


They quoted this clause (97) in their claim but ironically it is also the clause that is being used in defending the case.


 9:19 pm on Feb 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

it seems odd you can be sent an invoice for something without ordering anything from a company - do you agree

Do I agree? Not really, no. Whatever the merits for and against this type of case, the principle remains the same and it's not at all odd if you actually think about it.

From the company's perspective, the invoice's recipient has used the company's intellectual property without paying for the right to do so. The 'use' in itself constitutes an order, irrespective of whether one was formally placed or not.

The options are to sue for theft (breach of copyright) or to invoice retrospectively for the unauthorised use.

Forget the big boys like Corbis for a moment and think of the little guy who finds himself in the same situation.

When a small business/sole trader earns a living - the money that keeps a roof over the owner's head and feeds his kids - from licencing use of work, would you agree it was ok for all and sundry to use that work for free? Or would you back the little guy to get paid for what's rightfully his to sell so he and his kids survive?

I don't suppose many people think too highly of corporate bullyboy tactics, but if it was our friend or neighbour who was similarly cheated, wouldn't most of us say "don't let the b*&@£$ds rob you, go get what's owed to you, mate"?


 2:00 pm on Mar 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

Forget the big boys like Corbis for a moment and think of the little guy who finds himself in the same situation.

That's fine, but it's not a little guy it's Corbis (and Getty) using strong arm tactics to legally extort money from people who in most cases were not even aware that they had infringed any copyright.

When a small business/sole trader earns a living - the money that keeps a roof over the owner's head and feeds his kids - from licencing use of work, would you agree it was ok for all and sundry to use that work for free?

No I would not but that's hypothetical. The fact is that the imaging companies are using questionable techniques to find this material then trying to frighten people into paying their extortionate demands.

In many cases it's the little guys who who created these images and sold them on to the big guys. Do you honestly believe that any of the money they are raising from this exercise will find its way back to the creators?


 3:19 pm on Mar 3, 2007 (gmt 0)


I'm not sure if any of the following is worth anything to you or not.

I'd suggest looking into taking the issue up with your local representatives (although if your UK politicians are like those here in the US, they are probably useless self serving twits) On the other hand, you might find that your rep might be willing to champion the cause of the little guy (pardon my ignorance of the UK legislative system but I think your house of commons might be better than the house of lords - We would take the issue up with our State Representative and have a lesser chance with the State Senator)

Make some contacts in the press. There was a kid a while back named Mike Rowe.. He had a domain Mikerowesoft or something like that . M$s lawyers laid the heavy stuff on him. The web rallied to his side and MS backed off and ended up paying him something like 30k for the site.

It almost sounds like a legal mafia strongarm type of deal. We have a State Attorney General and Local District attorney who are ***Supposed*** to take action when things are illegal or in cases where things are borderline legal and the law should be changed. My experience with them is that they are generally useless but you might find one who is willing to champion the little guy.

We had similar cases here with the bottom feeding lawyers at RIAA where they sued some grandmother in Harlem because here 10 year old grandchild downloaded some songs. Again, public opinion made them back off.

The thing that disturbs me in your case is that it was probably one little half baked icon that a freshman in art school could do while in a drunken stupor.

My experience with the legal profession is that they all undergo a concienseectomy prior to graduating law school. We've been ripped off repeatedly by lawyers. Also, understand that they are trained to lie and will think nothing of telling bald faced lies to get their dollars, or in your case euros.

We found that you have to get a really good attorney (which costs) and you have to keep on top of things.

Anyway, your experience is making me rething what I do with any type of stock photo. At the very least, I will NEVER use an unedited stock photo again. Everything will get sliced, diced, reversed, copied and pasted etc. My thought is that the auto searches looked for filename, filesize, etc and then found a match. Make it a little harder for them...



 4:03 pm on Mar 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

I am afraid that is bit more difficult than that. They are using technology which apparently is able to detected images even after they have been edited. An Israeli company called Picscout (Google it) developed this and they work for Getty and probably Corbis too.

Their site says,

"We provide our customers with complete solutions to meet their business needs. Our solutions are based on advanced image recognition and robust crawling and filtering technologies. PicScout engines crawl various media outlets in order to locate use of our customers’ visual assets on commercial sites. The suspected images are then compared to our customers’ image database using sophisticated image recognition technology."

Actually they ignore robots.txt and use up massive amounts of other people's bandwidth.


 6:00 pm on Mar 3, 2007 (gmt 0)


I'm getting ready to paint my kid's room but this issue is bugging me. I had another thought.

You brought up the issue of the photo place's bots using up bandwidth and ignoring robots.txt. That got me to thinking. Aren't **They** violating copyright rules by downloading all of the content on your site. That has to be stored somewhere. In addition to the purloined images they find and store, they are most likely storing images that do NOT belong to them.

I've often thought about putting something in my terms of service such as "any spidering and/or downloading of content on this site not related to placement in search engines or directories without prior consent will result in charges of $1000 plus $xx per image and $$ per page of content". I'm going to throw that on all of my sites just for the heck of it. Also, I'll throw in a TOS clause that any legal issues will have to be resolved in My city/county/state

1. Their bot is hitting your site, using bandwidth and ignoring robots.txt
2. Their bot is not like the 'good' bots such as slurp and googlebot which offer a quid pro quo (we spider your site, your site shows in the search engines)
3. They would have to have the image stored on their servers for comparison and analysis purpose in some form for some time I would think.
4. The very fact that they are suing you is evidence that they in fact downloaded pictures from your site.

If you paid an attorney to pursue this, you probably could not afford it. However, here in the US, attorneys will take cases on a contingency basis. (AKA Ambulance chasing).

Also, keep in mind that the solicitors (reminds me of solicitation here in the US) are probably doing this on a contingincy basis and are looking for low hanging fruit. True, they have the resources to haul individuals into court. However, they have a limited number of attorneys and can't take everyone at once.

Oh well, gotta move the ceiling light box for a ceiling fan.. take care



 6:36 pm on Mar 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

I doubt that this counter copyright thing would stand up in law. When you think about it everyone who visits a website downloads content from it. When you launch a website you make this content available.

But then I am not a lawyer.


 10:43 pm on Mar 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

BeeDee, my post #3267107 wasn't directed at you or the situation you've found yourself in. Apologies if you thought it was.

I was answering digicam, and that entire post was directed at their comment. Digicam thought it odd you should receive an invoice without placing an order, and I was trying to explain how and why things are done this way.

I do agree with your views on big corporates, and I too doubt whether anything goes back to the original creator. If you've managed to give Corbis the bird, good for you. :)

When the boot's on the other foot however, I'm a hypocrite I suppose, because I wouldn't want someone else giving *me* the bird, especially when it's a big corporate who has stiffed me.

I've been the little guy whose work has been used without permission by a big publisher, and if I didn't pursue it and get my money, my mortgage would fall into arrears and the kids'd starve. The big difference is that Corbis doesn't go hungry or lose its house if it doesn't get paid the odd fee here and there.


 1:00 pm on Mar 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

Malachite no offence was taken and I have also been the victim of several copyright infringements. On all of these occasions I have managed to sort it out by myself. These involved blatant theft of my copy and images on a much grander scale than what I have done. In one such case someone built a website entirely from my pages.

The penalty for an offence or perceived offence should fit the "crime". Trying to take almost $5,000 from someone for the use of a shopping cart image that has been kicking around for at least five years is way over the top and they know it.

The other important point in this case is that some of the people being pursued actually bought or acquired the images from third party sources and can prove it. They have explained this and been told that it makes no difference. The big boys still want their money. I doubt that any judge would ever rule in their favour in these circumstances, which is why (AFAIK) no one has yet been taken to court.


 3:41 pm on Mar 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

I see in addition to a modest subscription fee, these guys take a revenue share of legal settlements. Nice.

There's a thread on identifying their bot here:



 5:51 am on Mar 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

In my younger days I use to work for a fellow who was quite
often sent letters from attorneys about pending legal actions unless
he stopped this or refunded that etc, etc. His reply was always the
same. He would write back and say " Hey, thats the reason they brick
up court houses so they can have a place to settled these matters"
He would also say he had an attorney on retainer that he had not been able to keep busy and he would like a little work so he could
get his monies worth from him.

In other words he would out bluff the bluffers. Probably 1 out of 50
matters would proceed past this point.

In short attorneys send a lot of letters out regarding legal actions,but 99% of them die a aborning. King Fisher

PS He died extremely wealthy man!


 10:38 am on Mar 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the reassurance Kingfisher ;)

Actually they gave me a deadline of 2 January to pay. I got a law firm to send them a letter and I have heard nothing since. That's almost eleven weeks.


 11:19 am on Mar 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

For anyone watching this I have nothing further to report as yet.

This 129 message thread spans 5 pages: < < 129 ( 1 2 3 [4] 5 > >
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