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New copyright scam to be wary of

 6:50 am on Jun 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

I recently had heard about some copyright infringement scams and no sooner did I hear of it, a client received a letter. Its pretty clever and very sleezy so I thought I would share.

So most of you are probably already aware of the lawyers getting in trouble for copyright extortion, asking small sites for money with threats when they were not willful infringers. This started with the whole Getty Images letters then some dishonest lawyers went out and used this as their new business model, teaming up with photogs and artists to collect on infringement using "state of the art software" and trying to get them to settle for large amounts regardless of how long or how the image was used.

Now I just want to mention that I am a web designer but I am also an artist and photographer so I get the need to protect your work and go after people for infringement and I do think that there are many people out there that are intentionally taking photos and should be made responsible.

However what is happening here, is that photographers are purposely supplying their images in large format to screensaver and wall paper sites, public use and royalty free images sites. Then they wait for people to start using it and go after them.

The way you know this is happening and how we figured it out, is that their art or photographs were available in large format all over the web offered for free download. As most of you know, any reputable artist never supplies their work in large files on the web. If an images are out there available at 1600px-3000px sizes, something is fishy. The photographer can be the only source of those files unless they were stolen. And if you put your work out there like that, you only have yourself to blame and shouldn't be surprised if your work was spread around. Doesn't make it right, but you can hardly be surprised!

But in this case they were supplying these images and trying to extort money. They only go after small sites and blogs and not the large companies because they don't want to deal with anyone who may have an attorney and fight back.

And they aren't making efforts to stop the distributors because they want those images out there.

Most professionals know to not use any images, even if offered free. But most mom and pops doing their own websites, don't know this and if someone is asking for compensation from innoncent infringers (especially in amounts that are way above what they should pay even if they did own it) without sufficient notice to remove the image first, especially if they know their images is available on sites claiming it can be used for public use, then something isn't right. Those who are legitimate would be asking for reasonable amounts, based on how the images was used, size, time it was up, etc.

anyway, just thought I would share. If anyone has any thoughts or experiences like this, would love to hear them :)



 7:35 am on Jun 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

But in this case they were supplying these images and trying to extort money.

Do you have proof of this?


 8:25 am on Jun 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

slightly OT

>>But most mom and pops doing their own websites, don't know this

i'm not sympathetic regarding the mom and pop comment, if you want to play the game you need to learn the rules - ignorance is no excuse


 11:55 am on Jun 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

Along these lines, I used to count on my developer to purchase rights to any images. I'd always document that they agreed that they had the rights to the images that allowed me to reuse them. In retrospect, you can't count on this.

While I normally try to avoid the use of images and when I can't I prefer to use original works, in the rare case where I use stock art work, I now have the designer provide the website they're using and I personally go and buy the rights to the images. Then I've got it documented.


 6:17 pm on Jun 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

Regarding proof, I contacted 2 of the sites and asked them who submitted the image and they told me it was the owner, that they only post if they have proof of copyright and the site said they received proof when it was requested. I believe this because these sites are pretty careful due to DMCA takedown policy, they stand to have their server suspended and get sued if they distribute copyrighted images.

The other proof I got was the photog claimed he has tried to get some of these sites to remove the images but they wont. This was the sites that take submissions from anyone. So I had a friend overseas submit an image of mine, then waited a week and asked the site to take it down because it was mine. They didn't even ask for proof they had it town in less than 14 hours.

Not all copyright owners are doing this, but with anything, there are always those people who look for ways to manipulate the system and the law to make money. I think you can agree, its feasible and certainly worthy of watching out for. :)


 8:43 am on Jul 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

It reminds me somewhat of submarine patents, except that those are legal.

If the copyright holder has supplied it to a royalty free site, then there is no way you owe them anything.

Given the deliberate deceit involved, it is quite likely that this is criminal.

i'm not sympathetic regarding the mom and pop comment, if you want to play the game you need to learn the rules - ignorance is no excuse

I think the point is not that they have an excuse to break the rules, but that they do not know how to protect themselves from false accusations.

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