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Help! I was sent a copyright infringement notices from Shutterstock and Photos5

Discussion in 'Legal Issues' started by Carolans, Jan 21, 2017.

  1. #1
    I have received an email about 1 year ago from Shutterstock.com and another email from Photos5.com with a "Cease and desist demand and offer to settle copyright infringement claim".

    I have used some photos that i found on google and on some desktop free wallpapers websites on my business website, and these images is copyrighted (which i didn't know at that time, and i was under the impression that all images on google is free to take) , Shutterstock asked for 273$, and Photos5 offered me a settlement of 150$ to resolve the copyright infringement within 10 days before taking legal actions.
    SEMrush
    I have ignored both emails and i have removed the images immediately and i never wrote them back, they have sent me many emails during that time asking me resolve the case before involving lawyers, but i ignored the emails because i have already removed the images from my websites, and their last email was to inform me that since i didn't pay their settlement offer they are going to sue me, and their images is copyrighted and registered at the copyright office and etc, and i didn't hear from them after that.

    2 weeks ago I have received an email from Shutterstock to tell me that they going to handle my case to a contracted copyright enforcement organization, which I have also ignored their email.

    BUT now I have received a registered post letter from an Intellectual Property attorney office in my area representing photos5, and I have no idea how they found my address or my real name (my domain was whois protected) informing me that they have already started legal actions to recover statutory damages, Apparently copyright infringement involving images that are registered with the U.S. Copyright Office allows for statutory damages of up to $30,000, or $150,000 if it can be demonstrated it was a willful act. !!! It's only an image !!!

    I have contacted them and I have offered to buy the image and to pay the previous settlement fee of 150$ and to close the case and I am very sorry, but they answered me "we are contractually obliged not to speak with you", and I should discuss this matter only with their lawyers !!

    What to do, should I hire an Intellectual Property lawyer because it's too expensive, or I should I negotiate with their lawyer directly, I need help please !! any advice is very appreciated.
     
    Carolans, Jan 21, 2017 IP
    SEMrush
  2. PoPSiCLe

    PoPSiCLe Illustrious Member

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    #2
    You are an idiot. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but you are. First, you assume that all images on Google are free to use. You do understand that it is your responsibility, 100%, to check for copyright before using an image, yes? Then, you ignore repeated attempts from the copyright-holders to settle this for next-to-no money, and when they procede to take legal action, THEN you turn around and try to make a mence. Seriously, if I were them, I would tell you "see you in court" and take you for whatever you're worth. No, seriously. They have tried, time and time again, to avoid this. And by ignoring them, you've forced their hand.

    But fine, I assume you know that you have been stupid, and the question is, what do you do now. First of, I would contact the lawyers, and try to settle. If the case goes to court, you're gonna be found guilty, no doubt about that, the question is what fine you're gonna get - probably not the biggest, since you removed the images at first notice, but you'll still get fined, and probably told to pay legal fees. Which will quickly get high.

    Contact the lawyers, offer a settlement (no, not the original one, you will probably at least have to cover the cost of their hiring the lawyers, so think a few thousand dollars), and see what they say. If they play hardball, then you're going to court. Simple as that. There is no point in hiring a copyright-lawyer - there is no doubt you broke copyright, and there is nothing to be won by that. But you will need a lawyer, to handle the case, if a settlement is dismissed.
     
    PoPSiCLe, Jan 22, 2017 IP
  3. sarahk

    sarahk iTamer Staff

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    #3
    ^^ what he said

    We had similar problems with Getty images and worked with them and ended up buying the photos for a fraction of their starting penalty price once they got in touch and I'd finished yelling at my husband that he "should know better".

    Yes, it's only an image, but those companies need to protect their brand and by playing hardball with you - and you coming online and telling us all about it - they get the word out that you shouldn't steal their content. You also help give them free publicity and reassure photographers that they are a safe marketplace.

    Right now you need to be talking to their lawyers about how you can settle. If you can't pay it all at once you need to be negotiating a payment plan with them - and you need to stick to it.

    As for their ability to know who you are - they're lawyers! they know stuff and I'd expect them to be able to find you. Leave us your domain and I'll see what I can find and show you how easy it is.
     
    sarahk, Jan 22, 2017 IP
    VacationCrasher and jrbiz like this.
  4. jrbiz

    jrbiz Illustrious Member

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    #4
    You are in deep and it will be a penny-wise and pound-foolish action to not hire your own lawyer to negotiate the terms of your surrender.
     
    jrbiz, Jan 24, 2017 IP
  5. Carolans

    Carolans Active Member

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    #5
    It's been a month now, Thank you everybody for the advice and for pointing out how reckless was my actions, YES I am very aware that I made a mistake by using copyrighted images, and a bigger mistake by ignoring the photographer's request at photos5.com to reach a very small and generous settlement for the images without a license 1 year ago, I have learned my lesson now, but the cost was too much.

    It was a very stressful month, and the most foolish act was (as my lawyer said) that I rejected to settle and resolve the case directly with photos5, my lawyer negotiated a settlement with their lawyer (and the lawyer's fees cost almost half of the settlement by the way) and after a very long negotiations the whole story ended with a few thousands of dollars (I am keeping the number to my self) plus the lawyers' fees.

    Regarding the second case I contacted Shutterstock and resolved all issues with them for the 273$ they asked for, I have also cleaned and removed all images from my websites and I have replaced all images with my own pictures and images with creative common (cc) license.

    Bottom line is: Always buy the rights for images, or buy a camera and start taking pictures, you should not do image searches in Google and pull an image to use, assume that all images is copyrighted even if there is no watermark on the image, Stay away from these desktop wallpaper websites that post stolen images without watermarks that exist simply to attract you to search images on them, It is important to become familiar with copyright laws. If you have not taken the photo, make sure you always ask the owner for permission to use it.
     
    Carolans, Feb 21, 2017 IP
  6. jrbiz

    jrbiz Illustrious Member

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    #6
    This is a fantastic follow up post that will be of great value to other newbie DP-ers. Your lesson was a bit expensive, but as you realize, it could have been much worse. I am impressed that you ended up doing the smart thing and then came back and shared the results.
     
    jrbiz, Feb 21, 2017 IP
  7. malky66

    malky66 Illustrious Member

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    #7
    Yes quite, this thread should be made a sticky to serve as a warning to everyone that thinks "free" images found via Google are actually free to use.
     
    malky66, Feb 22, 2017 IP
  8. Best Seller

    Best Seller Active Member

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    #8
    If you ever want to use images that you find from a search engine like Google, you can do a "Google advanced image search" and check the option under usage rights that says, "free to use, share or modify, even commercially."

    YES, you are right! Make sure you familiarize yourself with copyright law! Important!
     
    Best Seller, Feb 22, 2017 IP
  9. Agent000

    Agent000 Notable Member

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    #9
    So what do you say to those who have had copyright legal action taken against them for doing just that?
     
    Agent000, Feb 22, 2017 IP
  10. Best Seller

    Best Seller Active Member

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    #10
    If you have checked the appropriate usage rights, you should be fine. I suppose, as an extra safeguard, you could take a screen shot to prove you obtained the free stock photo legally ... just in case someone tries to argue it. But doing the search that way (the proper way) should be fine.
     
    Best Seller, Feb 22, 2017 IP
  11. Agent000

    Agent000 Notable Member

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    #11
    That will not help; do you think just because Google says its "free to use" that taking a screen shot of that will protect you in a court of law? Ask those who have been litigated against.
    You are giving bad advice.
     
    Agent000, Feb 22, 2017 IP
  12. Best Seller

    Best Seller Active Member

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    #12
    For example, the image I'm using as my avatar on this site was found by doing a Google advance image search for images that are free to use, share or modify, even commercially related to the keyword "best seller."

    Not just "free to use" but "free to use, share or modify, even commercially"
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 22, 2017
    Best Seller, Feb 22, 2017 IP
  13. Agent000

    Agent000 Notable Member

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    #13
    FFS! That will not protect you. Many people have had copyright claims against them because they relied on that.
    How do you think Google even knows that its "free to use, share or modify, even commercially"????
     
    Agent000, Feb 22, 2017 IP
  14. Best Seller

    Best Seller Active Member

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    #14
    Best Seller, Feb 22, 2017 IP
  15. Agent000

    Agent000 Notable Member

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    #15
    Perhaps you could lend your expertise to the legal team of those who have been litigated against for relying on that "free to use, share or modify, even commercially" ....
     
    Agent000, Feb 22, 2017 IP
  16. Best Seller

    Best Seller Active Member

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    #16
    https://pixabay.com/en/best-seller-seller-stamp-red-158885/

    No, I think they would be better off to consult a lawyer. ;)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 22, 2017
    Best Seller, Feb 22, 2017 IP
  17. GTAce

    GTAce Notable Member Premium Member

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    #17
    Maybe you shouldn't be providing legal advice then..................
     
    GTAce, Feb 23, 2017 IP
  18. Best Seller

    Best Seller Active Member

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    #18
    Lol. I'm not providing legal advice, guys. I'm simply showing the OP where/how to find free stock photos online.
     
    Best Seller, Feb 23, 2017 IP
  19. GTAce

    GTAce Notable Member Premium Member

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    #19
    If you're not providing legal advice, then stop posting in the "Legal Issues" section about how to do stuff legally. Your advice is bad advice, and you said it was legal. It's not.
     
    GTAce, Feb 23, 2017 IP
    Agent000 likes this.
  20. Best Seller

    Best Seller Active Member

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    #20
    I'll reply the same way to you as I did to another guy on another thread earlier today. I'm not sure who you are or why you're so angry with me. Are you a lawyer? Because any of the lawyers I've ever dealt with have a much calmer and professional demeanor than you seem to have in your post.

    Never have I said I'm a lawyer or that what I'm sharing is legal advice. But I can tell you that I've been in the advertising/marketing and publishing industries for over twenty years, so I'm familiar with using free stock photos versus buying artwork from illustrators/designers and what's involved with that to safeguard yourself. I'm simply sharing some of the ways that professional graphic designers obtain free stock photos online, and I've provided a legitimate example of what I'm talking about in the form of how I found the avatar for this forum.

    Anyone who has further serious questions about this should be consulting a lawyer about it--not a forum.
     
    Best Seller, Feb 24, 2017 IP