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Be Careful with Your Website!

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by james terrio, Feb 6, 2012.

  1. james terrio

    james terrio Sharpest Knife in the Light Socket Moderator

    Apr 15, 2010
    Watch what you use for graphics and pics on your website. I was using what I thought was a generic pic of a guy at a steel mill on my materials page. Turns out it was copyrighted and I'm now being billed to the tune of $923 for using the image without a license. :mad:

    Be careful guys. If you didn't take the picture yourself, don't use it in anything that could be considered promotional and/or editorial.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2012
  2. jonnymac44


    Sep 27, 2007
    Damn! Sorry to hear that James. Hope it doesn't end up costing you that much.

    I am pretty conscious of what I use on my site for just that reason. There isn't a single picture on my site that wasn't taken by either myself or my good buddy who is a photographer.

    Good luck buddy....:(
  3. Core Knife Co.

    Core Knife Co.

    Apr 8, 2009
    James, that sucks. Sorry to hear about this.

    Hang in there.
  4. Wulf


    May 10, 2000
    $923? That seems oddly specific. How'd they come up with that number? (Just curious)
  5. Kevin Cross

    Kevin Cross KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 13, 2006
    That stinks James. Since they had to be looking at your site to find the picture, does that means they like knives? Maybe you could work a deal.
  6. james terrio

    james terrio Sharpest Knife in the Light Socket Moderator

    Apr 15, 2010
    I should clarify, I'm not being sued yet. What they've sent me is a demand for settlement and a threat to sue me. Apparently they really do have a staff of people that just browse the web all day looking for images.

    $875 for the image, $48.13 for tax.
  7. GoodPoint


    Aug 2, 2011
    Sorry to hear about the issue you're having. Just wanted to mention that even pictures you take yourself might not be that clear cut. The image may not be used in many jurisdictions without the subject of the picture releasing their rights to be compensated if the picture is to used for a commercial enterprise. Picture of friends and family = no problem (usually!). Picture of random stranger = hello lawsuit. I hope things work out for you!
  8. james terrio

    james terrio Sharpest Knife in the Light Socket Moderator

    Apr 15, 2010
    This has got me wondering about the links on my site, as well. Hmm.
  9. 12345678910


    Jul 13, 2009
    Who's suing, a photographer, or the steel mill?

    Offer to stop using it and say you're sorry if they drop the $ request.
  10. watercrawl


    Jun 2, 2006
    That stinks!

    I wonder the chances they're just on the hunt for an easy pay day? Would they really file a lawsuit for $923?? It would cost four times that in legal fees easy.
  11. jorasco312

    jorasco312 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 9, 2006
  12. james terrio

    james terrio Sharpest Knife in the Light Socket Moderator

    Apr 15, 2010
    A company that represents photographers and whatnot.

    They probably send out a thousand letters like that one a day, in hopes that maybe a hundred people will pay up. Do the math, that's pretty good money.

    I do want to say, I do take intellectual property rights seriously. I'm not out to rip anyone off by stealing their work. I have certainly learned my lesson and posted this so others don't make the same dumb mistake.
  13. Justin King

    Justin King

    Nov 8, 2009
    That chafes! It might not hurt to offer them 50% of what they are asking, if they are willing to accept that then you can bet they aren't in a hurry to go to court. If they don't budge then you might be over a barrel, but I would still see if you can get a free legal opinion over the phone before handing over any money. It could well be bluster, by the letter of the law you are in the wrong but the jugement they might expect from a lawsuit may be so petty as to make it profitless for them to pursue it. Then again, if they can send one letter and get a check for 923$, why not?
  14. sunshadow


    Oct 2, 2006
    surprised it is just that, statutory penalties are much higher. you got lucky

    (26 years as a professional photographer)

  15. tedinatl


    Nov 1, 2010
    Yep. It can get way into the thousands of dollars... We work with Getty Images a fair amount at work, and they literally have an entire team of people dedicated to finding copyright infringements. Sometimes they're reasonable and let you get off with a slap on the wrist (like what they're doing to James), but usually its a lot more than that. They have to protect their interests as well - remember they spend thousands of dollars to acquire these images.

    James, it really sucks that they hit you with this, I feel for you. Maybe you could talk to them and tell them you'll remove it and beg for forgiveness, and maybe they'll let you off.

    It serves as a good warning for everyone else, though.
  16. slimshaneee


    Jun 24, 2008
    Good of you to warn others. I am going to be changing mine, I was ignorant to the whole situation.

    I would hope they could work something out with you.

    I wonder if you could work something out with an approximation of how much money it may have helped you earn, and what percentage of the money earned can be attributed to that one photo. Like 5%? 2%?

    Good luck!
  17. Battle Creek Knives

    Battle Creek Knives

    Feb 23, 2010
    wow, really sorry to hear that and thank you for the heads up, I have yet to fire up my website, I've never done one before and would like to keep it on the cheap, hopeful someone could point me in the right direction...

    James, who's to say these people are even legit..?? Imagine how difficult it would be to browse millions of pictures and just happen to pair up one that's on their registry....

    I just wonder.....
  18. james terrio

    james terrio Sharpest Knife in the Light Socket Moderator

    Apr 15, 2010
    That's not really relevant to them. They want me to pay for the image itself. Now if I had made a million bucks selling t-shirts with their image, I'm sure they would want a very large percentage of that. Like all of it:D

    Seems to be a reputable company, although it could be a scam... As I said, sending out 1000 letters and getting 100 of them to pay off would be a pretty good payday.
    Like the fellow above said, they have software that searches for stuff.
    Anyway we'll find out more tomorrow.
  19. sunshadow


    Oct 2, 2006
    My Ad Photo professor at RIT had one of his images stolen twice, (it had been used on the cover of National Geographic but they allow the original photographer to retain copyright) the first time he settled with the small cafe that used it on their menu for $10,000 (in 1980s) the second time Sibleys Dept. store used it in an ad, they settled with him out of court for 1.5 million because statutory damages of $100,000 per copy for the entire circulation of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle would have bankrupted them


    (years later when I came back to RIT I did a favor for him and he gave me an 8x10 Cibachrome of that image)
  20. midnight flyer

    midnight flyer

    Jan 12, 2009
    I wouldn't panic just yet. A few years ago I found a competitor using a picture I took in his printed advertisement. I was pissed, called him, and he claimed he knew nothing about it. He paid someone to make his tri fold advertisement. He probably didn't know anything about it.

    I had an attorney write him a nastygram, and he quit using it immediately and got rid of his tri-folds adverts ( I as hoping he would make me an offer as it was a pretty generic picture ) and stopped using them immediately.

    My combined brain trust of fellow contractors decided I may have been impugned, and needed compensation for my work. My attorney laughed at first, then saw that I was serious.

    According to him, there was NO actionable offense since the offender removed all content immediately from public view and company use after notification. According to him, this fell into the *whoops* category, and was further substantiated by the fact that my image disappeared from use by him immediately and not used again.

    Then of course, the question was asked by him: how can I prove how much money I lost because of the use of my intellectual property by someone else? What can I prove? How would I prove it?

    So yes, the law was broken. But I was assured by more than one source this was a "no harm, no foul" situation since there was immediate compliance with the demand for removal.

    So how would the photographer's watchdog prove what they lost? How could they develop that cost? More importantly, is there a website or other source that sells that exact picture so they could easily prove that the intent of the photo was to be a commodity for sale, and not just a picture? If you didn't snipe it off the steel mill's website, I can't imagine how they could develop any kind of credible dollar value to take to court.

    I have been sued several times. I am a little more trusting of the court system than I used to be, and try to use common sense when I respond. I used to panic, but no more. If it were me, I would ask the guys to point you to the site that sold that pic (if there is one) and pay for it immediately. That not only kicks the chair out from under the watchdog group, but would show a judge that you performed immediately with honest intent after notification of infringement.

    If that didn't work, I would wait until things heated up a bit. My attorney's favorite phrase is "sue to settle". No one can file and litigate a court case for $900 bucks. Not even in small claims court. If they wanted to pursue the issue after the image is removed, I would simply wait until the water was boiling and offer them $100.

    Besides, if you go to court, think of a judge sitting on the bench looking at their attorney saying "you want what? He took the image down in 24 hours after you notified him and you still want money? Is that image commonly for sale at a site for $900? Is the sale price for the image how you came up with that figure? Was the picture labeled so he would know it wasn't public domain? If not, how do you substantiate this case?"

    Having been to small claims court many times with friends (never for my stuff... mine is bigger!) I have never seen a judge grant anything to someone that can't substantiate their loss. Never. Sure, there are a lot of bonehead judges out there, and NO DOUBT someone here knows of some huge legal injustice that sticks in their mind.

    I would say stay calm, and see what develops. Don't ignore their communications, but don't offer to pay for anything. Just ask where the picture is actually for sale and let it drop. Pay for the picture if possible, and see how it goes. Imagine you telling them in your communication to them -

    Thank you for thoughtful notification informing me that we had inadvertently published an image that was copyrighted. As I expressed to your company earlier, it was not my intent use the work of someone else in an illegal fashion. We had absolutely no knowledge that they image was not public domain. There were no labels on the picture, no notes of authorship on the picture or in its file name, nor watermarks on the image. The picture was removed from my website immediately after your notification.

    And of course, it would be great to add:

    We have since secured the rights for that exact picture, and have paid for its use. You can verify that your client was made whole by examining this receipt (embed it in your email).

    We are sorry for this misunderstanding and would like to apologize for any harm we may have caused you or your client. Thank you for your time and assistance in resolving this matter.

    Sounds good to me!

    Robert (bent there, done that... more than once)

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