Q: What’s lamer than a crappy photo of Nebraska? A: Having to pay $8,000 in copyright infringement penalties for it. This is a lesson we recently learned the hard way, and if you have (or contribute to) a blog you might want to read about our story so that you never, ever make the same mistake we did.

NOTE TO PHOTOGRAPHERS: Looking for help protecting your work? Check out Legal Nunchucks for Photographers – this affiliate link will set you up with a sweet deal via attorney Rachel Rodgers, so you can make sure you have what you need to copyright your images properly.

Long Story Short: Image Copyright Laws Can Screw You Over

We write thousands of blog posts every year for our clients and agency partners. Our editorial standards are obnoxiously high, and we do our best to write the best web content our clients (and their competitors) have ever seen. Although we try to catch everything, occasionally a mistake sneaks by us. Recently we made a very costly mistake, and it's one that every blogger and business owner should be aware of.

It all started when one of our writers published a blog post to a client’s site – it was about finding great deals in Omaha, Nebraska (complete with an altogether underwhelming photo of the city, which may or may not have been taken by a drunken college student with a camera phone in 2005). You wouldn't see this photo and immediately go book a vacation there, is what I'm saying.

I'm also saying that I have a hard time believing the photographer commands thousands of dollars per image - most of his work had nothing at all to do with photography, and he wasn't an artist with any kind of recognition or awards to his name. Anyway, the website was new and it wasn’t an especially popular post - we could prove via Google Analytics that fewer than 100 people read it. It wasn't our proudest moment, but we've learned a lot from the experience.

^This image of Omaha is only slightly worse than the one we got sued for. Not that we're bitter or anything.^

The Problem: Copyright Infringement Penalties Are Ridiculous

More than three months after the post went live, the client got an email from an attorney. This particular lawyer deals with one thing and one thing only: image copyright infringement. For the sake of the story, let's say his name is Curtis M. Leech, Esq.

The long-forgotten blog post that was published months ago had come back to haunt us. Mr. Leech sent the client a formal complaint letter, saying that they were being sued for $8,000 for using his client's copyrighted photo on their website.

We were under the mistaken impression that before anyone could be sued, the offender had to ignore a request to take down the copyrighted image. Because the lawsuit came without any kind of warning and this was the first time we'd ever been accused of such a thing, we were hoping that replacing the image and sincerely apologizing to Mr. Leech and his client would remedy the situation. We were wrong. Welcome to the world of inadvertent copyright infringement.

Current copyright laws say that you’re financially liable for posting copyrighted images, even if:

  • You did it by accident
  • You immediately take down the picture after receiving a DMCA takedown notice
  • The picture is resized
  • If the picture is licensed to your web developer (Getty Images requires that you get your own license, thankyouverymuch)
  • You link back to the photo source and cite the photographer’s name
  • Your site isn’t commercial and you make no money from your blog
  • You have a disclaimer on the site
  • The pic is embedded instead of saved on your server
  • You found it on the Internet (that’s not an excuse!)

If you use copyrighted images, you will get caught sooner or later. People who create copyrighted works hire companies that use computer programs to scour web pages for copies of those images. It takes time to find them, but the process is automated and runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you post something that's copyrighted on a blog page that has links pointing to it and the author wants to monitor that particular image, an unauthorized use of it WILL be found eventually.

All of our clients sign contracts stating that they’re solely responsible for all of the content we produce, but we were ethically opposed to making somebody else pay for a mistake that happened on our watch. We called our lawyer, and the negotiations with Mr. Leech, Esq. began.

It’ll Be Okay…Eventually, After You Hire a Lawyer

Fortunately, we were able to hire a lawyer who was able to negotiate a settlement – we ended up paying $3,000 instead of the original $8,000 in copyright infringement penalties Mr. Leech was originally seeking. Leech drove a hard bargain, but he did offer a three-month installment plan if we needed the extra time (so know that could be an option, if you ever find yourself dealing with your own Leech).

Somehow we resisted the urge to run through fields of clover, spontaneously jumping to click our heels with glee while celebrating our good fortune. $3,000 is a lot less than $8,000, but still far from appropriate restitution for our offence. And it was also the equivalent of several months' rent at the office, or holiday bonuses for our staff, or a variety of other ways we could've spent the money to grow our business or expand our payroll. This was our most costly mistake since starting the business, and in the end I was almost happy to pay Mr. Leech - just so I'd never have to think of him, or the money, or the things that I could've done with the money, ever again.  

I've since chalked it up as a lesson learned, albeit the hard way. Hopefully, after reading this post, you won't make the same mistake we did. 

The Fault: It’s Ours, For Not Fully Understanding Copyright Infringement Laws

Ultimately, as owners of The Content Factory the fault lies entirely with Joanie and me. Here’s where we went wrong:

  1. We weren’t as familiar with copyright infringement laws as we should've been. In the legal world, there’s no such thing as common sense – so ours did us no favors. The laws are set up to enrich lawyers, probably because they were written by lawyers. We knew the basics (don't use copyrighted images, don't find images via Google Image search, etc.), but we should have done more research about image copyright laws and copyright infringement penalties, and we should have made everyone on our team aware of the potential damage that can be done if we post the wrong image to a blog.
  2. We should’ve noticed that the photo wasn’t up to par. It just wasn’t a good shot, and there are many others that would’ve been better suited for the post. Our editors were too focused on the copy, and images were sort of secondary. This is no longer the case.
    Make certain your editors are paying attention to images as well as copy– are they sourced correctly? Click To Tweet
  3. We missed seeing that it was a copyrighted image. All of our writers have budgets for paid photos.. This was posted by a newly hired writer, and the one time he used a copyrighted image he got caught. None of his other posts had this particular issue, and it was an editorial oversight on our part.

Let me be clear: I believe that photographers should be paid for their work and I think that people who steal images deserve to pay some sort of restitution for any damages caused. In fact, we pay for images every single day and we should've paid for this one as well. I fully admit that we were in the wrong – but were we $8,000 worth of wrong? That works out to almost $100 per page view, and comes nowhere close to any actual damages we may have inflicted on the photographer with our use of the image. The photographer wasn't famous, the photo wasn't important (there was no grassy knoll or celebrity "gotcha" moment) and the photographer's other works sold for nowhere near that amount. That's not to say the image didn't (and doesn't still!) have value, but nobody in their right mind would put that value at $8,000.

Had we been a smaller company and didn't think to negotiate a settlement, we could’ve been put out of business. To be honest, had this happened within the first few months of starting the company, we would’ve probably closed up shop and run back to living one third of our lives in cubicles, where it's safe and there's always health insurance. It’s only because we hired a lawyer that we were able to get the copyright infringement penalties reduced via a settlement deal. Not everyone can afford that kind of expense, especially new businesses that may not be profitable yet. Make no mistake about it, this practice can be a business killer (which means it can also be a job killer).

"Copyright infringement penalties can kill a young business without proper legal counsel." - The Content Factory

The Larger Problem: Copyright Infringement Laws Breed Predatory Legal Practices

^ Image copywrong: Kari DePhillips. Others are free to steal or "borrow" this graphic, not that anyone should want to. ^

In our opinion, image copyright laws have created and enabled an industry of predatory lawyers - also known as copyright trolls. These attorneys take advantage of photographers and artists who make their images available online, as well as the bloggers who don’t know any better and post the wrong content to their sites. The lawyers make money on a contingency basis, usually taking at least 40% of the copyright infringement penalties they “earn” by hunting down unsuspecting bloggers. This is akin to digital ambulance chasing, only with less work required and a slightly smaller stigma attached to it. Leechy lawyers are costing small businesses and bloggers a metric crapload of money every year. It's impossible to tell how much, because most disputes are settled out of court and aren't recorded in any sort of official document that's available. If this data exists, I couldn't find it.

The value of a copyrighted image is determined by the prosecuting legal team..so beware. Click To Tweet

The amount that these lawyers sue for seems to be completely arbitrary. In our case, $8,000 was not a reasonable amount to sue for given the nonexistent damages caused, especially given the lack of views the post received. To be able to negotiate down to $3,000 was absurd, assuming the value was ever really $8k. The value is whatever the lawyer determines it to be, and considering he gets 40% of the imaginary value that he makes up on a whim, that number is invariably going to be ridiculously large. In fact, Goodreads was just sued for $150,000 for a photo of an obscure boy band that a user uploaded to their site. $150k for one photo is unreasonable, unless it’s the first photo of a celebrity baby that would've fetched much more on the cover of People magazine.

What’s to stop us from taking hundreds of photos of everyday things, uploading them to Google Images and optimizing them for favorable search phrases, and then waiting for bloggers to use them so we can sue for thousands – or hundreds of thousands – in copyright infringement penalties? The answer is absolutely nothing, and I’m willing to bet that a surprising number of people make their livings doing just that. The “attorney” and “artist” who sued us certainly do, as do countless other “copyright trolls."

Every single person who works for The Content Factory is a writer. We don’t want to infringe on anyone’s copyright any more than we want others to infringe on ours – and we’ve had to send DCMA takedown notices of our own before. By this logic, we’ve passed up countless opportunities to sue people. We’re okay with that.

We’re not okay with bloggers and business owners being sued into bankruptcy for making a mistake that really didn’t hurt anyone at all. Nobody’s stealing the Mona Lisa and trying to pass it off as their own creation, nor are we talking about celebrity paparazzi shots that could potentially sell for hundreds of thousands to tabloid magazines (in fact, Mavrix Photo, the celeb photog agency I used to blog for, has sued Guyism.com for $3.15 million for snaps of Katy Perry in a bikini). This is a slightly different situation, as Mavrix Photo probably lost a lot of money when those exclusive pictures were published on Guyism instead of the cover of a celebrity magazine. There was nothing special about the photo of Omaha that we got sued for, and it wasn’t even a recent picture.

If the photographer who took the photo of Omaha was negatively impacted when we posted the image to a client’s site, it couldn’t have been to the tune of more than $150. Round up for legal fees, and maybe $500 would’ve been reasonable. It would’ve been enough to teach us a lesson, as well as enough to compensate the photographer for an image that nobody in their right mind would purposefully pay money for.

It Can Happen to You, Too

I’d like to say that we’re just the unlucky victims of an isolated incident, but then I’d be lying. It can happen to you, too – and if you’re not careful with your blog images on a consistent basis, it probably will happen to you. From what we can tell, more and more bloggers are experiencing the same nightmare that we’ve been dealing with. Web Copy Plus spent $4,000 to settle a similar suit.

While discussing the situation with some of our agency clients, I learned that each and every one of them has been sued before – most of them were able to settle for less than half of the original amount demanded by the plaintiff’s lawyer. This problem isn’t going away, so the only thing you can do as a blog content producer is protect yourself.

You might not find a lot of stories about these ridiculous copyright infringement penalties online, because few people are willing to publicly admit that they “stole” a photo – by accident or otherwise.  Few agencies are willing to go on record and say that they made a mistake while working on a client’s account, and few bloggers want to risk their reputations by publicizing such a rookie error.

In this instance, the photographer was the victim, and we more than paid for any damages we caused. But there's more than one victim in this story. We want to help spread the word about copyright infringement laws and their negative impact on small businesses and bloggers, because we want the fewest number of people to be victimized by these predatory legal practices. Until we can change the laws, or the way the laws are applied, we all have to be in Cover Your Ass mode.

How to Keep From Getting a Copyright Infringement Lawsuit of Your Own

I could spend 3,000 more words trying to reinvent the wheel by describing how to avoid infringing on copyrights, but I’m not a lawyer I’m in no position to be giving out legal advice (lest we get sued for that, too). I will say that if you take a look around our website, you may notice that it has an old-school Rosie the Riveter theme. That’s no coincidence – photos taken prior to a certain date are copyright-free.

"Photos taken prior to a certain date are copyright-free." - The Content Factory

Roni Loren did a great job explaining how to avoid the trap that she fell in, and WikiHow’s page on avoiding copyright infringement is also a good page that will help bring you up to speed on image copyright laws.

PLEASE share this post with the bloggers you know - the more money we can keep in small businesses and out of the hands of greedy lawyers, the better. 

Do you have a story about getting sued for copyright infringement? What were your copyright infringement penalties? Were you able to negotiate a settlement for less money? Share your story in the comments section. It'll be therapeutic to commiserate with others 🙂

By Kari DePhillips

blogging for business, blogging strategy, copyright infringement penalties, image copyright infringement, image copyright laws, predatory legal practices

  1. Doesn’t the copyright owner of the photo have to prove the loss of $8,000, or even the $3,000 you ended up paying? Could you have taken him/her to trial and maybe ended up paying just the $100?

    Let me know if you get the chance and THANK YOU very much for your post!!
    Nick Burns

    1. Hi Nick,

      Glad you found the post helpful! To the best of my knowledge (again, I’m no lawyer), the copyright owner does not have to prove actual damages in the amount being sued for. Our attorney counseled us to settle, so we did. 

      I’d love for an actual internet lawyer to chime in on this. Even if we didn’t make the best decision by settling, it could be good information for others in a similar situation.


      1. As an actual internet lawyer, let me try to explain a bit more. First, it's waaay too complex to explain all of copyright law here. There are nuances and exceptions and twists to nearly every case. So, don't consider this as firm legal advice in any particularly situation. It's just a discussion.

        Second, so far as damages: the Copyright Act provides for different types of damages, depending on the circumstances. A person can claim any amount they want in damages–that doesn't mean they'll get it.

        Third, the basic damages that are allowed are either (1) actual damages and profits of the infringer; or (2) stautory damages.

        In most cases of inadvertant copyright infringement on the internet, damages under Option 1 are non-existent. So most opt for statutory damages. Statutory damages provides for damages of $750 to $30,000, in the amount that the court considers "just".

        If the court finds that you committed the infringement willfully, it can boost those damages upwards, but not more than $150,000 per infringement.

        However, if the court finds that the infringer didn't know that what he did was copyright infringement, the court can lower the damages to not less than $200.

        So, that's an enormous scale of potential liability. And there are twists and turns in trying to figure out what any particular case is worth. And "fair use" does not really enter into the description described above.

        If you ever have a problem like this, you should really contact your lawyer. Don't wing it. You'll probably end up paying more than if you get your lawyer involved at the beginning. This is really an area where someone who works in creative media should have a lawyer on call.

        1. Thank you for your post. What reach do such laws have. For instance if the copyright holder is in the US can they sue someone in Australia?

        2. Mr. Attorney is quite right that settlement fast is the best approach based on my opinion from personal experience. But from my businesspersons perspective, this solution is only availabe to medium sized or large companies who have been around long enough and developed sufficient cash flow to handle a ridiculous claim. As a new small business owner, this solution entails going out of business.

          If I am in the wrong, I am willing to pay a fair price for use or cease and desist, but not both. And while I cannot advise anyone to follow in my footsteps, I have found a solution that works well for me, which takes a page from the Soveriegn Citizens movement of getting absure without getting crazy about insisting on it working according to your personal interpretation of law.

          Soveriegn Citizens will generally burden down their adversary with requests for proof of claim, followed by affidavits making any kind and every kind of absurd claim (Such as I'm the copyright holder of the photo) (Please provide proof of claim that you are not the same guy who stood next to me taking photos when I took this one.) They do this under the concept that affidivits not properly answered become fact in a court of law.

          Right or wrong, you can bog down them into a situation they give up fast. If not, Soveriegn Citizens are famous for Filing UCC-1 Commercial Liens agianst the photographer, his attorney, and any judge that disagrees. It's no wonder they've become known as paper terrorists — and cops as well as judges are petrified over the thought they might come across one. Attorneys tend not to be so smart. (No offense, attorneys, but this is war and negotiation, and attorneys are terrible negotiators).

          The trick is to only take things so far, and not try to become a Soveriegn Citizen or even think of yourself as one. Their methods have worked well for me 100% of the time I've used them.

          You must be willing to take the time to respond, knowing it may take 4 to 6 months or longer to settle the problem. But I have settled major problems on the first notice sent as well. It does work, if you've a mind for it.

          1. … and you offer this in response to a post complaining about some laywers and their sometimes dodgy practises? . . . sheesh!!!

        3. You forgot to mention that stat damages are only available to those that register the work at issue prior to infringement. Statistically very few image owners do (almost every large company/content owner does so don't try infringing Disney and think they forgot or were too cheap to file).  

           I hate to arm the infringers but dem dah facts. I always register my images so Imma comin' after ya'll infringers!

          By the way, the "sovereign citizen" poster had me LOL.  So many freaks in the world. If you get a letter from a lawyer best to call one not do some internet, weirdo, fantasy tactic that may land you in jail (LOL.  filing a phony UCC-1 against a Federal District Court judge. Yeh, that's a good idea…..)

        4. Is there any way to reach this attorney? I've been trying to fight the companies who have been infringing on my intellectual property for years.. While they make millions from my artwork/designs I do not see one cent. I have not been fortunate enough to get a return call or reply from all the attorneys I've contacted over the past 3 years… Meanwhile my work is displayed everywhere including tv and on clothing; and I do have all of my work saved (including steps I take to create each design -proof of my work) in both psd and png files.


          I have tried contacting companies profitting from my work asking them to remove my art from their sites, but have been told that they purchased it from someone so they have the right to use it. I have contacted several other companies that are featuring my designs in and on their products but they only choose to ignore me.


          I have over 28,000 files I've been creating for the past few years. I can't possibly afford to copyright them all, although technology should be able to prove who created them.. I mean if the police can pinpoint the exact printer that prints off a note, if they can track down a hacker or who created what worm or virus, why wouldn't technology be able to aid in providing the "creators" system specs?

          1. Hi Sonya,

            I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through this — I do have an attorney that TCF’s uses when we have copyright issues (he specializes in copyright law), and I’d be happy to send you his info. Email me at karilee(at)contentfac(dot)com and I’ll give you his contact info.

            Good luck!


          2. ACTUALLY Sonya,

            YOU LIKELY CAN AFFORD TO COPYRIGHT ALL 28,000 of YOUR IMAGES. (I know its a little late in reply, I am just seeing this post, but not too late for you to do this.)

            Have you considered making a Picture Book (even digital) that contains all your images then file a copyright of it as a “collective work” — Think of how a book of poems is copyrighted to protect all individual works in one single collection.

            I am no attorney, so be sure to consult one. I just shared my personal opinion for the sake of this discussion.

            Also, consider joining a creative union, they will help you in protecting and pursuing your rights as an artist!

            Best Regards,

            Maurice W. Evans
            America’s Favorite Business Coach™

        5. I find it borderline offensive that a lawyer on this comment board does not condemn this kind of copyright trolling. What you say may be factually accurate but what are you doing to reform this ridiculous system? What are you doing to protect people who find themselves caught up in this travesty? “Call your lawyer” is often a solution that’s almost as bad as paying a troll given what lawyers charge to “help”. What needs to be done is REFORM of copyright law so that at the very least a warning is required before these trolls can be unleashed on people.

      2. My ex business partner breached our Collaborators Agreement voiding our contract.  However, she continued to marketing my copyrighted intellectual properties (plays) for her profit on the company website ong after I dissociated.   I insisted the website be removed by the host, Go Daddy, which it was.  This infuriated her and she is now threatening me with a law suit. In essence, she is inverting and perverting the situation. Regardless,  her perpetual theft caused me financial damage.  I am now forced to get a cease and desist for any consumer who purchased my properties from her website at my expense. My ex partner needs to be sued for tens of thousands of dollars in damages and that is exactly what I am pursuing.   Sometimes the copyright infringmenet laws are justifiable, especially when someone else steals your property and attempts to resell it for their financial gain. 

        1. What on earth does she think she's suing you for? If they haven't made that clear  you're lawyer should be telling you what laws apply. I assume of course that you pay a lawyer for advice, not ask a friend who's as lawyer. Is she claiming that she has NOT voided the contract? You've shown that she has, not just claiming she has right?

      3. Hi I was just going to ask about this because t people who have a orporation etc, want my pictures to embed with their website pictures and publicity for this picture I'm going to design. But then I thought (2/against one) and these are my paintings and I should set up one of my own, a small company. They have several large ideas copyrighted about the world,his books and other products that I am not mentioned on. And they have said they woud screw me in a blink of the eye. The man tonight called me names and his daughter, really has an open animosity towards me.

        So I thought the Golden Egg Diner or Gallery with this picture could be a start for me. 

        Any advice on how to go about this? This is rather the other side of the coin but I hope you don't mind a few brief words or an arrow.


        barb Mann

      4. You got hosed and your lawyer lied to you to make a quick buck. I would have taken this to court and dragged the hell out of it, costing the copyright owner tens of thousands of dollars. You caused no harm, and even statutorially, would only be responsible for a few hundred dollars.

    2. Bravo to you for admitting your mistake and moving on.  As a photographer, I'm going through this right now with some cheeky idiot who thinks I'm kidding.

      And all I want is for him to take the image down.  That's all I'm asking.  But PLEASE don't expect me to educate you on copyright laws.

      I admire you for learning (albeit the hard way).  Please know that many of us would have just e mailed you and said "Hey…you can't actually use that".  

      I'm not looking to make money from people, unless they simply refuse, but I'm always going to give the benefit of the doubt first.

      1. Joseph, you sound like our kind of photographer! I think if you send a takedown notice and the person either ignores it or expects you to educate them on copyright law, it’s time to call in an attorney.

        It’s reasonable to ask for somebody to remove your copyrighted work from a website. It’s unreasonable for a person who stole your work – even if accidentally – to ignore the issue.

        1. I am an attorney — so know nothing I am about to say is legal advice — but I thought I would chime in on maybe a fair solution to the problem.  I recently saw a solution that I thought was pretty fair.  The owner sent the infringer a bill for the price of the image (what he normally charges or there about) and his time for sending the take down notice.  Total cost was $150.  I like the adage: you use it, you bought it.  

        2. I agree, kudos to Mr. Powell.

          As a graphic designer, I accidently put a client in a situation as well.  Put up a picture (1 of 3) to showcase an interior design group and did not have photographer credit on them.  One of which was supposedly part of Masterfile, unbeknownst to me.  Long story short, they want restitution for a picture that was only up for three weeks and then archived to the tune or a year's use.  Wish they were more like Mr. Powell.

        3. I literally just emailed someone who was using my work without permission lol.  The internet is a great tool, but you do need to be careful about using media without doing your homework.  I have been a photographer for almost 20 years and I work very hard to put out great work.  It's cool when someone thinks your work is worth using on their blog but not cool when you don't get credit for it.  My work is copyrighted under a attribution and share-alike license (you must give proper attribution including but not limited to a link to the original) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

          P.S. If you need media to use for future blogs you're more than welcome to use my work (with proper attribution of course)  I also have many subject matters that are not visible that you could use, if you need a certain type of photo let me know.


          1. Mag,
            Your offer shows what type of character you have. I would like to take a look at your work. I would rather showcase someone’s work that wants to be seen verses support a company that is out to make more money than they need.
            I am an entrepreneur and love to support the same.

            You can email me at “admin at Strategic Businesses” dotcom

            Thank you,

      2. Thanks very much for sharing your story. And yes a hard lesson learnt, but l agree with Joseph's statement! Not all photographers are money grabbers and want to make a quick buck by catching companies, people etc out. But photographers have their interests to look after too. And as Joseph quite rightly points out. We ask you to remove our image you have no right too, then please remove it. Dont assume or underestimate that an individual photographer has no rights to take a business to court, we do and we will.

        As a photographer and a photography Student your article has helped me greatly too.


        1. I'm a photographer and an attorney and I do not think I would pursue some random small time infringement by a little website. However, not removing my image after a request would change the calculation for me. That would be a very unwise move. 

          "We ask you to remove our image you have no right too, then please remove it. "

          And a failure to remove it would substantially improves the photographers case for demonstrating willful infringement and potential statutory damages rise from UP TO $30,000 for unwillful to UP TO $150,000 for a willful infringement. Yes, you read those numbers correctly. Infringement is not a good idea'; willful infringement is a terrrible idea.


      3. I think the laws need changed so that most decent people are protected. A decent photographer just wants the photo down. Even the most careful people can make mistakes and it violates my sense of fair play to think a person can be sued for thousands of dollars by a serial plaintiff without the plaintiff asking for the photo to be removed first. There are seriously people out there making 500k a year just suing people on the Internet who honestly just didn’t know or couldn’t possibly know whose property it was.

    3. "Doesn’t the copyright owner of the photo have to prove the loss of $8,000, "

      No. Assuming said copyright owner was relying on the benefits of 17 USC 504(c).

      or even the $3,000 you ended up paying?

      No. See above.

      "Could you have taken him/her to trial and maybe ended up paying just the $100?"


      There are circumstances under which an infringer could be liable for as little as $200 (see, 17 U.S.C. 504(c)(2)).  Practically though you may pay a lawyer $50,000 and up (way up) if you want to go all the way to trial.  So really most are likely to settle. 

      Don't take photos off the web is the best way to avoid this or, like most people, you can roll the dice and play the law of large numbers (here, the law of large infringers) but don't whine if you get caught.

    4. Of course not. You really need to spend at least more than 10 seconds doing a search.

      It is extremely simple. If you did not caupture the image yourself, then you need the permission of the copyright holder BEFORE you use it. Permission is often only given if you pay for a license. If you ignore than, then you are guity of infringement, and the damages are statutory. 

    5. The problem about taking him to trial is that you'd loose, even if the value of the image was set to $100 instead of $1000 you'd still end up paying 3x the amount the image is worth because of the misuse of the image. Then you'd also be liable for his lawyers fees because prosecuting costs money.


      Many photographers use hours every week just sending out endless notices about image take downs and voluntarily sending out bills all day long but it's just endless hours of work doing so, and then only charging $500 for an abuse rather then $8000. But doing so an arguing with everyone who recieves an email about these things just completely takes the juice out of you so many in the end ends up just hiring a lawyer, which means they don't have to do it but instead computer hardware will.


      A somewhat well known photographer can often find as many as 10 copyright infringements per day on his images so you can imagine how much work it is hunting down ten people per day for years and years and arguing with just about all of them.

    6. to avoid image problems, I use Dashmote bit.ly/1LdSFlN they have huge choice of images and you can pay per image. I always think it is better to pay in advance a bit than call a lawyer. 

    7. The federal standard for unauthorized usage for copyrighted image that has not been registered with the united states copyright office is $10,000 per usage. Registered and it is $100,000. These are the statutory sent by Law.

      1. That is the maximum. It can also be as low as $200 depending on how willful the infringer was and how knowledgeable they were that they were violating copyright.

  2. Do these photos have any type of copyright marking so that you or me or anyone else would know that it is copyrighted? We develop websites and use IStock or Getty. I was not aware that Getty made this requirement. Also i am going to “borrow” your image to repost this and help spread the word. This is awful and scares me when i add an image to a post.

    Thank you for sharing!

    1. I’m not 100% sure, you’d have to check with a lawyer on that one. I don’t think the images need to have some sort of watermark or copyright, though – so we operate under the assumption that just because something doesn’t have a clear copyright, doesn’t mean we can use it in a blog. It’s much better to be safe than sorry, because the copyright infringement penalties are extremely severe.

      We buy or create ALL of our own graphics, although sometimes the good photos cost more than the standard stock options (which can be super cheesy). 

      Feel free to use the images in this post however you see fit – we’re glad this is raising awareness of image copyright laws!

    2. Photos don't need any time of 'copyright marking'. Copyright belongs to the creator of a work from the moment it's created. If you didn't create a work then you need permission of the creator (or the person they've assigned copyright to) to use it.

      1. Thanks for this very informative post. This has become a very hot topic in the blogging circles I'm involved with at this time, mainly due to a recent article posted on BlogHer. Thank you for allowing us to use your creative graphic, Kari. I appreciate you giving permission to spread the word.


        1. I was reading a blog and they posted a copy of a book that they were talking about.  They bought the book and took a picture of it.  And then I see a person post that they designed the cover of the book and this was copyright infringement…Surely that can't be true?  Does anyone know?




          1. They may have bought the book but they didn't buy the right to reproduce the image!

          2. To the best of my knowledge, Bill’s comment is not true. Fair use includes “commentary” and one of the legal blogs I just read stated generally if you are doing a book review and post a copy of the image of the book it’s fair use. Especially if you take a photo of the book yourself. Then the photo is your work even though the book is not. When in doubt call a lawyer or use Wiki Commons with appropriate citation.

    3. All images have copyright protection the moment they are created. In the past a copyright notice was required to be on the image for copyright protection but that is no longer the case. If there is a copyright notice on the image then an infringement would be considered wilful and and the maximum statutory award goes to $150,000 instead of $30,000.

      Assume everything is protected and do not use any images without explicit permission. If it is not yours then it is not yours. It is as simple as that.

    4. No photo needs to be marked. You must assume that any photo that you did not personally capture yourself is copyrighted.

    5. No. They mostly use bots & algorithms to catch the IP addresses of others using copyrighted works. IP-Echelon is a notorious copyright troll who uses this method to catch unsuspecting low hanging fruit.

  3. As a food blogger, this is an issue near and dear to my heart. The countless hours that I spend taking and editing photos, only to have them scraped from my site and posted onto a Google Adword infested site is appalling.

    I realize that you’re not an attorney, but your post was directly primarily to small business owners and bloggers. I’m just curious as to if this applies to the every day Joe or Jane, who takes a photo and recipe in its entirety and shares it to their Facebook wall so that all of their friends and family don’t have to click through a link to go to the actual blog post to retrieve the recipe.

    I know that there are plenty of people who do this harmlessly and with no knowledge that it’s copyright infringement, but what about those who’ve had improper use explained to them countless times, but who stand by the adage “if it’s on the Internet, it’s fair game” *insert nails scratching on a chalkboard here*

    1. Thanks for commenting! I can see why it’d be frustrating to have people scrape your images for gross adwords campaigns – I wouldn’t like that at all if it happened to me (although I’m no graphics whiz, so I don’t imagine anyone would want to steal my images in the first place). 

      Your FB question is an interesting one, and to be honest I’m not sure what the answer is. I know that if the average Joe or Jane posted the images to their blog, they could face copyright infringement penalties. Sharing via social media without a link may be a different story.

      If the person’s FB profile was set to private and they limited their viewing settings for posts, it probably wouldn’t be an issue.

      1. I certianly have no legal expertise, but to speculate, we all know social media can have a very monetary effect on businesses with bringing in new clients and also assisting with SEO which I can only image the stautory value of SEO. So if you are sueing for damages  it would certianly seem that you could make the case that the infringer was able to profit in some ways.

        Then they could also make the arguement that you were diluding thier social media value and decreasing thier profits from socail media.

        So all though it certianly sounds harmless to simpley use somebodys image on your social media, it may not be seen that way legally. But like I said I'm not an expert in any way so if anybody has a greater understanding of how CC are effected on Social media it would be good to know. Thanks

    2. For what it's worth, a recipe itself cannot be copyrighted.  How you describe the method of making the recipe is.

  4. Sorry to hear of your costly mistake. As a fine art photographer, selling my images on an online venue, I have seen plenty of copyright infringement. Whether I have a watermark or not it does not matter. My images are copyrighted to me the instant I click the shutter of my camera.

    Where the difference in penalty comes in is whether the creator registers their images through the government run copyright office. That changes the penalty from hundreds of dollars for each image infringement to thousands of dollars!

    Truthfully, whether you think the image is worth it or not really has nothing to do with it. If it has been registered with the copyright office, the creator is entitled to Statutory Damages.

    I usually send a DCMA letter first to the offender, and if the image is not taken down, then I will contact the website hosting company and then if it is still not taken down, then it is to the lawyers office.

    I know it sucks but this law helps those of us who create images be able to make a living without fear that if I upload my images onto the internet that everyone thinks that it is a free for all.

    As in many industries, there are always going to be those that take advantage of others. I am sorry that the lawyer and his client didn’t work with you with the penalty before they filed a law suit.

    Your experience will help others to realize that just because they find an image through Google images or anywhere else on the internet doesn’t mean that it is theirs to do with what they want. There are many tools out there to find the original owner of an image and it take minutes to do it.

    Thank you for your article!

    1. Thank you Gidget for taking the time to comment. As a blogger, I am really concerned about this issue. I am wondering if you can give me more information on the "many tools out there to find the original owner of an image." 

      When I find an awesome image on Google Images, I need to know how to use it. I don't want to hurt any artists, and I don't want to be hurt myself.


      1. If you’re going to go that route, make sure to do a reverse Google Image search and that should help you track down who it belongs to. Here’s how to use it: http://www.google.com/insidesearch/features/images/searchbyimage.html

    2. What the internet has done, though, is connect us so widely that we now know more than we ever did about other's work as well as inform us of the similarity of photographs.  I live in an area that has great photographic appeal.  The end result is that there are many, many photographers taking photos that often are hard to distinguish from one owner to another.  I went after someone who I thought was using one of our photos — nope it wasn't. They convinced us.  I have had folks coming after us with similar complaints but nope, the pics are our original work.  What IS the same is the visual in front of the camera.   At this point, we put copyright notice on all of our photos and embed it within the meta, but even then, you still have the "earth problem"..and tons of folks taking pics of the same durn thing!

      1. How in the world does someone prove they were the one with the camera in their hands (apart from still having possession of the negatives) when a picture (a casual snapshot…nothing commercial) was taken prior to 1946?

        1. As a photographer my copyright information and contact information are embeded within the metadata of every image as soon as I press the shutter button along with the time and date down to the second. Almost all digital cameras have this type of customization feature.

  5. Copyright law is actually quite simple — If you didn’t create it, don’t use it, unless of course you have permission. There are other “rights” involved in images too, e.g. right of personality/publicity when using an image of a person – even if you created the photo, without permission/license you can not publish the image, with limited exceptions.

    A work need not be registered to enforce rights or receive damages. Any eligible original work is protected under copyright as soon as it is produced in a tangible form. Registering your work allows you to collect certain legal expenses should you prevail in your claims, and offers a rebuttable presumption that it is in fact your creative work product.

    Using any image you find or come across anywhere can be an expensive mistake.

    1. That's completely wrong (except for the last line). Copyright law has an entire doctrine of fair use that permits people to use creative works they did not create.

      A work does not need to be registered to enforce rights. But those rights may be completely valueless to try to enforce without registration. Without registration, an author is not entitled to statutory damages; an author must prove his actual damages or profit to the infringer–which may be nil.

    2. I recently ran across 8 of my copyrighted images on another site, with authorship attributed to the person who pilfered them. She claims that they were "Fair Game" because she found them on the internet. 

      Ignorance of the law is no excuse, especially with the proliferation of "If you don't own it, don't use it" articles on the internet.

      Theft is theft, IMHO.

    3. Then the is the murky issue of "derivitive work."  I had a designer tell me that if a photo is re-shopped enough so that it is only vaguely recognizable as the original, then that is a derivitive work and no longer subject to the original copyright protection.  For example he showed me an image of a domed building with gondolas and hitching posts in the foreground.  He needed an image to go with publicity for an italian opera. First he mirrored the image so everything was reversed, then he added clouds to the sky, changed coloring of the dome and used the paint funciton in Photoshop to make brush strokes so the final product looked like an oild painting of a building on the water in possibly Venice.  Was he correct?  Does doing stuff like which renders the original photo changed so dramatically that it would legally fall under the derivitive work definition?

      And related, I see copyright notices and the circled C on many sites.  Is it smart to do this on one's site; does it afford any more protection other than the fact that once a site is published, de facto the contents is copyrighted.  As mentioned, a work need not be registered with the copyright office to be protected.  But if it's not registered, can you…should you still place the copyright notice on your website?



  6. You are actually quite lucky it cost you so little. Read the law and understand it. You are liable for up to $150,000 for the copyright infringement if the image is registered with the copyright office.

    I am a commercial photographer and I’ve had many images taken that were in Flash or on a web site with the right-click disabled. The easiest way to see if an image is copyrighted (In the USA every image is copyrighted at its inception) is to open the file in Photoshop and go to EDIT > File Info. You will find the metadata and if it is shot by a professional, most likely there contact information along with a caption.

    An image does not need to be marked with a copyright symbol to be protected.

    1. The EXIF information (The "File Info") can get lost pretty easily as images get shared around the internet. Facebook notoriously strips this information from every image posted, if I take your image, post it to FB, and someone else grabs it from FB, there's no embedded copyright data.

      Stock photography is available at extremely affordable prices for every subject.  My adivce to business owners is this: Just pay a few bucks up front, instead of living your life worrying about lawsuits.  Think of the stock agency as lawsuit insurance.


  7. Kari,

    This post which has been picked up by Ragan (http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/14912.aspx) reads more as sour grapes than informative. Perhaps you will reconsider the wounded tone. Your agency did something wrong, you were fined, you learned a lesson. It is about your behavior and the law, not the photographer or his lawyer.

    To begin: If your agency is as concerned with quality as you say, then why would you use an image that you say is “an altogether underwhelming photo of the city, which may or may not have been taken by a drunken college student with a camera phone in 2005. You wouldn’t see this photo and immediately go book a vacation there, is what I’m saying.”?

    Wouldn’t you want a better image?

    Also, why resort to name-calling for the photographer (a drunken college student with a camera phone) who had no idea you had stolen his photo, or the lawyer (Curtis M. Leech, Esq.), who appears to have actually provided a quality service to his client in the case.

    Just Saying

    1. I completely agree that we were in the wrong here – and I had (and have) no problem paying restitution for the damages incurred to the photographer. My issue here is with the amount, which was in no way proportional to the quality of the image, the value of the image or the real damages caused by the misuse of the image. I had two goals with this blog: first, to educate bloggers and small business owners about how costly copyright infringement penalties could be, so that they’d be more careful to not misuse copyrighted photos on their own websites. This blog will probably result in at least one blogger not infringing on the copyright of somebody else, which I consider a win. The second goal was to address the fact that in many cases, the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. 

      This event occurred quite a while ago, and we’ve since updated our editorial policy to require photos to be extremely high-quality, PAID FOR (we even keep the receipts!) and relevant to the blog’s content. We take a lot of pride in the content we write for our clients, but at the time we had less stringent standards for the images that went along with them. We absolutely do want better images, and were disappointed by our writer’s choice.

      The lawyer did a great job for his client – his goal was obviously to get as much money as possible from us, and he did. It was in the lawyer’s best interest to do so, since he almost certainly took at least one-third of the settlement as a fee for his services. That may or may not make him leechy, depending on your perspective. 


      1. Almost ALL photographers are small business owners.  Please don't pretend to be doing anyone a favor by educating them from  your experience.  You did wrong, and should have known it, and got smacked for it.  Take your medicine and shut up.  If the roles were reversed, and someone used YOUR copyrighted material without permission, you would be screaming like a little child.  Great job with making one of the most slanted blog posts in history.

        1. Wow, you are so biased it's not even funny!

          They admitted wrong and said they deserved to pay restitution.  They ARE doing a great job educating people.  I'm very thankful for this article.  I have used images in making a website without really checking if it was copywrited.  This has opened up my eyes a lot.

          The roles WERE reversed and they told people nicely at first to take the images down and passed up the chance to sue.

          The article is not slanted…. your perception IS slanted.  I wonder if you even know how bad you are off on this.  Sad…

          Proof?  How about this quote you missed…  Wow, they passed up the opportunity to sue people!  Wow!   How kind!  Bet YOU would snap judge and sue everyone possible based on the attitude and slant you show in your response.  Sad… that people like you exist…


          "Every single person who works for The Content Factory is a writer. We don’t want to infringe on anyone’s copyright any more than we want others to infringe on ours – and we’ve had to send DCMA takedown notices of our own before. By this logic, we’ve passed up countless opportunities to sue people. We’re okay with that."


          1. Sorry I made you so sad David.  I'll make sure I put a "happy face" at the end of this just for you. The fact that you have used images yourself without permission for a wedsite shows the real problem…..people going into business and not doing their homework like they should.  But the fact that they sent out DCMA takedown notices shows they knew about using materials without permission, but did it anyway.  Trying to play down the issue by belittling the photographer (who did absolutely nothing wrong) by saying the work was bad, " an altogether underwhelming photo of the city, which may or may not have been taken by a drunken college student with a camera phone" was in very poor taste.  If the image was so bad, why did you choose it?  Lets also not forget they used the image on a blog they did for a client, which means they were paid for it.  That means they profited from the use of the image.  This is what is at the core of copyright infringement…..profiting from someone elses work without compensating them for it.  Had proper channels been used, the fee for using the image would have been far less.  Not the photographers problem, its the responcibility of the end user to know this.  This is the real world David, and if others like you want to play in it you need to act like an adult, do your homework, and play by the rules.  Not do something wrong, get caught, and deflect by making a blog post ranting about how much it costs to get caught doing something wrong.  You have to pay to play.  I hope you are not as sad now, but I'm sure you are.  🙂

      2. If you steal $100 worth of goods from your local store, is your penalty on being caught going to be restricted to the value of what you stole? I don't think so.

        1. Hey Skippy, there is an implied "copyright" on everything.  If you wrote down directions to a local store and someone (for whatever reason) posted that discarded scrap of paper with your handwritten instructions without your permission, should they owe you thousands or even hundreds of dollars?  lol 

          A more likely scenario is someone snapping a humorous picture with their iPhone and uploading it online, where it spreads like wildfire.  Should everyone who forwarded that photo be sued for thousands of dollars? 

          One word….LOW LIFES!  Let's stop conflating worthless amateur copyrighted works with professional work.  By the way, this very post of mine has an "implied copyright"…so don't quote it in your reply otherwise i'll hire a shister attorney and SUE YOU for thousands of dollars.

          1. Don’t try and be clever, you just come across as a twit. Copyright requires that there be some kind of significant skill or original creative endeavour in order for copyright to apply, thus it applies to things such as paintings or photos, of course the definition of skill and creativity may be somewhat subjective but seriously it’s not hard to use your common sense. It clearly doesn’t apply to writing down instructions on a scrap of paper on how to get to the local store since this requires no real effort or creativity, if you wanted to create an elaborate and artistic map of the local area and then sell copies it would be different. Personally I get sick and tired of people pleading ignorance to this kind of thing as if it requires 3 years at design school to learn the difference. It’s quite simple, you see a photo or painting and you don’t get permission from the owner to use it, but you use it in a commercial capacity that benefits you, the owner has the right to be compensated. Don’t start whining and making up excuses like a bratty teenager (when you get caught) in a sleazy attempt to worm your way out of having to compensate someone for their work. Lose the over inflated sense of entitlement. Furthermore if a work genuinely is amateurish then it really can’t be that difficult to get off your lazy backside and produce something comparable of your own, that way you own the copyright and there won’t be a problem. So all in all there's no real excuse.

          2. Hi Bob,

            Thanks for your comment – all of it has been addressed in previous comments, with the exception of the “why don’t you produce your own images?” portion. To that, I say: didn’t you see the two images associated with this post? I made those myself, and to be honest I’m sort of disappointed you didn’t notice.


        2. The two aren't comparable. Theft from a store removes something from another's possession. Use of copyrighted material does not. Also, it's general knowledge that theft from a store is a crime. Not so with use of copyrighted images.

          Copyright infringement law was intended to deter pirates from copying and then reselling CDs, DVDs and videotapes. Putting a photo on a blog is hardly the same thing.

          1. David you are the closest thing to an ASS that I have read in a long time. Copyright law was around long before CD's… etc.

            It was… oh hell look it up.

            This whole page is one of the most narrowminded bolgs I have ever read!


          2. Hi John,

            Sorry you didn’t see value in the post – but I’m sure you’ll agree that there are a wide variety of opinions and thoughts on the matter in the comments section. 

            Thanks for reading!


          3. Let's see … just in the US the first copyright law was drafted in 1783. I never relaized CD and DVD's have been around that long LOL!

            It's that kind of incredible ignorance that get's people in trouble.


        3. That's a stupid analogy.  There's a difference between a tangible and non-tangible item.  A 5 year old can come online and "steal" an image.  

      3. Kari,
        Great response. I hate when people dwell on being ” politically correct” about everything someone says/writes.
        The Constitution says that we have Freedom of Speech. I stand behind The Constitution as long as I am able to.
        Your blog is on target and your intention is delivered professionally. Well done!

        Say what you want as long as it’s true. You opinion matters.

    2. Have to agree with that. I found myself wondering if the client knew you were using what you regarded as a second-rate product, and also if the client knew you did not have permission to use the image.

      I've been known to publish paid posts. Often images come with them. I usually try to track the image down but sometimes can't. Given the ignorance of copyright law displayed here — by commenters as well as the OP — it's safe to assume that simply asking the PR person whether the images in the paid post are legal is a waste of energy. After this, I will not publish posts that contain images. Period.

      The law applies to anything that can be reproduced in any medium — not just photos. A blog post, for example, is copyrighted the instant you put it in little glowing letters on your ocmputer. I've had "guest posts" show up that are identical reproductions of material posted elsewhere. It's easy to google a few words or a line to bring these up. I always check, and I will not run content that appears elsewhere, nor will I keep a post up if I find it somewhere else after the  person has paid me to publish it on my site.

      Facebook, Google, and waypoints can have terms of service — so can a blogger. The ground rules should be stated up front, in writing, before any money changes hands, with the understanding that any kind of copyright infringement will result in the "guest post" being taken down.

  8. So not using an image that doesn’t belong to you isn’t common sense? So let’s use an image that isn’t paid for, put it online, then piss and moan we we get caught. Oh, and call the photographer ugly names and make fun of their work.

  9. Theft is theft. If you had gone the legal route and asked before stealing the picture I bet the price would have been much lower, maybe even free. Sure $8000 may be a little steep for an image, but you put yourself in a bad position when you wait until after you have been caught perpetraiting a criminal act to negotiate the price. Consider yourself lucky to have negotiated it down to $3000.

  10. This is an interesting article. As a photographer and blogger, I realize it is frustrating for you to have to pay $8000 (or $3000) for what you perceive as a simple innocent mistake. But you must also put yourself in my shoes and realize how frustrating it is for me to spend my time and effort that could be put into MY business tracking down photos that were used (often times for-profit) without my permission. Maybe you don’t think the photographer’s photo was “worth” $3000, but what about the extra time spent (and therefore income lost) working out the settlement and the extra money spent hiring a lawyer? I recently spent over a week of my time, gas money on travel back and forth, a general bunch of stress tracking down a company who found one of my photos online and decided to sell it framed in a gift shop. Total amount in penalties I received in the end: $0. Talk about frustrating! How is that fair to me? Even in the cases where a simple takedown notice gets the stolen photo removed, it still takes up my time that I could be using to earn income. Maybe not that much for one case, but for the many cases I’ve had to deal with? It adds up quickly. You seem to understand the implications a $3000 fine has on your business, but you are failing to consider the business impact your actions and those of others has on a photography business.

    I’m not saying I think the photographer in your situation handled everything perfectly. I probably would have handled things differently myself. I just wanted you to consider that the amount you are paying isn’t just for whatever perceived value you have for the photograph.

    I’m happy to hear that your standard practice is to pay photographers for the right to use their images! You would be shocked to know how many people and businesses (even big name world-famous ones!) do not. Instead of casting blame on anyone, I think what we really need is more education for the general public on copyright laws. The internet has really changed media over the last 20 years. Copyright law is not an easy thing to understand for most people and I believe most of them misuse photography out of ignorance rather than malice. More education would save companies like yours from having to pay large penalties as well as saving photographers like myself a whole host of problems and lost income.

    1. You make a good point there about lost time and income tracking all this down.  I think the purpose here was definitely to "educate" us on copyright law, so I am willing to give the writer the benefit of the doubt that she tried to do the right thing as a business owner and learned one heck of a lesson here about surpervising her employees and contractors.

      Back to that lost time and income.  An artist friend of mine who is especially good at tourist-market pictures of New York City told me about 20 years ago that he found his image on a t-shirt by someone walking by.  He was, of course, furious, so he investigated by tracking back to where this originated.  Then he went into the t-shirt store and, without identifying himself as the artist, asked them what kind of deal they would cut him for all their stock of t-shirts with that image on them.  They were glad to make the deal, and he got the t-shirts at a deep discount — a price much less, he told me, than a t-shirt production company would have charged him, all while avoiding legal fees.  He told me this as we sat in front of a gallery on Bleecker Street selling these thingies for $20 a pop. . . . It's just too bad that Internet use doesn't lend itself to this kind of reciprocal rip-off.

      I thank Kari for her article, which I kind of stumbled on.  I am actually using two images that I don't have a right to, thinking that (1) in the case of the image I used on flyers in New York the original user in Tennessee wouldn't notice (probably right) and (2) in the case of the image I used on a Web site, I'd just have the option to remove it if the photographer objected (wrong).  I'm going to clean up my act, right quick!

      So I think Kari did the photographer/graphic artist community a great service here, give or take a few insulting remarks.

  11. I use Wylio.com to find legal pictures for me. 🙂 Made it way easier on me and I didn’t have to stress so much over it.

    Sucks you had to go through that!

  12. Someone mentioned Wylio, which searches for Creative Commons images.  

    One problem with a Creative Commons license is, what if the image owner changes his or her mind later?  How will you know?  And will you have any documentation that it was a Creative Commons license to begin with?  Most people don't save that kind of information. How are you going to prove it?

    It's one thing if you use one image, but what if you use hundreds of images over a period of years?  You probably won't be able to defend yourself.

    The best thing is to use only images that you've bought, or taken yourself, or are in the public domain (such as some U.S. government images or certain Wikipedia images), or that companies put out specifically for media usage.  Creative Commons licenses leave you too exposed.


    1. Anoterh concer with using creative commons is that most people that post images as creative common on youtube, vimeo or any where else may not actual have the rights ot hat image them self and have not idea what creative commons i but thinks it sounds like good license to select for some random thing that they found and wnat to share. And guess whos liable, you guessed it not the kid who posted incorrectly but you gor your use of it. So creative coomons gets pretty sticky. bu tonce you post it as Creative commons you are never able to chnage that licnnse

    2. If you get the Creative Commons image from a reputable site that lists the creative common license that has been assigned, take a screen shot that documents the date, photo, the photographer and the licence – and keep it filed. Keep a xcel file of creative commons photos with the photograph, the photographer, the site obtained from and the file name/code. Often the creative commons source says that the license status when optained is the status that has to be kept – but you have to document it. 

  13. The legal profession can easily cease being useful to its clients whenever it no longer tempers guidance on the law with reality, particularly business reality, as well as the human desires of clients. Lawyers frequently see themselves as people paid to win cases and that simply is not always true. Sometimes you serve clients by knowing when the fight is not worth it.

  14. “Our editorial standards are obnoxiously high, and we do our best to write the best web content our clients (and their competitors) have ever seen.”

    Photographs are also content. Some writers and editors treat photographs as decorations to break up their copy. Shouldn’t your standards for photography also be “obnoxiously high?”

    If you are trying to engage your clients’ customers, use good photographs.

    1. We totally agree, Tom! Now, we use the same editiorial process for images as we do for content. Regularly using high quality, relevant images is an imortant aspect of any blogging strategy – and we're happy to pay for them.

  15. So, unfortunately I found this blog following a nice letter from a company telling me I owe them $1260 in damages, how would you like to pay? 

    I’m a new small business owner who started a blog with the intent to educate people (followers) about financial issues and information to include retirement, investments, financial news, and quick facts.  I was a teacher and police officer (side comments to yourselves 😉 ) so educating is a passion of mine. 

    I admittedly knew too little about the blogging world, and my flawed understanding of copyright laws turned out to be a downfall of mine.  I originally attempted to find the original source of said picture but never located it.  I then assumed that it was "Public Domain" and was only going to use it for "Educational" purposes.  Boy was I wrong. 

    I too want to argue that I only received 20 views of said blog (some from myself), wasn’t looking to make any monetary gain from the picture or blog, wasn't intentionally stealing it, tried to locate the owner of the picture and couldn't <- can prove that the picture is buried under multiple other sites in a search engine, none of which were the original owner, as well as assumed it was under the fair use act.

    This is not something to mess around with, the laws are in favor of the author/artist.  Which I agree that they need protection, but there also has to be an easy way to identify copyright, and this information needs to be publicly known.  This is not common sense and is a truly unfortunate situation for unsuspecting people like us.

    I have sent a request to my local newspaper to do a story to educate their followers about copyright laws.  I encourage everyone to do the same.

    —-Side note— the government is shut down so i couldn’t contact the CopyRight government agency for help nor could I view the website.  L…O…L

  16. I'm all for tackling online thieves but to sue someone who stole your image before even trying to amicably settle it off court it's ridiculous. Also, demanding an $8,000 settlement fee for an image is extortionate. Did your laywer care to find out why Mr Leech was requesting such a high settlemtn amount?

    1. As we understand it, we weren’t being sued for “actual damages” so it didn’t really matter how much the photo was really worth and that’s why the original amount was so high. 

    2. I am thinking that both lawyers may have made as much money as the college student on the $3,000 settlement. You had to pay your defending lawyer as well as the $3,000, right?

      Why did the plaintiff lawyer agree to $3,000 if they could have gotten $30,000 in court? Out of the goodness of their heart?

      No, I think it is because the plaintiff lawyer was looking at a $200 statutory settlement from court and no money for himself or the college student.

  17. Kari,

    It is nice to see a post warning people about copyright infringement. It is unfortunate, however,  that you chose to sling mud at the photograph and the photographer. Your bitterness got in the way of a great informative post.

    It is clear you don't understand how photographers make a living. I kno wthat you can't know everything about another persons livelihood but you still need to respect a persons intillectual property – whether you like the content or not.

    I will give you an example. I have many images infringed. At any time I can shoe you literally thousands of infringing uses of my images on the internet. I can't possibiliy stop all of them. In one case an image was used by a company on Facebook. That image was 'Liked' just under a million times. There were over 6,000 comments on the image and it was 'Shared' over 65,000 times.

    As a photographer I license the use of my images. Licensing them exclusively or as a first time use brings in the most money for an image. An image that has been copied off Facebook over 65,000 times can not be licensed as exclusive or first time use. Those options were taken away from me. My ability to make money from that image was taken away from me because someone decided to post it to their Facebook page.

    It is very clear on my website that my images are protected by copyright. Once a person illegally takes an image from my site and posts it on thier own site or Facebook the copyright notice on my page does not go with and the notification that was intended is now gone.

    In the case of the image you used all it takes is one person to take it and use it in a way that it is copied tens of thousands of times. The fact is that you do not know what effect your use of the image has and you have no right to assume that nothing happened.

    It is difficult or impossible to quantify the damage that has been done by an illegal use of another persons intillectual property. Statutory damages are available to overcome the difficulty in showing dollar damages. Statutory damages are also meant to be a way to deter people from infringing other peoples works.

    On another note – I have absolutley no tolerance for a site that uses one of my images without my permission and post it on their site where they have a copyright notice posted. If you are going to use a copyright notice to protect your own content then you have no right saying you didn't understand the rules of copyright.

    1. Copyright governs quite a few sections of law, not just "this is mine" law.

      Using the word "copyright" on a website is telling people that the domain name is copyrighted. Still, someone sourcing 'yourwebsite.com' does not mean they stole your work. It's simply sharing, which is what people like you have no concept of.

      Google indexing your website is the distribution of your copyrighted work, are you going to sue Google, Yahoo, Bing etc for sharing your copyrighted work with those who may stumble upon it through search engines? Or did you forget that Google and sites alike are also websites, just like any other site who is willing to give photographers a good reputation.

      To make a dollar you need someone to give you a dollar, it will not just appear out of thin air, and for someone to give you a dollar you need a way to grab their attention.

      Google alone will not share the artwork of someone, but people who are willing to share that work for you will help out a LOT.

      You may sell your photography under a license, but did you ever consider that someone may have stumbled upon your site by first stumbling upon someone elses?

      Let's imagine that you're making absolutely nothing and no one wants to use your crappy images… then one day, I come along and feature one or two of your images on my website, with credit while I include some educational information to back up the photograph, so that i'm not just talking about your crummy picture.

      Someone who likes crap art sees the image and visits the link that I sourced to you and they ultimately decide to purchase one of your images or a license = I gave you profit and then you turn around and sue me for $8,000 = ridiculous.

      Photography is a joke by the way.

      1. wow that is the most ignorant post I've ever seen, and to top it off, you insult a profession. Why is photography a joke exactly? Art is subjective, maybe to you it looks like crap but in someone else's eye it's amazing. I personally think picasso's work does not suit my taste, but that doesn't mean it's "crap". It's obviously good to many people as quite a few are willing to pay millions of dollars for an authentic piece. Just because I don't enjoy his work, doesn't mean I can go around saying "painting is a joke". You my friend are a tool.

        1. I’m not sure where you saw that we called photography a joke – in fact, we value it as a service and regularly pay for images for blogs. With that said, the image of Omaha that we got sued for was no Picasso painting (so I’m not sure that’s a fair comparison).

    2. Scott — You bring up an interesting topic re the re-use of photographs and more — cartoons, witty sayings within images, graphics, illustrations — on Facebook and other social media.  It gave me pause, wondering why everyone on Facebook has not sued as the violation of copyright just on that social media site is overwhelming.  And, of course, there is Pinterest and Twitter.  I have not Googled/searched on this but you cause me to wonder if perhaps there will be a legal explosion in the not too distant future that forbids the sharing that occurs on these sites, particularly given your words on distribution.  I would think that yes, what occurs on these social media sites is a violation everytime a person shares anything that is not created by them.  I did not include "paid by them" as we all know that payment carries with it terms that define usage.   

      Any attorneys here?  Would love to hear your thoughts..




  18. Thanks for the informative article.

    A question: If the original image is old enough to have gone out of copyright, but it has been re-photographed by someone more recently, does this second person own the copyright?


    1. If the copyright has expired on the original image, then a subsequent person that photographs that image owns only the copyright to the photo that he/she took, but if another photographer took a photo of the same expired copyright image, they then would own the copyright to that particular photograph.

      For example, someone's photograph of a particular house is copyrighted as to that image, but I can go out and take my own photograph of that image and own the copyright to that photograph.

      1. The second person would own a copyright on that photograph if and only if the second person has exhibited creativity in their photograph and not just reproduced an exact copy of the original. However, the bar for courts of how much creativity needs to be shown is quite low.

        For example, a book that reprints essays or poems that are in the public domain does not own a copyright on the individual essay or poem, but rather on the arrangement of the essays or poems within the book, as long as it was deemed to be a "creative" arrangement.

        In Feist v. Rural, duplicating listings found in a phonebook and arranging listings in an alphabetical manner did not exhibit a modicum of creativity. Since facts are not copyrightable, there was no valid copyright in the original phonebook.

  19. Hey, my fiance recently had a lot of negative feedback from crummy photographers who didn't want her using their images on her educational site. Some kindly asked for them to be removed while others threatened to sue etc etc (who held no copyright, just wanted to make pointless threats) so we came about reading into the concept of fair use.

    Don't want to be confirmation biased though so I found a few articles such as this one.

    It just doesn't make sense to me though, there seems to be a lot of people who have been sued by copyright holders because of this, even when the article was informational and in relation to the image being used.

    My question is, is it just a dumb judge who is making the bad decision or is there some loop hole around the law?

    I was reading on copyright.gov, here, and it seems that fair use protects the use of content as long as it is educational.

    Did you argue the point in court at all or was it quickly resolved?

    We've removed all images that have been put on the site without permission, just in case, but it just seems so ridiculous to me. Bad judge or other reason to people actually being sued?

    1. Matthew – The "fair use" provision requires consideration of all four factors, not just "is the use of the copyrighted work for educational purposes?" 

      Let's say I went to your fiance's site and copied the entire text of an article, then published on my website without her permission, illustrating it with my photographs.  It would still be "educational", right?  Would that be OK? If she asked me not to do that, would that make her a "crummy writer?"


  20. Kari,

    While some on here felt your tone was overboard, I think you showed a great deal of restraint. The core issue here is the penalty not fitting the crime. An image that would not have made the photographer any money ends up netting the photographer $3,000 (minus the attorney's fees). To the commenter above stating you can't quantify the loss caused by the illegal use of an image, I say in this case, yes you can. Please. It was a crap photo of a city. Let's not glorify its potential to generate money. Other than through this sham of a legal process concerning copyrighted images, that is.

     The legal system is supposed to be about justice. Really? Does anyone with a modicum of common sense not believe the now-$3k-richer photographer and the opportunist attorney are not laughing all the way to the bank, having fatly profited off of the "injustice" they were victims of? 

    Finally, I would argue that the issue of "stealing" photographs is not necessarily common sense anymore. In the age of Instagram and Pinterest (and well before), people routinely grab ("steal" if you will) pictures from wherever they see them on the web and repost, share, make into memes, organize into categories,etc.; it's an extremely common practice. Perhaps some of you think people should be aware of the finer points of copyright law as it pertains to images. The reality is, many, if not the majority, aren't aware of the laws. Don't believe me? Perform a search of the issue and These laws are the digital version of a speed trap on the highway. 

    Should there be laws in place to protect photographers? Absolutely, in cases where there is a legitimate loss of income or potential income involved. But a photographer / attorney tag team scoring $3k (a legal value considering the initial $8k demand) for a cruddy photo of Omaha, Nebraska? Who is the real victim here?


    1. So who is to say what "cruddy" is? Take your own photos and it won't be an issue, or at least try to contact the photographer, especially if said image is being used for marketing purposes (which includes blogs).

      I would have zero problem suing someone who used my material for promotional purposes and then had the audacity to say that they didn't think it was a big deal because they felt the image itself was sub-par (which also says something about the level of quality they are providing to their clients).

      Some random mom using it for her personal blog? Not a huge deal. But a marketing firm/agency is a different story, seriously.

      1. Pantone — Why would you not object to the "random mom" using it on a personal blog?  The reason that copyright of illustrations, photos and copy is not understood is because of such exceptions. That mom is committing a crime.  If that "mom" has her hands slightly slapped, she would serve as excellent word-of-mouth and before you know it we might have a world that understands copyright.  As she is not profiting commercially, I could agree that she should not be penalized for thousands of dollars as there is no gain but nevertheless, she has violated the law. 


    2. It wasn't "crummy" enough for the website not to use it.

      And yes, art is subjective, that is why there are statutory damages. Someone else may have taken an incredible, awe-inspiring photograph of an angel coming down from heaven or an actual UFO that clearly would have far greater commercial value than the statutory limit.

      Finally, they had an option not to settle, to take it before a judge and/or jury, and to argue for lesser damages owed and they chose not to. (Wisely, since it undoubtedly would have cost much more than $3,000 in fees and time to litigate, but nevertheless, that was an option.)

    3. This response by Alex shows exactly why copyright laws are needed.

      "An image that would not have made the photographer any money ends up netting the photographer $3,000 (minus the attorney's fees)." And this: "The legal system is supposed to be about justice. Really? Does anyone with a modicum of common sense not believe the now-$3k-richer photographer and the opportunist attorney are not laughing all the way to the bank, having fatly profited off of the "injustice" they were victims of?" And I love this: "Should there be laws in place to protect photographers? Absolutely, in cases where there is a legitimate loss of income or potential income involved. But a photographer / attorney tag team scoring $3k (a legal value considering the initial $8k demand) for a cruddy photo of Omaha, Nebraska? Who is the real victim here?"

      Copyright laws protect certain exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, display or perform the protected work, or to make derivative works from the original work. Copyright laws exist not just to protect the potential income associated with the work (although that certainly deserves protection), but in essence to allow the creator to control HOW the work is displayed.

      It doesn't matter whether you (or the Content Factory) think the work is worth protecting or not. The law says it is.

      And fortunately, as is often the case in the law, whether it is life, liberty, property, or other rights that are taken, penalties are not decided based on the infringer's belief (or disbelief) in the value of the underlying thing. As is the case with most violations in the law, the perpetrator values the "thing" (in this case some cruddy photo of Omaha, Nebraska that was apparently still worth stealing) significantly less than the owner does.

      Even more fortunately, ignorance of the law is no defense. There is just so much ignorance. Especially when people like Alex start bitterly claiming that the thief is the victim. Wow, just wow. It is obvious to so many that taking something that does not belong to them (whether watermarked or not), just doesn't seem like the right thing to do, regardless of what the law says AND regardless of any income potential associated with the thing being taken. And yet because stealing images is so darn easy to do, there are so many other people that willingly do it, just because it is easy.

      This is why we need courts and judges (which be necessity requires those darn attorneys "laughing all the way to the bank") that will actually enforce the laws and educate those who choose to remain ignorant.

  21. Forgive what may sound like irritation with this subject but, as the principle is stated, "ignorance of the law excuses no one." 

    The bottom line is this, if you want to make a living doing creative work–design, copywriting, photograpy, illustration, advertising, and so on–the minimum requirement is that you learn and understand the laws by which your field is governed.  

    When, for example, a client pays a designer to research its business and develop an identity program, it stands to reason that the law protects that clients investment by restricting others form using the same solution under their own name.

    It's the same with a photograph–though they often appear deceptively simple, we need to understand the context of the cost: 

    How much, for example, did it cost to reach the location?
    How many people were on the crew?
    What type of special lighting was involved?
    How much did the camera cost?
    How much did it cost to rent the props?
    Were releases secured for the models and the property?
    Was a stylist involved? And so on.

    But let's say the photograph was taken with a camera phone, and captured an extraordinary image that stops viewers in their tracks. There is value in that too. And that's what's wonderful and exciting about a creative career. If you can bring a point of view to the work that people value, you can command whatever others are willing to pay.

    But pure frustration kicks in when, in 2013, people intentionally usurp the work of creatives who have committed themselves to do the hard work it takes to build an audience. And then feign ignorance of principles so widely publicized and understood–it's the ultimate insult.

    The surefire way to avoid copyright infringement? Be original. 


  22. I would never hire a "PR firm" that has such a whiny, snarky, unprofessional article on their own site. Furthermore, you emphasize that you not only stole someone else's work but used it on a client's page despite it looking as if it was taken by "drunken college student with a camera phone." Is this the quality your clients can expect? And if you weren't aware the main rule in content creation (that the content must actually be created) how could one possibly expect you to be knowledgeable about more obscure rules and laws. Plus, you imply that you only care about 'ridiculous' copyright laws because you were sued, thus denoting a lack of ethics on your part. To top it all off, you try to rationalize your use of copyrighted material by claiming that the photographer was too small and crappy to be important and that your client's website that you put it on was barely had enough traffic to care about. (Isn't creating traffic what you're supposed to be doing?)


    But the worst flaw is: if a supposed PR firm doesn't know better than to refrain from venting on their own site, they have no grasp of the field of public relations. (What you did here is the exact thing a major PR firm would keeping its clients from doing.) You got sued, cry to your mom, cry to your friends, but don't do it on the Internet. 


    As a Communication student, I'll be printing out this article to give to the PR teacher in my department. I'm sure she'll find it amusing as it breaks about every PR rule in existence. She might even use it in a lecture on how not to write a profession article / why people shouldn't vent on the Internet. Of course, I'm sure you don't mind if we use you work without your consent. I mean, you’re so little and crappy.


    P.S. I only wrote this so you’d rethink this post since you seem nice in the ‘about’ section. I took the time to give you a lot of information; digest it and use it. And delete or rewrite this post.

    1. Hi Jeremiah,

      I hope you’ll find that we DID take responsibility for the image, and explained how the whole thing happened. The purpose of this post wasn’t just to bitch about what happened (although I found it quite cathartic to do so), it’s also to educate people about how a simple copyright infringement mistake can end up costing them thousands of dollars, regardless of how much the image might actually be worth. We work with dozens of other agencies, and the vast majority have been sued for the same thing and kept their mouths shut about it for the reason you just described. This doesnt help anyone. I agree that I could’ve been more apologetic about the whole situation in this post, but I thought the fat check I wrote the photographer’s attorney was apology enough and now I’m done apologizing.

      Unexpectedly, this post has even brought in some business to us – I’ve received significantly more “thank you” emails than comments like yours. In fact, most of the pushback we’ve recieved has been from other PR people and photographers, neither of which are our target market. So I won’t be deleting the post and I’ll continue to approve negative comments on the blog – if for no other reason than the SEO value of all the user-generated content, which will continue to bring potential clients through our door.

      Thanks for the feedback, and have fun in class!

      1. "I agree that I could've been more apologetic about the whole situation in this post, but I thought the fat check I wrote the photographer's attorney was apology enough and now I'm done apologizing."

        Ha!…I f* king LOVE you Kari! Both your writing and tone are sheer perfection, especially in light of the despicable, low life, immoral parasites that preyed on you.You actually made a boring subject pretty entertaining too.

        And FYI, unlike some of these drama queens on here, I would totally hire a PR company like yours if/when I could afford it. For one thing you have a cool personality that comes across in your writing, so I'd expect you'd have a correspondingly cool take on whatever you'd be doing for me. Secondly, it was VERY generous of you to  write this post to help others (definitely helped me) and your cut-through-the-crap rendition of events was just the incredibly awesome icing on the cake.

        Best wishes for continued success – You deserve it!!!



      2. I was with you until you said that your check was payment enough for belittling another human being publicly by demeaning his or her photograph. I can imagine some in Picasso's day finding his work "crap" as well ("That does not look anything like me – what a crappy painter this guy is – but I think I'll try to profit off his work anyway")

        You decided to pay to settle something that you knew was wrong. You admit it, and you want others to learn from it. But yes, casting the attorney and his client in the manner chosen comes off as petty, which I forgave until you tried to justify it as being part of what you "bought" with the settlement. Please. That's like celebrity child abusers who pay off accusers in settlements rather than go to trial then demeaning and further damaging the child with malicious statements publicly and saying "well, I paid a lot of money to settle so my continued verbal abuse is justified.

    2. Absolutely the best comment here – it's like this firm and GoldieBlox studied the absolute lowest common denominator of morals / ethics / principles, and retreat to "Oh poor little me!" when called on drastically bad behavior. It's absolutely stunning the cognative dissonance that must be going on for somebody to HIRE A PR FIRM THAT DIDN'T UNDERSTAND COPYRIGHT AND THROWS A TANTRUM WHEN FORCED TO LEARN ABOUT IT THE HARD WAY. If you think that $8,000 was expensive, these words and this example is going to result in publicity that you really don't want. When the tsunami of the internet hate machine finally rolls in (because it's inevitable, I've watched these things many times from the sidelines, as I will here), your next letter will be a lot different in tone I think. Good luck!

      1. Hi Vernon,

        I’m 100% okay with the tone of this post, which was published last year. Feel free to keep watching from the sidelines and waiting for fireworks, but I think it’s going to be a boring show 🙂

  23. Thanks for the info! It really gave me something to think about & I didn't realize that google images can get you in trouble. I will surely do the research now & not use images that I can't find the author for.

  24. As a writer and photographer I have spent hundreds of hours working on an article and tens of hours building an image… and then to my dismay to find some 'expletive deleted' person has ripped off my content to build a blog… Sometimes the article or image may have taken years of research and preparation. Later this year i intend to hire a lawyer and start a new project called aptly, "Search and Destroy".

  25. What an interesting read, thank you.

    I am an amateur photographer who enjoys short oval motor sport here in the UK. I have friends who have "hard" photo archives dating back to the 70's & beyond who have kindly loaned me the images to be scanned to digital so a new audience can enjoy them. Now here's my problem: I am now aware that some of these images were taken by professionals who have requested they be removed from my Facebook page, something I have absolutely no problem with, however, none of the "hard" pics are marked in any way so how am I supposed to know what is copyright & what is not? It's ok saying only use your own images but I wasn't taking pics in the 70's, ignorance is no answer I'm aware, so do I now close down a page I have worked a year on due to 1 person asking for his images to be removed (without him giving me a list of his work or proof that the image really is his)? How do I know if this is simply some kind of "sour grapes" or a genuine request?

    Minefield is the word that springs to mind, now I am stuck between a rock & hard place, thoughts welcome!

  26. I loved up to you’ll obtain carried out right here. The sketch is tasteful, your authored material stylish. nonetheless, you command get bought an edginess over that you want be handing over the following. sick indisputably come further previously again as precisely the same nearly a lot frequently inside case you protect this increase.

  27. If you didn't steal photos then you wouldn't have to worry about predatory lawyers. Hire a photographer or purchase stock photography like any other professional agency/marketer. Laziness is expensive.

  28. For statutory damages, the photography had to be registered with the US copyright office.

    Was this the case???

    Most photographers haven’t registered their photos, so they must prove “actual damages” from the infringement.


    It sounds like you got scewed. I cant imagine a judge awaring very much at all for a shitty photo no one cares about for non-malicious usage.   Sounds like your attorney sucked.

    You got copyright trolled, period.  


    I'm a photographer and at best I would expect maybe $50 for someone to use a non-special, nearly worthless photo of mine on a blog that got 100 views.  


  29. Regarding theft is theft, that would imply bloggers intentionally steal images, which isn't the case. Most bloggers use an image to report news or such.

    100 views pays most bloggers literally nothing. 50 bucks is steep. 

  30. What amazes more than individuals seeking out justice for copyright infringement is the digital desigers today. A great majority of them use illegally obtained, stolen, patched, or cracked software such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Acrobat to create graphics and PDF files for the sole purpose of selling it.

    I am all for individuals selling digital content and protecting it, as long as they actually owned the software they used to create the product.

    Personally I think the big companies should go after the idividuals creating any type of content for the purpose of making a profit who have not legally bought such said product. These individuals think so little of the big Companies but in reality these type of thefts may not put the ding in the big CO but it does trickle down to their employees trying to do an honest days work.

    Adobe has, or had, in place a system in which if an individual created anything using their products which were not actually purchased. The individual would be fined a minimum of $10,000 plus another fine for every digital copy of the item they sold. In the long run it's just cheaper, and more appropriate to shell out the money to legally own the product. Plus these individuals might feel better about themselves.

    In the Crafting genre of digital items, regardless of craft, have gone so far as to issue death threats to individuals who have shared an item they purchased. Yes, death threats. There is something fundamentally wrong with individuals who go to the extreme to give such threats, especially when they theselves, often own software, of any time, that they never purchased.

    Big companies need to listen up and go after those that create but do so illegally.

  31. I find Kari's post informative. However, she is a professional content creator for the web. She is paid to write materials for other's websites.  If her content was just duplicated by other's would she sue? Would she consider the attorney representing her a "Leech"? Not a very professional approach.  Most middle schoolers know that you can't just copy other peoples work from the internet. We call it stealing.

    If you're a kid, infringing a copyright, that's one level of penalty, but I don't think that a business owner, whose primary business is content creation get's to whine about the penalty, when they fail to supervise an employee on a job for which they were compensated financially.



  32. You had the right idea with this artcle but then went and wrote it like a petulant child that will probably make potential future clients think twice about hiring you.

    Name calling, re-victimizing the photographer YOU STOLE FROM … what are you? 10?

    I especially love your insults of the photo you stole. So things are only protected by copyright if YOU think it has value? Well, if you STOLE IT decided to use it for the article it must have had SOME value.

    Does this mean that if I think one of your articles is garbage I can use it on my blog? Didn't think so.

    You claim it was an hoest mistake but everyone who is caught stealing claims the same thing or a varation of it.

    – My web designer did it.
    – A new staff member did it.
    – I found it on Google.
    – I didn't do it my account was hacked (rolls eyes).
    – I didn't read the agreement from the stock company.

    Go to http://stopstealingphotos.tumblr.com/ and see some doozies.

    It's ALWAYS a mistake. If you can prove it's a mistake then head to court and the judge will decide. Well, guess what, it;s not the photographer's job to prove your innocense … the facts are the image was used without permission … end of story … now it;s your problem to prove that it was a mistake or that the use was permissable.

    I strongly suggest you retract this post and re-write it in a less childish tone.

    1. To:  Eric, I have no idea what you are referring to, please explain?  If I have done something to hurt, harm, steal, infringe upon your protected rights.  Then yes I am extremely sorry and feel terrible about what you have written.  However, I realy, realy do not understand what you are referring to.  Please send me an email with regards to how, what , when and how I have done anything wrong please?  I need to know what I need to correct/take a particular post down about you?

      Many thanks, Lara Clarke lara.clarke@gmail.com  10/21/2015 @ 7:11 pm 

  33. The lawyer is a leech, the photographer is a drunken college student with a camera phone, copyright laws are Draconian and the picture you used was crappy. You were only too happy to steal it – because that's exactly what taking something that does not belong to you without permission or compensation boils down to – and you have the audacity to write a woest me piece? Give me a break! In spite of your claims, you have learned nothing from this experience. I'm glad you got caught. You did the wrong thing. I hope more slime bucket infringers are caught and sued. Take your own crappy pictures for your damned blogs, websites and social media and stop stealing other people's work.

  34. As a professional photographer who happens to live and create images of Omaha (hopefully better than the one that was stolen) and who has had some images of said city stolen, I feel I should perhaps weigh in a bit here.  First, though I should mention, I am NOT the individual that sued.

    Photography is what I do, it is my job.  I wake up every day, grab the camera and take photographs.  I then go through the painstaking process of processing them, marketing them, selling them, etc.  Like any other job, it’s a ton of work and frankly doesn’t pay very well.  Most photographers do it for the love of the art rather than fame or fortune.  

    Last year I was sitting at a restaurant and I grabbed a book that showcased Omaha.  To my dismay this particular book had my image of Omaha on the cover (this book had a run of thousands).  I took a copy of this book and proceeded to contact the publisher.  The individual I talked with happened to be a lawyer and he was stunned that this had occurred.  We discussed different methods of reimbursement, but ultimately I invoiced him what I would have normally charged someone looking for that particular use.  He gladly paid it and thanked me for not suing and assured me that it would not happen again.  In this case, I had no lawyer and we parted on friendly terms.  To me, reputation is worth more than getting an extra $1k or 2 out of the company.  I even sent him a holiday gift of my yearly calendar.

    When my image was stolen I went through a range of classically designated “negative” emotions, disgust, violation, anger, etc.  Something that I had worked so hard to create, was ultimately stolen.  In the end, though both the publisher and I exited the situation in a positive light.  

    It is too bad that the photographer in question took to suing immediately and left you with a bitter taste.  I hope that you have found that not all photographers are like this.  Many of us work hard and although you felt the image was sub-par to that photographer he might have felt like it was his baby that you wrenched from him.

    I am glad you wrote this article to warn others of this potentially folly.  The Internet makes things so easy sometimes we forget that what we grab could be days, weeks, months, or years worth of work and inspiration.  Your experience is a good reminder to all to keep all of that in mind.

    Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston

    1. What is too bad is that you didn't take your copyright more seriously. You were entitled to more compensation than you settled for and the so-called "stunned lawyer" played you. This is exactly why photographers get trampled and certain people don't treat our work – and our rights – with respect. The photographer that sued and left the infringer that wrote this blog with a "bitter taste" did the smart thing and it is that photographer – not the blogger – who should be credited with what prompted the writer to "warn others of this potential folly." Had the blogger not been caught and sued, we wouldn't be reading this, right?

  35. We got gigged by Getty images – got 11 page document/invoice from Getty. Apparently were imporperly using a picture of a parakeet photoshopped (poorly) onto the perch of a specialy bird scale. 


    We had gotten the image from the manufacturers website which one would think would make you Golden. I called Getty to try to cop a plea with my argument being that all birds of a particular species are identical. How could they possibly know this "thier" picture? The response was what I expected "we examine all of the images out of the pixel level in can identify every individual image we have"

    I forwarded the "invoice" to the manufacture, who thankfully paid promptly as it looked as it looked as though we shook them up. 

    Moral of the story? Vet EVERY image



    1. That’s a great question! Technically, yes some one could be sued for using others’ images on social media sites and using them as their own. This PBS article does a great job of breaking it down. To be safe, use images that you create or purchase and always attribute when sharing photos from other sites and “tag” when appropriate. You should also make sure that the photos that you’re sharing on social media sites (especially on Pinterest) belong to the folks that are initially sharing them so you can attribute them appropriately. 

  36. Hi Kari

    I'm on the other side of the fence right now. A news article recently 'copy pasted' one of my viral articles and published it on their site. Of course, it was 100% written by me, and the photos were all taken by me as well. No permission was ever asked for or given.

    I've issued a DMCA request to Google, althought this seems like it will only remove the article from Google and not take down the article from their actual site. I've tried a whois domain search, but couldn't find out who the host is.

    Have contacted the site owner through various mediums – no reply.

    You can see the infringing work here: http://www.allsingaporestuff.com/article/singapore-airport-disneyland-backpackers

    And the original on my site here: http://www.brenontheroad.com/singapore-airport-a-disneyland-for-backpackers/

    Have you been in this situation before? What are my options here?

    Would love your take on all of this. Thanks so much!


  37. So is their no way of suit an image, even if u credit it and provide a link to the original. Seems like so many interior design blogs do this – how r they all able to get away with it? 

    1. The best thing to do is purchase images on sites like Big Stock and Dreamstime to make sure you have your bases covered and proof that you have the right to use the photos. If you’re looking for free photos check out sites like Morgue File and Wikimedia Commons, but check to see on each one that it’s ok to use them for what you’d like to use them for. 

  38. Here is an additional aspect to consider:

    We hired a designer to do some work.  Like some of the earlier commenters have mentioned, we were assured that the images were properly licensed.  But they were apparently licensed to the designer, not directly to us.

    We are sensitive to licensing, and have purchased plenty of licensed images from iStock, Getty, and so on.  In this case we were pushing for a deadline, and it just seemed quicker and easier to have the designer just bundle it with her other charges, never anticipating that some technicality could make it a problem.

    We were then shocked to receive a letter from our own Leach.  And of course, the designer is gone and nowhere to be found.  Emails to Leach attempting to show our diligence fall on deaf ears.

    So fine, shame on us, we thought we were covered, and learned to license the images directly.  

    But here is the point I find frustrating.  The licensing website might offer the image at $50, or $350, or whatever.  But if you have inadvertently and accidentally violated, and are willing to make good, it is deplorable that Leach is going to try to extract anywhere from 3X to 10X the "normal and reasonable" amount out of people who are otherwise honest citizens.

    I anticipate the argument "If we were to charge the normal amount to violators, then why would anyone pay upfront?  That would lead to a strategy in which people would just use images and wait to see if you are caught."  There is certainly some validity to that argument, but it quickly moves into Leach territory when it fails to pass the reasonableness test… and asking for thousands of dollars in punitive damages seems absurd, especially with people who are not habitual violators, are willing to admit an honest mistake, and want to make reasonable amends.

    That seems to be the crux of the Kari's article, and I wholeheartedly agree with her.

    1. That is a lot like saying, "I stole this car, but now want to pay for it.  I should be allowed to just pay the price of the car and the fact I committed a theft to begin with should be forgotten."

      There is a penalty for committing a crime.  Quit kidding yourself that you didn't commit one.

      1. I think we have all said there should be some penality.  I even anticipated your argument, and said a REASONABLE penalty is appropriate.

        However, "off with their heads" appears to be the preferred remedy for some.

      2. Actually would'nt it be more like "I like this car, so I made a copy of it, but then get sued by the makers of the original for the full price x10 or more"

        also, copyright infridgement and theft ARE NOT THE SAME THING.

    2. Regardless of whether you agree or not, stealing copyrighted images, willfully or not, will subject you to penalties and punitive damages that would not apply had the right thing been done from the start. It's not the lawyer inflating charges or the photographer being greedy, it is what the law spells out as a remedy to the infringed party.

  39. Another thought for those being hit with unreasonable claims:  ability to collect is a factor.

    Ever had a client stiff you for a bill?  They issue the PO.  You do the work.  They approve everyone.  You invoice them.  They don't pay. 

    Ever looked into what it costs to try to get a judgement?  There is not dispute about the debt, and you win.  You have a court judgment against the debtor.

    Now try to collect.  It is not as simple as many seem to think.

    This is really no different.  Honest people, like Kari (or me), will admit their mistake and be willing to pay a reasonable fee.  It is a hassle-free and collectible payment.

    Lawyers that get greedy might find they push too far in their extortion attempt.  They might even win judgments that people cannot — or will not — pay.

    Winning a judgment is only the first — and perhaps easiest — step.  They still need to collect the judgement.

    Victims of leeches are not defenseless.

    As long as both sides are reasonable, these mistakes can be resolved.

  40. First, I'd like to thank you for posting this blog and sharing your story. It helps me a great deal. You see, I'm a professional photographer and I'm forever finding my images stolen and re-used in an unauthorized fashion. An infringer's first mistake is to think that just because an image (or anything else for that matter) shows up on their monitor, it's theirs for the taking. It is not. Images online are likely as protected as any print image in, say, the New York Times PRINT EDITION. Infringers have the attitude of "oops, my mistake, I'll take it down." Once the image is up, it's up and the damage has been done. Infringers beg for leniency and forgiveness (rather than ask permission prior to the act). If I gave permission after the fact, that's like saying that everyone can steal from me at least once. No, they cannot, and the DMCA protects me from that. You are wise to encourage people to review and become very familiar with the DMCA. As far as the $8,000 sum goes…well, among other things, the DMCA provides for statutory (that's the key word here) penalties for infringment including, but not lmited to, usage of an image with a registered copyright and removal of copyright management information. So it is unlikely that the atty just pulled $8,000 out of the air. He probably came to that number by assessing the violations and applying the statutory penalties for each. As far as what the picture was really worth, once you steal it, it doens't matter. If people were permitted to steal things and then just pay fair market value if caught, nobody would pay for anything..they'd just take stuff and wait to see if anyone noticed. The idea behind DMCA and all other laws of this nature is to apply a punitive factor to stealing, get it? So the DMCA is not a vehicle created to make lawyers rich, it is there to protect all people who make a living in the creative arts and in the creation of IP. But thank you again for posting this. I hope others heed your advice.

  41. I took a map from this website – http://russiamap.org/map.php?map=city-spb-tour and used it for my clients website on a page about the history of Russia, purely for educational purposes.

    It says clearly on this website (actually since 2007) that the image is in the public domain. I also did a search all around the Internet and this image is being used freely and there is not even one mention of copyright. So there is no way I could have possibly known about a copyright on this image.

    So now my client is being sued for using this map as it was apparently under copyright. There was no way we could have found out it had a copyright and we took it from a site that says it was in the public domain.

    If my client loses this court case it means I can post images on the Internet, let people freely use them, change them, and even mention for years that they are in the public domain. Then I can go back and start suing people for large monetary settlements?? How can this possibly be a fair and correct application of copyright law? There was no intent on my part to infringe on copyright. 

    Can someone please advise??


    1. Someone can't claim something is public domain and then rescind that right to make it convenient to sue. Suing is not all that convenient nor as easy as everyone seems to think. Works pass into the public domain after the creator's lifetime plus seventy years. Do you have a screengrab of where it stated on the site that the map was in the public domain? That might help prove your assumption. If you don't, good luck!

    2. >Then I can go back and start suing people for large monetary settlements?? 

      Not if they can prove that *you* (the owner) said they were public domain.  Best bet is to get someone else to claim they were public domain (who can't be proved that you were in collusion with) and then do that.

      But otherwise, the way the law is set up – yes

  42. Thousands of posts a year and that was the only photo your company infringed upon?

    1. We actually had a couple during this time period. By the time this lawsuit hit, we were already only source using paid-for photos, not from Getty images and those that are in the public domain. 

  43. Posting inline HTML links to images has been ruled by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to not constitute copyright infringement. In Perfect 10, Inc. v. Amazon,com, Inc, the Court ruled that inline (HTML) linking does not violate U.S. copyright law:


    "Instead of communicating a copy of the image, Google provides HTML instructions that direct a user's browser to a website the publisher's computer that stores the full-size photographic image. Providing these HTML instructions is not equivalent to showing a copy. First, the HTML instructions are lines of text, not a photographic image. Second, HTML instructions do not themselves cause infringing images to appear on the user’s computer screen. The HTML merely gives the address of the image to the user’s browser. The browser then interacts with the computer that stores the infringing image. It is this interaction that causes an infringing image to appear on the user’s computer screen. Google may facilitate the user’s access to infringing images. However, such assistance raised only contributory liability issues and does not constitute direct infringement of the copyright owner’s display rights."




    The above should be obvious to anyone who has ever searched for images on Google. Images are displayed in the user's browser via HTML inline link redirects. None of the displayed copyrighted content in a Google Images search constitutes copyright infringement, and the court explained very clearly why that is.


    More on this:


    "…a recent case from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that inline linking does not directly infringe copyright because no copy is made on the site providing the link; the link is just HTML code pointing to the image or other material. See Perfect 10, Inc. v. Google, Inc., 508 F.3d 1146 (2007). Other courts may or may not follow this reasoning. However, the Ninth Circuit's decision is consistent with the majority of copyright linking cases which have found that linking, whether simple, deep, or inline, does not give rise to liability for copyright infringement."




  44. What a brilliant article! Loving both the style and the content, the nature of the comments both for and against is a testament to how good this is. I find that good writing tends to stimulate a range of quality responses and I have gained as much from reading the comments as I have from the article itself.

    As an Instructional Designer responsible for designing eLearning programs for a major non-profit ensuring compliance with copyright is one of my essential duties. We never use any images, videos, content, soundtracks for which I cannot provide source details and permissions. If nothing else it is the ethical thing to do. Believe it or not there are those of us who genuinely want to do the right thing and have no intention of stealing anything from anyone.

    However, were I to make an honest mistake, or fail to catch another's error, I would hope that any required restitution would be fair. After all the expectation of ethical behaviour should surely be equally applied to the offended just as much as it is to the offender. If anyone critical of your article found them in a similar position to yours I am confident that they would be expecting fair treatment.

    Of course, it begs the question "What is fair?" Personally, I find your argument to be well founded; $8,000 is far from reasonable. Though I wonder if this was what seems to be a rather typical strategy of lawyers, to ask for an outrageous sum knowing that the most likely result will be getting the amount they really had in mind all along. I would add that even if someone has intentionally stolen an image surely that does not entitle the owner to make extortionate demands.

    Copyright law is ridiculously complicated and we need all the help we can get. Intellectual property should always be respected and in this article it seems to me that you are trying to help us ensure we are doing the right thing. We also need to be made aware that there are a small percentage of people who do seek to take advantage of those of us who make an honest mistake. I for one had no idea that there are actually those who are actively searching for opportunities to exploit such errors for financial gain.

    Thank you for your well written, useful, and thought provoking article.


  45. You should work this into a fun presentation for middle school students.  Work in some Instagram stories, and audience would be rapt.  People need to get educated on actual copyright law at a younger age so that when they have blogs and jobs that deal with text and images online, they are ready. 

  46. So everyone thinks that the amount is to much.

    Let me respond in this manner, the courts are required to have as a part of their considerations the deterrance to interested third parties in their rulings.  In the original post an attorney looked at the circumstances, the useage, the value, the rulings that have been coming down in courts and suggested that the infringing party settle.  Now I am willing to bet that the number requested by the photographers attorney was in excess of the agreed upon settlement.

    Everyone needs to understand that if you did not take the image you do not own it, and just because you do not believe that an image is worth X$, the court does believe it has value.  Not all of those dollars are meant as compensation, some of that compensation is menat as a penalty.  On top of that, a negotiation will take as much or more than a year, lets face it no one wants to pay.  So you have all that time that the infringed upon party is going without compensation, how many of you would like to go without getting paid for your hard work for over a year?

    No two parties will agree upon "what is reasonable", usually someone looks at just the photograph, they do not look at the costs to travel to the location to record that image, the cost of insurance, the cost of the website to maintain the image, the cost of health insurance and the list goes on, as a professional photographer I can tell you I have all the same costs as any other business plus.

    The last part is always, "well if I knew that it would/could cost that much I would have used a different image", hindsight is always 20/20.


    1. "Mr. Leech sent the client a formal complaint letter, saying that they were being sued for $8,000 for using his client's copyrighted photo on their website." 

      I don't think a formal complaint letter means any suit was actually filed.

      The other thing someone pointed out very early in this discussion that I think is spot on is,
      "Copyright law has an entire doctrine of fair use that permits people to use creative works they did not create.

      A work does not need to be registered to enforce rights. But those rights may be completely valueless to try to enforce without registration. Without registration, an author is not entitled to statutory damages; an author must prove his actual damages or profit to the infringer–which may be nil."

      1. The majority of our micrographs are stolen by persons or companies within the USA.  If the image originates from another country, in our case Gt. Britain, it DOES NOT have to be registered in the USA to get statutory damages.

  47. I wish the writer of this text to find HIS work (even if he was a stoned, drunk scumm at the time) under someone elses domain.

    The stupidity of trying to degrade the photographer and the photo in the first paragraphs of this "text" is like saying "the car was not new, or well designed and hence I have knowledge of opening and starting locked cars (right clik – save image) i just took it…

    What a greedy owner that car has… he ask me money for this.

    No Mr. Thief. He make you face a penalty for your crime.

    1. First, it’s Ms. Thief – not Mr.

      Second, I’m not sure about that analogy. We were willing to pay for the image, as I stated several times in the post, and we were penalized (and I’d even argue, rightfully so – the point in question here is the size of the financial penalty for copyright infringment in relation to the damage that was done when the image was “stolen”).

      I also take issue with the world “stolen” and “thief” in this context – at no point did the original artist not have access to the image. It’s not like I stole his pizza or car, and now he has nothing to eat or drive. Additionally, we took the image down (the digital equivalent of returning the merchandise?) within 10 minutes of the issue being brought to our attention. Again, we could prove that fewer than 100 people even saw the image in the first place.

      So again I ask, what damage was actually done? And was it worth $8k or even $3k? I’d argue none and no. 

      1. Obviously there is a big gap in your moral world.


        “…which may or may not have been taken by a drunken college student with a camera phone in 2005). You wouldn't see this photo and immediately go book a vacation there, is what I'm saying. I'm also saying that I have a hard time believing the photographer commands thousands of dollars per image – most of his work had nothing at all to do with photography, and he wasn't an artist with any kind of recognition or awards to his name. Anyway, the website was new and it wasn’t an especially popular post – we could prove via Google Analytic that fewer than 100 people read it.“


        I do wonder if you base an argument on paying your employees like that. Because this echoes low life bitter. And low lives cannot participate in normal dialects.


        You did not steal a pizza, you did something way far worst. I cannot explain it to you. Judging from what you write is obvious all these I can say are beyond your circle of perception. If you were posting a text with the ideology of “I did something so wrong, I AM GLAD I PAID MY MISTAKE, and I still wonder what was so wrong with my and I thought it is OK”, then we could have a conversation.


        But no… you are still spiting poison to the “drunken college student” and his lawyer because they gave you a perfect chance to become better person.


        So I cannot and will not support how I see this case, I just will say 3000 was a small fraction of what you did. Humans have logic and ethos to act and think. Interacting under these guides produced the society we live in. but this society is constantly under pressure by “smart ones” like you. Other being need punishment and fear.


        It is good that you live in a society that offers both of them to social items functioning like you.


        What I CAN say as an epilog, is that normally, the “drunken college student” should see this post and sue you again for insulting her / him.


        1. Hi there MY NAME SAYS ~ I hope you feel ashamed, sooner rather than later, your comment comes across as very spiteful and self-righteous. If you have nothing positive to offer, rather stay out of the conversation.

          PS: And why not give us your real name?  So we can Google you and check if you're as squeaky clean as you make out.

      2. Kari –

        Let me try and explain to you why your attorney said settle and why the amount.

        You won't like it and you will still think that you have been wronged and for that I cannot help you.

        The reason for the size of the financial penalty is two fold, one – you probably took the image from somewhere where that photographer had their name attached to it, like a website, or another blog, or a news article, just guesses here.  There is a component within copyright law that was talked about earlier called DMCA, (Digital Media Copyright Act), when you posted the infringed image on your site you removed his/her copyright information, whether intentionally or not.  This has a mandatory penalty of, at the low end $2,500.00 and the high end of $25,00.00 per occurance and if your site was copyright protected like I believe it is then that adds a second violation of the DMCA so right off the bat you have a minimum of $5,000.00 to a maximum of $50,000.00 for the two DMCA violations.   Courts most frequently accaept what is asked for from the plantiff on the DMCA violations so the court records are all over the board here but lets say they were looking at $5,000.00 for DMCA, (this is considered a minimal amount).

        Secondly now comes the value of the license for the image if you had purchased it, lets say that the image has a value of $1,000.00 for a 1 year license for your use, (I get that and much more on many/most of my images), and you had it up for a year and a half, well that equals a $1,500.00 license, got me so far.  The courts as a matter of pratice usualy award treble the value of the license so a court would award $4,500.00 for usage. 

        So if we add the $4,500.00 for the image usage and $5,000.00 for the DMCA claim you are at $9,500.00, if your use was commercial in nature, (any advertising contained in the post or around the image the price goes up),

        Thirdly your attorney should have explained all this to you prior to accpeting the settlement and if he didn't shame on him.  You could have rejected the settlement offer and rolled the dice but from your story you would have lost, on top of that it would have cost you north of $20,000.00 to defend, and you would also be on the hook for the plantiffs legal fees as well.

        As to your assertiton that no damage was done, let me ask you this, do you know if any of the fewer than 100 people you had on the site liked the image and – right click took it from your site? (another infringer to chase).  If someone actually liked the image how were they to contact the photographer for a copy? (lost sales).  If the photographer sells that image your unlicensed use devalues the image, I know you don't understand but trust me it is so, (licensee x sees the image on your site and he bought an exclusive license to use the image therfore the photographer then has to either refund a portion of the license or lose a customer).

        A recent court judgement for the use of two images in the 2nd District of New York was for over $80,000.00.  These were the words used by the magistrate who orderded the Judgement – "The court has broad discretion to direct compensation without a precise showing of the injured party's losses or the wrongdoer's profits".  The court also stated – "Additional factors the court should take into account include the defendant's profits and expenses saved, the plantiff's losses, the value of the copyright, and the prospective deterrent effect of the statutory award".   "The need to deter the defendant and other potential infringers should also factor into the calculation of damages."   As you can see as I said before much goes into the deterrence of future infringement.

        I know that no one likes lessons like this, but it is what it is and the copyright courts are only going to get stronger and hand down larger awards with as much rampant theft, whether intentional or not, that goes on on the internet.

        I know you believe you "did not steal", what is your definiton of theft?  Did you have permission to use the image? (no by admission).  Did someone tell you it was okay to use the image? (inadvertent use, again, no by admission).  By your statement in your post above if you took my car without permission yet I still had access to it, it would be all right. 

        You took the image down at the time of notification so you returned the image but what about the lost revenue?

        I know you said you wanted to pay but it appears from your post you only wanted to pay what you thought the image was worth and in your words, (an) "underwhelming photo of the city, which may or may not have been taken by a drunken college student with a camera phone in 2005", so not very much.  As you can see by what I have provided the courts would disagree.

        I will only repeat what I said before, you were not obligated or required to settle you could have easily negotiated for a lower settlement or gone to court.  So in closing, it was worth what you paid for it.

        1. Well said "A Photographer" Thank goodness someone at last has explained why the demand fee was $8,000.  In my estimation the infringer got off lightly.  We produce specialist micrographs from a scanning electron microscope.  Our overheads are enormous, our expertise is extensive, the time taken to produce a micrograph can be weeks or months, our profits are falling year on year and why?  Because our micrographs are good quality and they are sought after, trouble is some just don't want to pay, they prefer to take.  We are fed up to the back teeth with our micrographs being stolen.  No more Mr & Mrs. Nice Guy, we're suing!!  

  48. As an artist who regularly finds her own work all too often posted without permission, i find most of the comments here interesting. Degrading the image by nasty comments doesn't make things right–and as writers, would it have been diffferent if someone had stolen your writing and used it without permission or attribution? In the "olden days" of blogging, it was an implied courtesy that if you used someone's images, you asked first and gave them a link back. I find it quite perturbing when i see "copyright notices" plastered all over a site and then see images (or text) that is taken from someone else and blithely posted without credit, or the big one: PERMISSION.

    The prevailing attitude that it's "fair game" *because* it's online is a specious and childish "i saw the ball, so it's mine" approach. Courtesy, common sense and ethics have fallen by the wayside it seems. Ignorance has never been a way to get around the law.

  49. A ton of interesting conversation happening on this thread.

    Is there a way to make both parties happy/content? What about a system whereby content (images, text) only goes where the 'owner' wants it to go. It's impossible for content to be used (intentially or unintentionally) on a site where it should not be published.

    Would a Getty Images or Shutterfly pay to protect their content? This would remove, or at least lessen, the need for copyright infringement lawyers to troll the web looking for misused content?


  50. If you attend a play and they announce that camera's are welcomed but no Flashes.  I then post Pictures on FB for review for others to see with my (c) on them.  They get lots of attention and several individuals wanted to purchase some.  But the Scrip writer has a Copyright on the Play and announces to me I can give them away but can't sell any of them.  Is this correct when they open the play to cameras-Never mentioned that one can't sell them nor is it posted on the hand out of the play.


    1. In this case, the "script writer" has a copyright on the script. (Well, maybe he's actually given his rights away or sold them, but for the sake of this, he still retains the rights.) The photographs are yours, but many venues would actually say no cameras, which is within their right. Final analysis: 1.) don't ask legal advice on the internet, do your own research and 2.) get your own lawyer

  51. Kari,

    thanks for this post. Appreciated your openess. And think some of the comments towards the end got to be a tad too self-righteous. And am curious ~ how much did "Mr Leech" charge for his services, and how much of the $3,000 penalty did the original photographer get? Looks like a new breed of ambulance chasers. 

    Anyway, your article also opened up the opportunity for lots of comments from all sides, makes for very interesting reading. I'll certainly be forwarding a link to my clients and students – many of whom stubbornly hold to the idea that everything on the Web is "fair game" and *free*. 

    Best wishes from South Africa.

  52. Having read the original post and all the comments, I have to say, was most entertaining. Photography and writing are things, I do every day. DMCA Take Down notices are something, I've found necessary to use, as well. Too many people feel, everything on the internet is free. It's sad to hear, that a more reasonable settlement wasn't reached. But, that's what happens when attorneys get involved.

    The latest unauthorized use of one of my photos, had me researching, to do a blog post about the DMCA. I may write something about it and throw a link, to you, here. All sides of the issue, are covered fairly well.  It gave me an idea for the next Take Down Notice, I send out. On the bottom:

    PS  My Photo Fees Are More Economical Than Those Of An Attorney

    1. I'm confused why so much of the anger is directed at the attorney and not the client the attorney is representing?

      Lawyers don't act on their own. They serve their clients who are the ones calling the shots, and lawyers are required by their professional oath to represent their clients zealously. They might personally disagree with the law and the client, but if the client wants to pursue a lawsuit, it's the lawyer's professional duty to do his best for the client.

      Don't get me wrong, there are unethical attorneys all over the country. But an attorney who is simply representing a client who has the law on his side is not one of them. I understand the frustration with the law, and you should direct that frustration at your elected representatives. I understand the frustratation with the claim against you, but the real culprit is the only person who is capable of bringing that claim- the plaintiff. 

  53. Enjoy reading this article about copyright images on the internet. Also enjoy reading people metaphor and using stealing a car and then paying for it after getting caught. Thinking that's okay as long as you pay in the end. The problem is that laws different from different things and items. A use car has different laws over a new car. 

    But with that, just because a copyright owner says they lost $8k from copyright infringement does not mean they lost anything but the normal price they always charge. Example would be a phographer charge a blog fee of $100 then that's there lost. That's the only thing they can prove they lost from that photo because their copyright photo is freely post on other sites. Its impossible to know what they really lost.

    Now, the reason the photographer is asking for $8k for the photo because they know contentfac.com have money to pay a few thousand dollars to not deal with it. Photographer was looking for a quick payday. He could similarly ask to remove photo or pay the normal fee but they didn't which means they are looking to see if anyone is using there work to sue. I can pay a few 100$ for a lawyer to right up a letter to pay or get sue and hope to get a few thousand dollars out of it.

    One last thing, I work with someone who knows a famous architect who takes high end images. A saw a few of them and they were out of this world. The funny thing about this images is that you can find them on the internet. Its almost impossible to find them. I could only find one of his images and it was low quality. The reason why he didn't post it on his blog or website is that he will be making the photos into a book. He does not want anyone to use them so he does not post them on the internet. Once its on the internet then its there for any everyone to use. Its a really why paparazzi trys to sell images of celebrities to companies and not on there website.

  54. A nice freebie and then an explanation.

    FREEBIE: There are some excellent articles explaining copyright in plain language by Los Angeles attorney David Amkraut at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/iny4w7onxijvppz/oA2SHB0IrE Had the author read even one of them, the author would have realized the severe penalties and also understood that her actions were infringement.

    EXPLANATION OF FEES: The severe penalties for piracy come into play when the rights-owner has TIMELY-registered the images with the copyright office. If he has not, then he must prove how the infringement harmed him or benefitted the infringer. Sometimes a tough task.

    EXPLANATION OF OTHER PENALTIES FOR INFRINGEMENT: The infringer may also face an injunction ordering her not to infringe photos in the future. Additionally, there is likely public humiliation and/or professional harm. Because news media review most court filings and a copyright suit can be big news in some professions and local media, especially in smaller towns.

    SUGGESTION: I urge anyone using photos to have a look at those articles and perhaps the less-readable stuff on the copyright office website. The guidelines are actually pretty simple and once you understand the facts you'll be unlikely to be foolish enough to simply swipe image off the web.


  55. A number of people have commented on what they see as unfair penalties for the "minor" crime of stealing. Why the severe penalties? 

    * One reason is to deter piracy. Photo theft is easy and tempting.

    * Another reason is to encourage publication of creative work and to encourage formal registration with the copyright office: The strong statutory penalties come into play only when the photographer has "timely-registered" his copyright.

    * Speaking of severe penalties, few people realize that most of the infringement via the web can be prosecuted as a federal crime, with monetary penalties and imprisonment a possibility. Ever read the FBI warning when you rent a movie on disc?

    The author got off lucky. $3,000 is a cheap lesson in the context of what could have happened if the author decided to fight the case.



  56. I was sent this post by my publisher, and I'm glad I read it!  I'm a little nervous, however.  I've made a few logos for my websites from clip art I purchased from sites like IStock and Dreamstime.   I paid for the royalty free–averaging probably $15-$25.00, not the big fee of like $150.00 because it's going on one website and it was supposedly "covered" up to 100,000 uses or something like that.  I manipulate the images and overlap them, but according to some of the comments here, that's not enough to cover your butt.  Hopefully I'm not committing copyright infringement?  What about the art used to make book covers?  Again, if you pull the images from Dreamstime and pay the price, are you covered?  My publisher does the Cover Art, so I've never had to encounter that, but I'd love to know if there is any risk here.  Great, informative article–thanks so much for the education!!!:)  P.S.:  It didn't sound like you were whining; I genuinely feel like you are trying to help those of us not savvy on copyright laws.


  57. We recently received lawsuit from Germany that one of image on our Facebook business page & asking for very huge amount in millions.

    Person who posted was not aware of any copyright. He immediately removed it & sent mail with apology. Do we still need to take this legal matter seriously? when our website doesnot belong to same country.

    If anyone can advice it will be big help.



    1. Lol some these comments are hilarious. You were sued for millions. What do you expect anyone here to be able to do for you? I know this particular comment is 2 years old, but these posts are so freqent. "Help! XYZ happened to me and I need someone to help me!" If somebody could help you they sure as hell wouldnt do it for free and would charge you an exorbitant amount of money. They are called lawyers. 



      PS: To Kari, I did not take this as "whining" at all, I thought that this was the best and most informative post written about this topic on the internet(with quality humour thrown in), and you wrote it 3 years ago. That speaks for your writing skill, and to the writing skill(or lack thereof) of almost everyone on the internet. Keep fighting the good fight. The few haters do not change the positive message you are sending out.


  58. We just received one of these letters/bills rom getty, demanding $775 for use of a picture they own or manage or whatever. My problem seems to be slightly different from everyone else's that I read?

    I have screenshots to prove each of the followng:

    We did a google search for FREE BUNNY PNG (Yes, I know because something pops up, doesnt mean it is free) Just explaining as we go

    We saw a picture we liked, clicked on it

    It brought us to a FREE clip art picture site : http://gallery.yopriceville.com/Free-Clipart-Pictures/Animals-PNG/Cute_Brown_Bunny_PNG_Picture#.U3tp7CimXN4 &nbsp; to be exact.

    No where does it mention a fee, a copyright etc? It allows a free download, and we did.

    We put it on a banner on our site 2-3 weeks before Easter and took it down a few days after Easter. Up for no longer than a month.

    Yesterday 5-19-14 we received the letter of copyright infringment from Getty.

    Yesterday I deleted the banner with said image from the backend of our site (But again, it had not been visable since a few days after Easter, as we took it down after Easter.

    We did not just grab an image willy nilly, we searched for a free image, and downloaded it off of a free clip art picture site. It has been deleted and removed off of our server. We understand that we cannot go around taking pictures off of random websites. But where does that leave us when we searched out a free picture, and downloaded it from a free picture site? Clearly there was no intent to steal an image. Does that help us at all, or am I still SOL?

    1. IANAL, but hiring one would probably cost you more than $775.

      Unless the website who said it was free is indemnifying you for damages, I think you're SOL.  Onus of the law is on the end user, not the purveyor of stolen goods.

      I'd contact Getty and lay out what you have here – and ask them if you can pay less – and how you can find out if they own an image in the future.

      The other thing that might be of interest, is if Getty is running those websites, in order to lure in traffic… /cynicism

      From a 'changing the problem' standpoint, it'd be nice if some of these statutory damages went into providing a copyright search website – so that people who wish to be responsible could see if an image is registered by the copyright office (ie: big penalties).  And/or place a timely notice that they'd like to be using an image (thus photographers could dissuade them, upon checking) – not a 'get out of jail free' card for the biz owners/bloggers, but a way to show that they weren't trying to steal a car and hope not to get caught.

  59. I'm still confused after reading this article.  I frequent many video game and book websites, featuring millions of pictures of the covers, screenshots from in the game, box art, etc. and there is no way they can possibly be obtaining permission for the immense volume of non-original images on the websites.  Am I to assume all images are available in press kits and thus free for public use, and if not then there is some possibility for liability?

  60. "We weren’t familiar with copyright infringement laws"

    Hi there, 

    Just to be clear and I am not a lawyer. Maybe your laws does not embrace the fact you were familiar with such concept but in other countries you can also defend your right and the natural fact of being uncousious from what your are being incrimniated for. However, you have to be aware of the law and if such law would not exist, it would just to easy to make a crime and pretend we did not know it was illegal. Please, try to leave your notes about lawyer out this artcile which is supposed to be informational and not political. 


    Thank you for your help anyway and I wish you all the best for your online activity :)!!

  61. Thank you so much for the info!!! I thought citation would be adequate, but clearly not!!!

    Do you know whether this applies to reposting a copyright image in Facebook? I would guess so, but am unsure.

    Keep up the great work!!

  62. Thank you so much for posting this!! You have probably saved me alot of hassle as I set up my blog!

    I am sorry you went through this but you turned it into such a positive by helping all of us who were unaware of the 'rules' 

    Keep up the great work!!

  63. Great blog. Can you address "fair use?" Is it true that teachers can use photos grabbed from the web for their classrooms and students' projects (containing copyrighted photos) can use used online?. There's a special provision for educators. Do you know of any educational institution that has been sued?

  64. No Sympathy.

    No the copyright laws are not in need of amendment. And the lawyer who refer to negatively through your giving him/her a derogatory moniker was doing exactly what he is paid to do.

    If you are in the business of producing published work then you need to make the effort to do it properly or pay a fine. A small subscription to a stock agency solves this problem.

    If the penalties get watered down then all that happens is that the big corporations will be the ones who beenefit to the detriment of the photographers.

    I acknowledging it you have wisely and correctly admitted your fault. All the other text in your piece is mere fluff.

    Suck it up, learn from the situation … and move on.

  65. Any material submitted to you that you take laibility for should have a signed release authorizing it to be used by the party that has the copyright.

    Reject anything that does not have a signed release.

    For photos you create and post – visibly watermark them with Photoshop (Copyright 2014 Joe Smith), and also embed a digital watermark

    Simple copyight notification dicourages the vast majority of abusers.

    FYI – Google on Getty Images – they were trying to construct artiifical contracts with end users of web developers who were licensed to use the images. It got really nasty.

  66. Hi does anyone know if there are any organisations out there where you can pay a small fee to have access to photos for your blog? I don't want to rick causing infringment. Again.



  67. When Elon Musk can make all his Patents open source, can the photographs not be kept open to public domain? RIP humanity, seriously. The photographer would not have lost anything, but you guys lost your hard earned buck.


  68. Copyright penalties are not "RIDICULOUS"….. you are stealing someone's intellectuall property, someones, time, effort, hard work, art, schooling….. you are not stealing a replacable item, like a TV. It's SERIOUS. I have had my images stolen several times, and it is a terrible VIOLATING feeling. It got to the point where I stopped having an online art presence for over six years. 

    If anything the penalties are TOO LAX. 

  69. Haha I am a greedy lawyer that does this for a living…. thanks for paying my bills 🙂

  70. Sometimes I find an article that is so interesting and applicable to me I want to save it just for myself and future inspiration. This was an article about mixed medium art. I don't have a blog or anything like it. It was so fasinating and unusual and inspirational  I did send the article via email to my daughter who is an artist and she loved it and was inspired by it.

    Is copying pictures within text this way illegal?

  71. The infringement laws may have some loopholes in it that could be used so as not to bring anything further to a lawsuit. But I'm no lawyer to say this. It just occured to me. And in the writer's/blogger's end, the article should be checked whether the images used are copyrighted or not. It may take some time to do this but there are websites that have "free" images that can be used in your blogs.

  72. How is it possible for a company to actually prove you haven't legitimately paid for the image? I don't see how it's possible for a bot to spider through a Web site and determine if the image was purchased by the Web site owner.

    1. Both sides would keep records of payment and receipt. If someone buys the right to use a photograph, chances are they are smart enough to keep a record of the transaction.

  73. I know I'm a day late and a dollar short to this blog post and most of everything that needed to be said has already been said, some of it many times. But I just wanted to say that I found it in very poor taste and bad form to call the photograph "lame," "underwhelming" and then to suggest it looked like a drunk college kid took it. As you point out, you are a small business. You are only as good as your word and your reputation and by peeing all over this photograph, the one you used illegally, mind you, you come across as trying to be the victim here.

    As a photographer, I would have to think twice about taking your phone call and responding to your e-mail with this kind of blog so willingly posted on your own company web site. In times past when I had issues with a client, I handled it privately and tried to work it out among ourselves without resorting to namecalling.

    I do give you some props for trying to educate people and for admitting your mistake. But it came off as more of an "I'm sorry IF I offended you" type of sorry.

  74. Also being a day late and a dollar short to this party and further at the risk of sounding salesy and self promoting, I did want to make the audience aware that you can purchase insurance against copyright infringement. I work as a Business Insurance Specialist here at the The Phoenix Company and have been researching insurance products available for technology/affiliate marketing companies as I plan to specialize in this area. Travelers seems to have very good cyber liability product that includes media liabilty (that's what happend in the article). The Hartford and Selective Insurance appear to have good products as well. I must give you the caveat that I am in the early stages of learning about these products, including what is and isn't covered. I would suggest contacting your local independent insurance agent if you are interested in obtaining a quote.

  75. This blog help people to give ideas ,but ask experts advices to be guided and face debt .Don't wait become worst.






  76. Hi – yikes.  I got "dinged" for $83.40 for using a cartoon over a year ago and I feel relieved it wasn't more.  Besides the law offices that look for these things there are also copyright trolls that spend a lot of time scrolling through Pinterest accounts, that's where they found my faux pas.  I paid and now I use only copyright free photos.  I used a cartoon that gave full credit but I now know that is not acceptable.  Lesson learned.

  77. This is very simple.  Don't steal things, even if they are intangible property. If teenages know they are not supposed to steal songs then your new employee surely knew they were not supposed to steal the image.  Criminals always have an excuse, and yours is as selfish as the rest.

  78. As a photographer I find the comment made in your article [your being a writer] extremely disturbing. . . 

    "We’re not okay with bloggers and business owners being sued into bankruptcy for making a mistake that really didn’t hurt anyone at all."

    "… really didn't hurt anyone at all"  
    Is it OK to steal $20 from someone that feel can afford it because "it didn't really hurt them?"  How do you know whether this person was hurt by your actions?  If the content owner should dismiss your theft simply because less than 100 visitors saw the photo, what happens when 100 bloggers steal their photos & display them on sites that aren't seen by more than 100 users?  

    What makes you think photography is any different, less difficult, requires less effort or less expensive than your work as a writer?  If I took an entire article you'd written, posted it to my site, not bothered attributing you or linking to your site would you 'let it got' because "eh no more than 100 people could have seen it".  Unlike a 'writer' photographers pay A LOT of money for their equipment & in many cases spend time in post-production editing their photographs.  Not to mention perhaps the costs involved with possibly travelling to Nebraska to take the photographs.

    If you feel photography is a no-cost 'should-be-free' anyone-can-do-it thing, why didn't you pay money to send one of your writers to Nebraska with a $2,000 camera & lens to take the photograph to begin with?  You seem to think so little of the photographer who's work YOU feel was overpriced – yet at the same time were unwilling or unable to that same work yourself.  

    Despite the fact that ignorance isn't even a defensible excuse — what could possibly make you think it was OK to take work done by someone else and use it on your site?  Unless you also thought it was OK for someone to take your articles word for word and place them on their site / blog – which I highly doubt.  You weren't ignorant of the law – you simply had no respect or understanding of photography as art.  

    The idea that you think it's easy to snap a bunch of pictures, put them up on the web and wait for people to steal them is how photographers profit from their work – or the lawyers that represent them is illustrative of this point.  

    Go ahead and try & answer me this:

    [1] How long it takes to create quality photographs a person would even want to steal?

    [2] How much time does it take to upload the photographs? 

    [3] No one is going to see the hundreds of photos you uploaded unless they're high up in search results.  Are you intending to achieve this by spennding hours of your time online promoting your site or go for the quick fix of just paying for SEO optimization – either way — ring up some more money / time in your costs column.  

    [4] Now if you intend to sue for maximum statutory damages – you'll need to PAY to register your work along with uploading all of the images [a very time intensive process] to the US Copyright Office.

    [5] Who are you going to pay to spend hours sitting around reading blogs / searching photos / performing reverse image lookup searches [or paid a lot of money for digitial watermarking software which doesn't proactively search all the places it should]. 

    [6] Most copyright lawyers DO NOT work on a contingency basis & require upfront payment for their time [for which fees are included in those suits which involve statutory damages]. 

    [7] You have no idea the value of license fees that compamnies charge for photography – even stock photography.  And had you bothered to negotiate the license fees PRIOR to using the work – you could have done just that.  Do you think having stolen from a small photographer means you should pay less in damages than if you'd stolen a clip of the latest blockbuster movie and included it on your site?  

    [8] Finally its only BECAUSE you were sued for what you feel was too much money that you actually not only learned a lesson, but took the time out of your life to EDUCATE other bloggers about copywright law and how stealing photographs is no different that someone stealling those bloggers posts.  Had you either been asked to pay $150 or 'negotiated' to what you thought was the 'fair' price of $500, would you have bothered writing this article?  Would you even have bothered to ensure EVERY SINGLE PERSON in your company understood the significance of NOT STEALING OTHERS' work?  What about those larger companys for whom $150 fee paid after the fact is less expensive than spending time looking for photographs under creative common licenses or purchasing more expensive royalty-based images?  If the damages sought by photographers were so small and insignificant — it wouldn't make a detterant to not do it in the first place.  

    Congratulations on admitting you were wrong, and as a photographer, I much appreciate your efforts to educate other bloggers about the dangers of NOT stealing photographs [albeit for the wrong reasons] Your attempt in any way to make yourself look like a victim is or to 'value' work you've stolen – after it's been stolen is just wrong.  

    People shouldn't STEAL others' photography for the same reason they shouldn't steal articles / blog posts you write.  Those photos are no less a work product of someone's creativity, talent, time & in some cases money than an article you write.  

    Imagine if instead of a photograph it was a an actual article one of your employees stole.  Imagine for a moment one of your employees, instead of writing an article about Omaha and stealing a photograph simply found an article written about Omaha on another travel site, took the entire text of the article word for word and posted it as their own.  As a writer yourself, when you get a letter months later for copyright infringment requesting $8,000 are you going to claim [that while admittedly wrong for having done so] it's unfair to ask for so much money because in your opinion, the article was 'poorly written' or sounded as though the author was 'drunk' and/or didn't really make a reader 'want to visit Omaha'.  Can you honestly say as a writer you'd try to claim that it makes a difference [after the fact] how many people had read the article?  

    Worse yet, what if it was your drunken-stuper written awful article about Omaha that had been stolen & when attempting to uphold the rights provided to you by US Copyright Law, allowing you to seek damages how would you feel if someone told YOU they were wrong but it was really crappy article so they don't think they should give you more than $500.  Even if you had written it in a drunken stupor and also felt it wasn't your best work – would you seriously be like "yeah ok" and figuring that your lack of awards or credential somehow doesn't entitle you to the same damages as any other writer?  Could you honestly say if nothing else it wasn't about the money or the quality of the article itself but the idea that some ignorant company hiring lazy people thought it was perfectly OK to just take whatever of yours or anyone else's work & do what they'd like with it?  I have a hard time beleiving any writer – regardless of the quality of their work would be casually dismissive outright infringment in that regard and would be offended by the idea of a company admitting they were wrong for having done so but trying to justify paying a lower penalty because of the quality of the writing, the credentials associated with the writing or the coverage the article received [viewers].  I also have a hard time beleiving a writer would in any way 'feel sorry' for the ignorant company that didn't realize it wasn't OK to steal people's work and / or sorry enough to settle for a nominal amount so small it wouldn't even serve as a detterant for their repeating their actions in the future.  


    1. Wow, you can definitely tell you’re a photographer by the word count of your comment. This wasn’t written in a drunken stupor – I believe all of your other points have already been addressed 🙂

  79. I am a professional photographer, and as someone whose work is published regularly by the BBC and NatGeo, I have to deal with this all the time, unfortunately. Every single image I put online has a copyright notice in the corner. Why do I do that? Because removing it constitutes adulterating or creating a “derivative work”, making the legal consequences even more severe. I have even caught two of the leading stock photo agencies (the big two) with my images (sans copyright notice) in their catalogs, so don’t just assume that you are safe using stock photo agencies either, because they are being scammed by photo-pirates just like everyone else!

    That said, the people I have working to protect my interests in this regard are not scum-suckers. There is ALWAYS an initial email politely requesting either going-rate payment for use or removal. In the case of images which have had the copyright removed, we provide a copy with the copyright intact for them to use. In almost every case, cooperation and apology is immediate. I have no hesitation in unleashing the lawyers when it is not, however. And they (my lawyers) are every bit the complete blood-sucking bastards that Kari has characterized them as being.

  80. Well some lessons hurt. However, your statements about greedy lawyers is not making you look educated even after the fact.  Photographers have a very expensive challenge chasing their images these days.  People need to learn that not everything is free to take.

  81. Thanks this blog for give some ideas, to avoid copyright . Next time ask experts for advices about this sitausion .

  82. Thank you for sharing this information, this really help those who are trying to get their hands in blogs and other website articles. Some take the copyright lighty and they don't take it seriously, they never know how much they are screwed until it is too late.

  83. This was a very interesting post and very interesting comments that followed.

    What I find strange is, I am a Pro Photographer, whose copyrighted images have been stolen by major corporations, yet I can't find an Attorney to help us go after the infringing parties. The attorneys we've spoken to want retainers (starting at $8,000), just to write a letter, on our behalf.

    That's what is so odd about your circumstance here – in that someone who is not a pro photographer, who didn't have a "pro" image, found an attorney to represent them, who sent you a copyright infringement letter, with an attached fee, and they obviously negotiated/collected that money for their client.

    This Attorney had to be a family friend or member because the money charged/collected was not large enough for any Attorney to be happy with, if working on a contingency basis.

    I currently have hundreds of images that my copyright is being violated on, so if any Attorney wants to contact me, to offer their help, I would be happy to hear from them!

    1. Have you ever thought abaut, that law shouldn't make a difference if you are a so called (mostly by those people themselfes) "Pro" or an amateur. A photo is a photo is a photo.

  84. "We were under the mistaken impression that before anyone could be sued, the offender had to ignore a request to take down the copyrighted image."

    What a coincidence because I was under the same impression. I took this guys car and I can't believe it became an issue with the law when the owner didn't first call me to ask for it back. Also, the car was a POS — you'd never actually buy the thing, just take it. 

    I used to be more understanding about copyright infringement ignorance but my feeling is if you want to pretend your blog is a real business then learn the Fing laws that pertain to running a business. Or go whine to the "sharing community" after you get slapped with an infringement suit.


    1. Thanks – you're 100 percent right!! I cannot believe that there's still people thinking they can do what  ever they want to,  as long as nobody explains to them that it is not legal. And even then the only consequence would be that they must not do it again…

  85. Hi,

    I want some clarification about using the copyrighted images.

    Come this way, I put any copyrighted picture in imgur.com, hosted on blogspost . Will the owner of these sites will be responsible for a picture? So it will send an email to imgur.com owner and blogspost owner is (blogger) Google, which says that they have to pay for a picture? Well I think this do not work that way.

    They can receive a mail only to remove the image, or the purchase of a right to it, what are you offered. You when you delete the picture, there's nothing else to it, just looking for a way to pay the wages. I think you do not ever argue with them, nor claim that the image ever was on your page. Send a message that such images is not more (or never) is not located on your server, and say sorry.

    Hope my answer have some point. Let me know your views about this.

  86. Just wanted to thank you for sharing this story! It has had a big impact on me. I have shared, as requested, with other bloggers through my site http://www.redthewriter.com You can see the post HERE. Again, thank you so much for sharing your story!

  87. This unfortunately sounds like a thief complaining there's an alarm.  "I wasn't going to steal the valuable stuff, just some junk they had in a back room."

    There's no doubt you charge for your creative services.  If one of your clients sold your work, I don't doubt you'd ask for compensation.  

    Its an odd piece you've written, complaining that:

    A.  the work stolen wan't very good (so it shouldn't have been an issue),

    B. that the use was minimal (so the penalty shouldn't have been so great).

    Should the person stealing something be the judge of its value?  

    As you are reading this, I'm sure you are saying to yourself using some lousy photo wasn't really stealing, that's what criminal do and you aren't a criminal.  I'd agree, but the fact is your act, your use of the image created value of the work.  

    Last, as you state your copywriting and blogging services are so good, why not take your own images and see how much time and effort really goes into producing a photo?   First you have to be there, by car, by plane, by train, or taxi, you have to put your body in the right spot at the right time to get a photo.  No matter how bad your work is any photographer is spending their most valuable asset, time, to get a photo.  That's a risk they take.  They'll risk a week's salary on a trip somewhere, then risk posting it on the internet or some other venue that it will be noticed.  That's money spent.  

    I applaud you for pointing out taking other peoples' works can be costly.  But it shouldn't be a complaint, the laws protect your valued time and effort as well.


  88. Irronically, I found two mousepads fro sale on Amazon that have pictures of both MY PARROTS. I have since contacted them and the so called manufactured by Business' and let them know I will persue. And the pictures are not that good. Still, My Parrots, my pictures.

  89. "We missed seeing that it was a copyrighted image."

    All work that is created is automatically copyrighted, and does not have to be registered to be copyrighted. It is just that no real legal damages can be claimed and collected unless it has been proven that the image or content belongs to the artist, and that is much easier and less costly to do if it has been registered.

  90. Just stop using photo that you don't own. It's that simple. Or, be billed for it. Don't be upset that you got caught for being a thief. It takes a lot of time and effort to exercise one's copyrights.  Lawyers help photographers, musicians, artists and writers. The thieves are the ones taking advantage. The net/net is that you don't have the right to use images that aren't yours unless permission is expressly given.

  91. Whereas I understand both sides of the coin, as a photographer who's dealt with, and is dealing with this, extensively, I see so many times that people are trying to get away with feigning ignorance and they think that everything goes away when they take down the image (most of them don't even apologize).

    But that's not the case.
    I don't know what the thing was with this particular image, but if you take an image of any photographer who's making a living of his art, you are taking money out of his/her pocket. An apology doesn't pay for the rent, or the equipment.

    I agree with you on that $8,000 for an image is an exorbitant fee, especially if it's proven that this person didn't even do photography for a living.
    But you have to keep into consideration that damages (provided that the images are registered, as one of the lawyers already stated) for unauthorized use of an image can go upward of 10x (this is basically your penalty for "stealing") the normal fee of said image. If you keep that into consideration, then $3,000 isn't such a steep price.
    I've licensed images for $1,000-$1,200, so 10x that for unauthorized use is a 5-digit number.

    But I agree that the way this has been done, is very unethical.
    Usually "normal" photographers first send a mail to ask something along the lines of "hey, I saw you used my image, do you have a license for it" and then they try to work it out from there.
    Only when they are ignored or when the person using the image without permission is getting difficult or nasty, do they resort to legal action.

    We're not all a**holes, but we DO all want to make enough money to pay our bills in a field that has become (sometimes literally) violently competitive and seriously underpaid.


  92. Thanks for this post.  As a photographer who is constantly getting their work stolen and used without permission, and often without even the gratitude of a photo credit, I think it's important that people understand that "just using" photos is in fact "stealing".  That copyright infrigement is indeed a thing, and it's a punishable thing (thank goodness), and that expecting and feeling entitled to abscond with free content and imagery in order to advance your brand/industry is not only an affront to the creators of that imagery, but directly contributes to the demise of our brands/industry, as well as our ability to make a living.  It is very likely that should you have thought to approach the photographer whose image you appropriated, they may just have given it to you in exchange for a photo credit / link, or charged you a minimal usage fee, for which you should be grateful to pay, since that image is supposed to, at best, attract an audience to actually read your article.  

    Bravo to you for letting people know, although you might want to change the word "lame" in your opening sentence to "justice".  Just sayin. 

    1. I don't agree with this at all. you ll need to relax, stop thinking all day long if some random website is using your images, NO ONE CARES.

      it has no meaning and it is just an image being used, if you see it and you don't like it then ask them to remove it but stop suing people.. next you're gonna sue people for using music on youtube, am i supose to sing my songs at the backgrounds of my videos? come on… just be flatteard people choose your images over others as they are good.

  93. Is it advisable to contact the photographer and try and settle the matter without the lawyers getting involved.

    I got emailed about an image that i had on my site and they said they wanted to settle immediately so it doesnt go to trial..  Immediately after receiving that email, I removed the photo from the site and sent an apology letter letting them know the photo was removed.  Apparenlty that wasnt good enough and they are still contacting me and calling every week to try and settle this matter.

    I feel like they are trying to strong arm the situation.

    1. Hi Mike,

      Sorry to hear you’re in this position — we feel your pain! You can try to contact the photographer, but it’s likely that s/he’ll just refer you back to their attorney. If you haven’t already lawyered up yet, now’s a great time to do so. It may cost you a few hundred dollars to secure a copyright attorney to negotiate with the photographer’s lawyer, but in our experience that money is well spent.

      If you need a recommendation for a copyright lawyer, I’d be happy to put you in touch with ours. We’ve been very happy with him, and have referred several other people in similar situations to him in the past. If you’d like his contact info, shoot me an email at karilee(at)contentfac.com and I’ll be happy to put you in touch with him.

      Thanks for commenting, and good luck!


  94. Just as you wouldn't appreciate someone copying your articles and using them to bring traffic to their site, photographers don't appreciate people doing the same with their images. If you can't afford to pay big bucks for photos, look for images in the public domain, or pay a small fee for microstock images. It'll take a couple seconds longer than Google images, but I think you'll agree that it's worth it after this experience.

  95. I think $8000 for an image is rather high….. And to ask you to pay that much is kind of wrong…but hey…. So is stealing an image. And then slamming the photographer's skill is pretty catty and immature too.  If it was such a horrific picture? Why'd you steal it in the first place?

    im not saying you don't have a point. But calling people names and picking on their ability makes you look like a spoiled brat and makes it a lot less likely that people will listen to your point.

  96. Good article, but…there's one thing a lot of publications are passing without paying attention – If there is a photo, someone took it. It has a creator, an owner and it is usually a photographer. I am a photographer and have being in this situation for the past three years with more than 50 court cases and or settlements. I have had photos published without credit and or authorization in blogs, newspapers, magazines, websites etc in such different places like Brazil, China, Argentina, Colombia…One time they used 15 photos at once in Brazilian news website. I usually, not me, my lawyer, tries to talk first. If there's a agreement, case close but if not, we definitely go to court. I think is outrageous to have my work used without consent. Anyway, we should always be careful with the topic and of course it's not the case of getting rich with it, but to get paid for something I create. I also authorize free use of some photos depending on the organization or the reason but as a professional photographer, I am totally against the unauthorized use of my work. Good you brought this discussion up.

  97. The picture was not yours.  

    As you did not take it, you KNEW it was not yours.


    Hard to understand? No.

    1. It’s obvious you didn’t read the post — as an agency, we write THOUSANDS of blog posts each year. Most posts get 2-3 images each, which adds up to a lot of images. ONE of those many thousands was not appropriately sourced, and it got by us. We paid for it, learned a lesson and wrote about it so that others can learn from our mistake.


      1. But you were nasty about it. Very nasty about it. As if the image was so ugly and horrible that it didn't warrant having to pay for it and they were so lucky that you used it. Try some humility next time. You lost an entire audience when you slammed the person you stole from. 

        1. I don’t think it was all that nasty — the photographer got his payment, and we wrote a blog post to show other people how they could easily end up in the same situation. This post has brought us more business than the $3,000 we originally paid out, so I’d say it’s a win/win for everyone who was directly involved (as a side note: all of the clients who found TCF via this blog post are still a client over a year later, so we must be doing something right). I could easily argue that this post has been beneficial to photographers in general, because dozens of people have emailed and commented that they had no idea this could happen and they’re immediately deleting all of the (copyrighted) images from their websites — and won’t be making that mistake again in the future. 

          I also don’t know about losing an audience. We probably lost a lot of photographers, but they’re not our target anyway. Several journalism classes have made this blog post required reading, and it’s been linked to by outlets ranging from Entrepreneur to GoDaddy’s blog. Would it have gone as far if we didn’t take such a strong stance? Probably not — if it weren’t for the comments section, this post probably wouldn’t rank nearly as high in the SERPs. All of this user-generated content is great for SEO, which is why we’ve approved and responded to so many negative comments.


          1. I assure you, I read the whole article. You were egotistical and you weren't sorry for what you did, only sorry for getting caught.  You attacked the  photographer saying the work was horrible anyway (yet of the millions of images out there, you chose the image anyway… hm…)… you continue that arrogance with ther remarks above. regarding photographers not being your market and this being great for SEO.  None of these remarks even affect you, I think.  Greed.  That's all you are.


  98. Whether or not an image is good or bad is subjective and irrelevant to your petty rebuttal. This is hilarious. You paid $3000 probably because you are a misinformed, entitled person who thinks they can use what they want when they want just because you found it online somewhere. That's not how this works and copyright law is there to protect people who spend their time and money creating content. That includes you, too. Copyright is there for a reason and it's the law. Sounds like you just made a dumb decision, didn't know any better, and are mad that there are actual legal consequences to your actions whether you like it or not. Just going out on a limb, the photographer probably hired a copyright lawyer because they sued you for copyright infringement. This doesn't mean there's someone lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce on quick money.

    1. Joe,

      Totally agree with you re: whether the image is good or bad being subjective and irrelevant — up until the point where an $8,000 price tag was put on it. While that still may be subjective, it isn’t exactly irrelevant. I’m neither misinformed nor entitled, and I don’t have the believe that I can use what I want just because I found it online somewhere. 

      The photographer never sued us at all, actually — we settled after his attorney sent us a threatening letter (which this particular lawyer sends out by the thousands, I’m sure). There are people lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce on copyright infringement (ask anyone who has ever been sued by Getty).

      Thanks for your comment, but I think we’ll have to agree to disagree here. 

  99. This is simple. The images on the web aren't there for the taking. License whatever images you use and you won't have a problem. Just because YOU think the image isn't well done is besides the point and has no bering on it's use. I have to wonder why you'd use an "inferior" image to begin with though, don't you have an editing process? I think you got off easy, if that image was copyrighted before you used it you could have been on the hook for a LOT more money.

  100. I definitely agree with Bob above.

    That's really outrauges. Why people believe that downloading music and movies is illegal but downloading photos is not? The easy answer is because everytime you watch a DVD, as an example, you are reminded that you kill the movie industry if you download illegally. 

    To anybody that is using photos without permission on the own blog, just think if I would copy your website, post everything on my website and still all of your traffic (assuming you are running a commercial website). How would you feel. Suddenly you see your traffic crashing. That's the damage, as a photographer, we are having.

    I have a travel photography website (MEL365.com) and I do give away my photos for free if not for commercial purpose (Creative Commons, Non-Commercial), that's fine and it's my decision. But do you think it is right to use someone else property for your benefit. If so, please let me know where you live and I come and use your house and car. Just kidding obvioulsy, but I wanted to give you an idea.

    I hope my comments helps to understand the gravity of the infringment



  101. Hi, enjoyed reading this and thanks for highlighting an issue that is close to my heart. I'm a graphic designer / illustrator, and find my work being in use without licence by hundreds of people on the internet (inc an attorney that specialises in IP!!). Most of the points I would have made have been made already, but one thing I wanted to bring to your attention was the following.

    I am UK based, and in the UK we do not have to "register" copyright of an image for it to be protected by copyright – "In the UK, Copyright protection is automatic as soon as there is a record in any form of what has been created (there is no official registration required)."

    All I need to do is prove that I created the image, and as a digital illustrator, the source file is enough to prove my ownership of the copyright. 

  102. It is always adviced that bloggers  careful attribute the  Images they use for their articles. Added to the fact  that they are many websites out there offering "free images" for download. 

    I just viewed this Infographic that discussed on how you can carefully choose images and avoid copyright infringement Issues

  103. What these lawyers are doing is so morally reprehensible they should be disbarred.  The law is clearly wrong. They should be required to send a cease & desist letter FIRST.  Then, only if that is ignored should they be allowed to seek damages.  It is practically impossible to avoid occasioanl, accidental infringements if you are a publisher with lots of users.  In egregious cases I can understand asking for small damages but demanding $1,000s of dollars is sick.  Truly sick.

  104. We just got a legal action from Lawyers acting of behalf of Master File, they attached screen shots of two images on our website.  I checked and found the two images in a product sales brochure in pdf format in our Downloads page,  Product brochures and manuals.    The brochures are originated by our principle automation supplier Mitsubishi Electric UK and  are freely available to use in electronic form and in printed  format to promote their products.   I phoned Mitsubishi and they said don't worry about it just refer the legal people to them as they have the full rights to use images they purchased from Master file in their marketing department.  So i stopped worrying about it but only for an hour.

    The pdf brochure has not been edited or changed by us, its just the same as Mitsubishi produced it.  we have hundreds of Mitsubishi brochures in printed form at work, they have a dedicated brochure line where we can order printed or pdf documents.


    Should I be worried or are Mitsubishi correct?

    1. Hi George,

      I wish I could give you advice, but I’m no attorney. However, if you email karilee(at)contentfac(dot)com I’ll be happy to refer you to TCF’s attorney, who specializes in copyright issues.

      Good luck!


  105. What if amateur web designer who mistakenly by no knowledge copied the image, deleted his entire website before anything at all happened (deleted his website for not related to copyright reasons)

    is still be the any sort of actions?

  106. I read your blog this morning on Christmas Day and my stomach is in knots. I have a litle blog where I post about adoption issues. I of course make no money on this; it's just me. One such post 1 1/2 yrs ago was about famous adoptees and in that post I had several photos freely available on the net. One of them was of a famous singer songwriter in Google Images. No waterstamp, warning or attribution of any sort. Even if I thought of getting permission there was no one to ask. The photog of this image apparently has a side business in the extortion racket, demanding $10,000 or he'll sue me. I have reached out for legal advice but can't believe I find myself in this nightmare. Any thoughts or words of encouragement are appreciated because now I feel I'm pretty much screwed.

    1. Hi John,

      I’m sorry to hear that you’re in this situation, and that you found this blog post when it was too late. Copyright infringement is serious stuff, but few people are aware of the potential consequences. This seems to be particularly true when it comes to image use.

      Hang in there — and if you can, hire a lawyer to do the fighting for you (I’d be happy to refer you to TCF’s copyright attorney — just email karilee(at)contentfac(dot)com) and I’ll put you in touch with him). The best thing about lawyers is when you find a good one, they take a lot of weight off of your shoulders. 

      Hopefully, you’ll be able to settle for less than the $10k. 

      Good luck!


      1. Hi Kari ,

        I relly like your article . It has enlightened me a lot.

        I have few questions.

        – Does these copyright laws extend to other countries as well….How does it work for intercountry copyright infringement.For ex: A chinese guy using a photo from a photographer in US in his own website/blog.

        – I guess the photographers can sue the bloggers without raising the DMCA takedown notice….

        – What if someone uses a copyrighted photo in a third party blogging platform or content curation platform like Tumblr or Pinterest.

        – If I curate the photo with annotation/commentary and attribution then also does it come under copyright infringement.

        If curation comes under copyright infringement , then the social media platforms like facebook and twitter shares the content across their platform which inherently infringes copyright ownership

        Can you please throw some light on the above points.

  107. This was a very interesting post, since I work for an organization that focuses on copyright protection. I’m sympathetic to your concerns, since getting hit with an unexpected fine can be very damaging, but I mostly found this piece interesting, because it covers all the reasons why an infringer kind of has it coming if they get caught.

    You describe yourselves as being “not up on copyright law.” If you find a picture (or a video or a song or whatever) and you didn’t buy it and you didn’t make it, why are you assuming it’s okay to use it? Did elves create those images? The person who did make it might be okay with folks using it, they may have it under a Creative Commons license, but it’s important to find that out.

    Infringing content is not excused by doing it by accident, or because the image quality is poor, or you resized it, or your web developer licensed it (that doesn’t transfer to you), or that you didn’t make money from it. Those things don’t excuse the theft of other items. “I know I stole your sandwich, but it was unlabeled in the company fridge and I was hungry and it was terrible.”

    Good lesson for everybody. (by the way, that doesn't mean there aren't trolls and that the systems for fines shouldn't be reexamined.)

  108. Firstly, I think it's very brave of you to publish your mistake, and useful to educate others of the risks of just using any image. I agree there are some who milk the system for all it's worth, but without such a system, individuals like me, a self-employed graphic artist/photographer, would just give up! I've never sued anyone and probably never will, but some copyright infringement is on an industrial scale and it affects my business. I'm pretty soft on bloggers usually asking for a link to the original and reminding them that the whole of the internet isn't public domain, but a commercial business should know better.

    People like me have a binge of searching for images every now and then, so it doesn't matter if someone's escaped notice for several years – I just found one from 2012 – and image recognition is improving too. It's hard work and time consuming trying to find them though. In the last 6 weeks I've found nearly 300 infringements with the associated DMCA takedowns, so that's 6 weeks of lost work and soul destroying to boot. I'm not famous, award winning either – but it is my living! I've also signed up to an automated image search, but it doesn't find everything and more importantly, none at all from the site that has 99% of my infringed images, so it's really not that simple.

    My originals are incredibly easy to find with a reverse image search, so there's no excuse there.

    But still, good for you for publishing this article.

  109. Hi, Thank you for sharing your experience.  

    I am facing now something similar, we received an email from a photographer that claim $1500 because we used her picture of a beach. We are just creating our business, and we just thought to put a beach image was nice to share, but we din't thought further, we are so inexperience I guess. It is the only picture we used from google search. She said we have 15 days to pay the $1500 or she will suit us. She said that the $1000  is her licensing and $500 is the penalty for use without permission. She send us that invoice. She didn't give instrucctions how to pay her though. But can she put a $500 penalty beside her licensing cost? 

    Of course we don't know what to do, and we have no money to pay her and ask a lawyer. She is from USA, and we are from Europe, if she suit us, how this can affect us. 

    Another thing is that because we are setting up the business, it is not register yet, here in our country this things are very slowly, we din't make any money with it yet, we just launched the web, and then we thought to do all legal procedures, because we don't know how things are going to be, and here to register a business cost money and a lot of burocracy. 

    We appreciate your advice after your experience. Thank you so much. 



  110. Hey folks, wake up! We're in 2016..! Tumblr, Instagram, etc., it's 200 millions copyright infringments a day…. Like it or not, copyright is long dead…. 

  111. I have an issue Im hoping an attorney or anyone with this kind of knowledge can chime in on.  I'm a realtor. Last year I get a call from a previous client of mine asking me to take a listing that she previously had listed with another agent but found he was not performing his job as she had hope. During the course of his employment / contract my client pays for the property to be staged with furniture and painting and such and the other agent takes the photos. When she calls me to list the property for sale the property was no longer staged. The photos that she told me to use were not professional by any means and I didn't like them to be honest. However my client was in a financial bind and could not have the property staged again so she instructed me to use the other photos. At the time of course I thought she had permission to use the photos since she told me that she was going to pay the other agent for his time and work. 

    Next thing, I know I'm getting a summons in the mail saying Im being sued for copyright infridgement for 135k. Never received any request to take down, never heard from the other agent until the lawsuit. In the summons, I notice that the previous agent advised the client via email that there he copyrighted the photos but she never even aluded to this fact to me. I never suspected the photo were copyrighted at all because real estate agents generally dont copy right property photos. I certainly dont. And when another agent used my photos, I dont even blink because its not like they are really worth much. Who wants photos of just a house. Its not even a beautiful mansion we are talking about. Just a house with substandard workmanship. They are so limited use. Only used for the sale of property and which case the formal agent nor I sold the home due the ridiculous amount the seller wanted to sell the home for.

    I  had the photos up for a total of 10 days and only used them on the mls which the mls distrubes them to a multitude of other sites like thousands of other sites. I normally pay my own professinal photographer who takes 30 photos and does a real virtual tour of homes $250 total. The photos that were used were 16 total. I used one of my own shots of the exterior for a total 17 photos that were posted to the mls. 

    As far as Im able to gather the mls agreement with all of its users is that once the photos are uploaded to the MLS, they become property of the MLS. However it does also state that they agent who uploads them warrants that they are their property to upload. The penalty it $100 for this violation. However, at the time I thought it they were property of the seller and she instructed me to use them so I didnt't believe I needed to get permission from this other agent the use of the photos of her own house she paid to have staged. 

    Anyway I offered to settle and pay the agent 3x the amount that I normally would pay for professional photographs but he refused. He seems to think he will get what he is asking for.  $135,000. 

    Can anyone offer some advice or chime in on this type of lawsuit. I have done a bunch of research in hopes to find a case similar to this but have not found anything. Like I said, real estate agent in the industry normally dont copyright property photos.  This agent knew he has the seller by the "you know what". It was a trap. It seems to me like the other agent is just trying to make a quick buck. He filed pro se and got the filing fees waived and he no longer works in the industry.  Id like to find something that would tell me what judges in this matter have considered fair and just. I thought my offer was pretty fair. 


    1. Sorry to hear you’re going through this issue. If you’d like, I’d be happy to refer you to TCF’s attorney (who specializes in copyright law) – just send an email to karilee(at)contentfac(dot)com and I’ll refer you to him directly.

      Hang in there!

  112. Man, the comments section of this post is really something.  

    Here's my contribution to this sh*tstorm.  

    So let's say I'm a blogger and I write a blog post about the band Blink-182 because I'm a fan of their music.  I'm sure all you people who've written in to this comments section listen to them all the time. Great band, right?  I know.  🙂

    So as part of my post I write a 500 word article about a concert I saw that I thought was great.  Also in that blog post I include two pieces of media.  One is a YouTube clip from the concert that I embed as a responsive video, which of course is super easy to do these days.  I grabbed the video from YouTube, but its not like I emailed the guy who posted it on his channel.  Nobody does that.  Like nobody.  Anyway, this guy (who's name is DemonSeed3DXXX) must have been at the concert as well, and so I just embed it because its easy, and its common practice these days.  Do I consider this theft?  Well, no, but in a way, one might argue that video is worse than a single photo because its literally 800 million microsecond moments spliced together to capture a once in a lifetime pop-punk reunion concert.  I know, you all wish you were there.  🙂  Too bad… but as my mom says, a video is worth a thousand pictures (more like 1 million but whatever)

    The other piece of media is a photo from the concert that I found on Pinterest that was posted by some guy named Squinch, who was ALSO at the concert but not the same guy as the guy who took the video with his phone, as the angle is clearly different.  I was stuck in the back, so I didn't get a good view, but at least I was there!  Not that I really noticed, but it would appear that Squinch (the Pinterest user) is a 17 year old kid from.. that's right, NEBRASKA!  What are the chances?

    Anyway, so I hit PUBLISH on my blog post and share it on Facebook where a bunch of my friends see it and "like" it.  

    I'm not a really savvy blogger, so I don't realize that a total of 15 people actually see the post over the course of one month, but that is in fact what happened.  If I knew about Google Analytics, I would have been able to easily track that info and realize that over one dozen viewers actually checked out my post that month.  But I'm ignorant, so I don't know this.

    A week goes by.  And then guess what happens?  I get not one, but TWO letters in the mail concerning two separate lawsuits.  :O  

    I've never been sued before, so I am shocked to see these letters, which both look very official.

    One, it turns out, is from that Pinterest kid who posted that picture from the concert which I used for my blog.  Seems his name isn't actually Squinch but Michael Patterson Jr., and it turns out that he is actually a professional photographer, not just some guy who hangs out on Pinterest posting Blink-182 pics.  He (or the letter on behalf of him) says he's suing me for damages amounting to about $14K, due losses he's incurred by my stealing his image from his Pinterest, which is actually originally found on his website and apparently he's a "rock photographer" who just happens to be really young.  As my jaw hung open, I finished glossing over the legal mumbo jumbo in his letter and my eyes kept returning to the amount itself.. 14K.  A feeling of dread suddenly came over me.  I then saw the other even bigger, thicker looking legal letter.

    This time, incredibly, it was Blink-182's management that was suing me…for posting that video, of all things.  Apparently that DemonSeed3DXXX character had stolen the video from their official page, and they were not cool with that.  Nope, not cool with that at all… to the tune of 10 MILLION dollars!  There was even a personal letter from Blink-182 saying I was a disgrace to all of humanity, and that they had intended on packaging that video footage that I embedded on my blog post into a Blu-Ray box set, and they said that my blog actually actually ruined their marketing campaign and was going to cost them 5 million dollars (the other 5 mil was for legal fees).  

    They also, for some reason, went on to say that photography, while a valid form of artistry, is nothing compared to videography, which is like photography but with more HD frames and requires 10x the talent to do properly by a true visionary artist.  😛  I don't know if I agree with that, but anyway… Blink-182 told me I would not only be sued for the 10 million (which they considered lenient), but that they hoped I would rot in jail forever until I died.  🙁  

    Anyway, with all of this coming down on me, I don't know if I should put my blog in maintenance mode, or what?  Also, any legal advice would be appreciated.  Thanks, 





  113. I have a question. It is probably silly. I designed a graphic a few years ago and it said push play. Now I see Capri sun drinks using the slogan push play. Can I sue them?

    1. Hi Diane,

      That’s a question for an attorney (and I’m certainly not one), but I’d imagine you’d need to have trademarked “push play” before you could sue.

      If you feel strongly about it, you should definitely seek the counsel of a lawyer.

  114. Well, now that I goggled this subject, what I'm reading right now and what I have been screaming about as a blogger is still horribly true. I am in the process of writing an e-book about "using your own images on your blogs" and this post and subsequent comments are proof that this issue ain't going away anytime soon!

    1. Hi Terry,

      Absolutely true! We get emails about this at least once a month from people in similar positions. Our attorney has gotten a lot of referral business from this post, that’s for sure! When your book is published, please be sure to come back and leave us a link to it!


  115. First of all, if you pay for images you won't have a problem, and secondly, it seems a given assumption that said laws apply to everyone. Let me explain very briefly how it really is: in the USA you have to think of all of these things, but that's only one medium sized country run by guns, greed, poverty and social unrest. Praise the Lord! 

    Yet, unbenown to many people, there are other countries, ones that speak English as a first language, without weird accents. So here's what the majority of the English speaking world thinks of US law: nobody cares! 

    [tldr] US laws are not recognised outside of the USA. So if you want to not have an issue, either pay for images in the US, host your blog in Tuvalu, or make it impossible for anyone to know your identity and street address, if you care that much. The end.

  116. Very important point for all bloggers to read about and understand, nicely written post too! 😀

    However is it not a very simple solution just to inline link to the images you want to include in your blog post thus avoiding any copyright issues as you haven’t actually copied anything??

  117. Hi All.. I published some photos taken by someone I hired for some professional photos. It was a verbal request so I don’t think I owe the person what they are billing me. Anyway, my web design firm used some of her photos for my website.

    I read that if she hadn’t registered her photos before 3 months after I published them, then the worst thing that could happen to me is I have to pay a breach of contract if I’m taken to court and sued for copyright. Damages and penalties wouldn’t be available because she registered too late after I published them.

    Then I read on a blog that said her copyright registration clock didn’t start 3 months after I published them, but within one month of her “discovering” my using them. She could, within one month of finding her work being used, register copyright and come after me with penalties and damages.

    I’d like to work something out with her but don’t want to be surprised or taken to the cleaners. What’s the law on this? Has her time for getting copyright registered passed and the worst case for me is having to pay her original bill? Or (now one year later after I published) if she “discovers” them, can she get copyright and have full legal recourse against me including penalties?

    Hope this makes sense. All comments welcome.

  118. Iam not living in US. I am living in bangladesh.

    Do i get any penalty For Posting Paid Software for free in my website. like Adobe Photoshop cs6

    1. Yes. They can still track you down. What you are doing is illegal. Especially a company as big as Adobe. They will find you and your fee will be way more than $8,000. Try 6 or 7 figures.

  119. There are free sources of stock photos around the web, who ensures that all of the images are royalty-free, but what protects us from this kind lawsuit? This is such an eye opener. Will read on to your suggested link that explains more.


  120. Here’s my nightmare – 15 years ago I paid a gal to make a 4-page web site for my 2-person company. The site was very basic, with just a little history on us and some of our clients. The site developer included a handful of small pictures of smiling faces in office environment. After a few years, the web gal disappears and I simply left the pages on my server space. Then a month ago I get a letter from Getty Images, claiming ownership of the images and demanding to see my licensing. I am totally shocked, of course. I paid someone to make the site, and that person is long gone. But now I’m liable? How the heck was I ever supposed to know that I needed the licensing?? I didn’t make the site. I didn’t ‘steal’ or ‘borrow’ any pictures. I acted in good faith all the way. This sucks and truly gives me a bad taste for legal system.

    1. Hi Dave,

      Sorry to hear that your website developer left you in the lurch here – if you need a copyright attorney, I’d be happy to refer you to TCF’s lawyer (just shoot us a message via our contact form and I’ll send you his contact info).

      Good luck, and hang in there!


    2. You are responsible. It’s your site. Ignorance isn’t an excuse. If you have proof that you were not the one who designed the site, then you can probably get some leniency as they track her down. But look for old emails (or however you two corresponded). Look for bank statements or paypal records. If there is no trail that someone other than you designed the site, then you will be paying the fine. Negotiate it down.

      1. No. He is not responsible. You should calm down with such extreme reactions to images being used…

  121. What would you say regarding a business using an image that was taken by someone else, THEN adding their logo onto the image and displaying it on their webpage and all over social media, then ignore requests to remove the image. The company makes money from insurance etc.

    1. I would say that it might be time to call in your own Mr. Leach. If you need a referral to a creative/IP attorney, I’m happy to give you the contact info for TCF’s attorney – shoot us a message via the Contact Us form on our website and we’ll send it your way!

    2. If you are not that business or that “someone else” then it’s none of your business. Feel free to let the artist know, otherwise stay out of it.

      But if you are the artist, it depends on the copyright you released with the photo. If you released it to be free-for-commercial use (especially if you released it for remixing) then you have given up any right to the photo.

  122. I would just like to say thank you for posting your experience and explaining this so clearly. I own a blog. Just got a fine. Now I am trying to educate myself on what I did wrong. (which was not attribute a photo properly even though it said FREE TO USE and the “attribution required” text was in extremely fine print….) Your article was one of the most helpful I have found. Thank you.

  123. Hi, I found this article interesting. It as a one of the replies stated it was brave and great that you exposed your wrong doing and are using it as a cautionary tale for others.

    However, the fact that you go on to disparage the quality of the image and take shots at what you assume to the photographer to be like and what his imagery is worth is extremely offensive.

    Taking someone’s photography and using it to supplement your blog, article or whatever without permission is stealing. PERIOD

    Not only that but you are devaluing the work of photography and assuming that anything on the internet is up for grabs is crazy.

    I am glad you got caught. I am a photographer and am SICK of people doing this to me.

    1. Huh? Okay, here is scenario.
      An AMATEUR takes a shit photo. I use it on my blog. I have a claim….

      That’s bs! The photo is not worth a cent!

  124. Please recognize the time and expense that artists got through every month to find, chase, communicate, and litigate against those who infringe. Not all efforts are fruitful due to companies in other countries or out of business. So unfortunately, you are paying partly for all the time spent on those resources too. The $8,000 is a negotiating tactic. If an artist chases 5 infringers in a year and only one works out for $3,000, that barely covers the artist’s and lawyer’s time.

    I agree that some charity should have been given in your case that is was an accident, but as a professional, I’m sure you were kicking yourself for not making sure the company really owned it. We all know laypersons take images from the web. It sounds like the artist was just taking what he/she could get.

    1. You guys just steal money with ridiculous claims…. You are no better yourself.
      Are your photos good? Cause if not, you are not gonna be paid anything. Some people put effort to earn money!

  125. I was referred to this thread by a blogger. I understand this post was probably written in 2013. What people call “copyright trolling”, I call “copyright extortion”. And what people call settlement demand letters, I refer to them as “extortion letters”. There is far more people need to learn about it all works and what most lawyers tell you is wrong. I’ve been following and reporting on this since 2008. People who get these outrageous, disproportionate letters need to know there are additional resources for victims to deal with this but you have to seek them out beyond calling the local lawyer who is not likely going to understand the cottage industry and players that sends out these extortion letters and the psychological tactics behind them.

    1. I agree. This post is fearmongering. Tons of huge blogs use copyrighted photos everyday and do not pay a dime for them. It falls under fair use which is a FEDERAL law. Judges and courts love federal laws and if you had to go to court and hit them with that code they wouldn’t be able to do a thing. We’ve come much farther on this topic since 2013.

  126. If all those who infringe copyrights would agree to pay a reasonable fee when the copyright owner confronts them with the infringement, so that lawyers need not be involved, there would be no need for fees that are many times what the copyright holder would normally charge for the particular usage. However, all too many copyright infringers try to resist paying anything, and lawyers frequently work on contingency on such matters: hence the much higher cost when lawyers get involved. Furthermore, the hassle of dealing with a large quantity of copyright infringements has gotten so great for many photographers (and other content creators), that they simply refer all copyright infringements to their attorneys.

    By the way, if a copyright infringement matter has to go to court, in addition to possibly having to pay large statutory damages, the defendant might also be required to pay attorney’s fees and court costs if the plaintiff prevails.

    Also, a blog or social media site that is directly associated with a commercial business is still a commercial use, since it is a form of marketing.

  127. As a designer who uses photos in commercial work as well as a photographer myself, this article is infuriating. The one good thing it does is highlight just how bad it is to steal intellectual property. But the entire thing seems to be shifting blame. Yes, you acknowledge that you should have paid for the photo. But then you also go on to blame “greedy” lawyers and comment on the popularity of the photographer, as if that should make a difference? And you made an entire point about how a major mistake of yours was not realizing it was a bad photo? What does that have to do with anything?

    Ultimately, you stole something. You don’t just get to pay for it after you’ve been caught and call it a day. Someone who walks into a store and steals a pair of shoes doesn’t have the police knocking on their door to get $80 for the shoes and walk away.

    1. DANIELLE you completely missed a point…
      Of course, the claims are ridiculous! What if I put a photo on a blog that makes no money what’s so ever? Why should I pay anything myself??
      If its is a bad photo = worth 0 –> Deal with it (means its free)
      Its not the same as stealing physical objects!

      1. I disagree… you stole the photo… and now it’s worth $3000.00. Stealing digital images is the same as steeling your tv.. it is real property.

        Penalties should always be more stringent than purchasing the rights ahead of time.

        Lastly… you put photos with your blogs…. why? Because the sells better right. There fore the photo was used to generate income! (Though the law does not require income to have been made. It only requires use without permission.)

  128. Does this law and law suits have an international effect?…especially in Nigeria?
    Can such accused be called to the docks in Nigeria if he is being sued by lets say, a photo company in Canada?

    1. Not sure about international copyright law, you’d have to check with your attorney on that one.

    1. Yes, but a helpful and necessary one. This answered a few questions that I had. And is it better to read a long article (and conversation afterward) that takes roughly an hour, or be forced to pay hundreds upon thousands of dollars because you were too lazy to bother to check or credit your sources? Hopefully some people learned from this.

      1. Thanks, glad you found this post helpful! We’ve received dozens of emails over the years from people who had no idea image copyright infringement was even a thing, and we’re happy to educate newbie bloggers. If it saves one lawsuit, we count it as a win!

  129. Happy that I found this article that is so informative one. keep sharing your ideas!

  130. Thanks for posting this. I am rethinking my policy for using images in my blogs. If I don’t have an image I created, then my next choice would be to create something in GIMP and use that. IOW, create an icon like button, fancy text and a gradient. That will catch people’s eyes. Another thought is to do crappy stick figure representations. If I do them poorly enough that might be a visitor draw.

    Images do help get traffic to your blogs but with a revenue of .30/1000 pages or whatever, it just isn’t worth the risk.

    One thing that the comments seem to be missing is copyright trolls. These are unscrupulous firms that buy up libraries and hire a bunch of unscrupulous lawyers to start lawsuits against any images found. I wouldn’t be surprised if the photographer and lawyer in your situation have numerous suits going.

    Thanks and good luck.

  131. Hey, I copied this article and sold it to my client for use on their website.

    Shouldn’t be an issue tho ’cause your not famous.

  132. Wow, this article reeks of entitlement. Your writer stole someone’s image without permission, and you’re upset because you got caught. If they could only enforce the law with a slap on the wrist, too many people would break the law, so the penalty has to be big enough to ensure people will think twice before stealing other people’s stuff (intentionally, or not). Every image thief lies and claims they didn’t know it was against the law – while you may very well be the exception and honestly unaware of copyright laws, there’s no way for the owner of the image to know that.

  133. I used to work for a food service company that feeds kids in over 400 schools across the country. There was a time when each individual Food Service Director created their own monthly menus within a template provided to them. I as the new graphic designer I received a notice, from Getty, that i had infringed on a photo of theirs. The image was 3 spinach leaves measuring .5″ x .25″ on a menu that had been created 5 years prior to that, and was available in the archive of the some small town school website. It seemed completely ridiculous, but unfortunately law is law. We ended up paying getty around $1500 for the use of their image. Their price was based on the cost of purchasing the image and legal fees.
    Since then I have done a lot of learning about copyright and trademark issues, and it seems like there are oh so many unsuspecting victims. You can do a lot of research, but if you don’t know what you are looking for then you can get screwed.
    I also see a lot of comments telling everyone to just make sure you license the images and you’ll have no problem. If you hire a designer to do an ad for you, you’d expect everything to be in order and properly done and licensed or whatever, but the end user becomes liable, because they comissioned the work and took resposibility that way. This is something I found out from that suit with the leaves. I have spent at least 80 hours scouring the “internet of things” for laws and clarification on gray areas about on-demand printing or use for an internal companie and royalty free images and CC images and vectors and screen grabs, and verbiage etc. etc.
    I have seen 30+ year designers buy stuff off (unnamed stock photo site) and use it for a logo, which is completely against their terms and conditions. The logo is trademarked and in use, and someday someone might get in trouble for that. There was also a practice of buying the basic license for images and reproducing them and selling them with the understanding that the risk was worth the savings in not buying the extended license for several thousand images. I strongly advised against the practice and no longer work there,
    Long story short, you have to be very careful, and even when you’ve crossed your t’s and dotted the last i, you can still get screwed.

    1. I love how the photographer is the one “screwing you” you describe stealing something of theirs (and obviously thought it had value and was worth taking) and then complain you got caught and had to pay more than the value you wanted to pay. Would you like someone to steal your story and re-post as their own on their site with ads or sell it to a client as their own? Writers and photographers and designers are both creators the same copyright rules apply.

  134. As a photographer in business for over forty years I support copyright enforcement. I’ve had dozens of images stolen and reused without permission. In most cases they were resolved when I contacted the person or company who had infringed on my copyright and asked them to delete them. A couple of cases involved a more complicated process and ended with the threat of legal cause. I’m a reasonable person so I know that there are a lot of people that figure it harms no one by copying someone else’s work and reusing it. People think nothing of downloading pirated software and songs so photos are no different in their minds. Anyone who reposts images found online should just take a few minutes and contact the owner of the image / copyrights to get written permission for use. U.S. copyright laws are fairly straight forward and simple. Basically an image is copyrighted the moment it’s created and the copyright belongs to the person who created it. https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/

  135. It’s been almost 6 years since the first comment, and comments still coming in (besides mine, just last month) …this blog post has certainly had a lot of life to it! Does it hold the record for your website?

  136. Found this article currently in the same circumstance. Designed a website for a client and wrote a “Happy Canada Day” Blog post. Usually we use stock image accounts but this time we turned to Google to find a nice Canada Day Picture, reverse-searched the image and saw it on 100’s of “Free Image” sites and downloaded it from there, also say that 1000’s of other companies were using the same image. Today (4 months later), we can later from a law firm saying we are infringing rights and we need to remove the photo and pay $1500 (much less than yours and am sorry to hear that!). This person who has the copyrights for this image, has turned this into a business for himself targeting small businesses. I just gave an offer much less than what they are asking, we thought about taking them to court on this (awaiting our lawyers opinion) but after reading your article, we probably wouldn’t stand a chance. I just don’t understand why people couldn’t just send you an e-mail asking you to take it down first. It’s ridiculous.

    1. I’m sorry this is happening to you – I’ve heard of this scheme in the past as well. At least it’s a smaller amount (it’d probably be cheaper to just settle than to pay your attorney to fight it).

  137. My niece gave a photo to her university to use for a marketing campaign. It was used on a billboard.
    This photo was from her senior yr in high school and taken by her cousin, a photographer. She did not know it was copyrighted as her mother signed a contract before photo was taken.
    Now, cousin photographer has sent letter to the university asking for compensation. The university had no knowledge it was copyrighted and neither did my niece, yet the photographer is going after the school.
    What should my niece and her mother do?

    1. Is on the school. They should had asked more questions starting with, who took this image and who is the © owner? They are not stupid and I am sure protect their own licensing well. Imagine someone stealing the school logo for something else.,

  138. The absurdity & overzealousness of the copyright & trademark laws are ridiculous. Instead, all they do is invade privacy, censor freedom of speech, & sue innocent people. The DMCA needs to be abolished. How long until these “copyright trolls” start going after little children who make fanart or fan fiction over some character from a TV show?

  139. If this story is true, then every Tumblr user is guilty of “copyright infringement” LOL

  140. This practice is out of control in Kansas City…One “artist” with initials E.B. ( google kansas city skyline image lawsuits) and his predatory lawyers are cleaning up…$10K-15K-20K-30K settlements…Crappy part is that the “artist” registers his picture with copyright office but doesn’t put “copyright” on the photo….Lawyers use technobots to find pics, send a lawsuit and hope that you will settle instead of paying legal fees…ABsolutes Maggots

  141. 2020.. and I’m in the same situation.
    Terrified and stressed and can’t imagine how it will all end. What the end result will ruin. My business and relationship.

    I wish I had not been so stupid. I’m Reading anything that could give me light, I can only see that there will be no humanity addressing this situation, no matter how innocent I am.
    It was comforting to read your arrtical, relating to the unjust of it all… Thank you

  142. On the other side.
    I posted an ad to Etsy of rocks that for where for sale.
    -not the photo the stones themselves-
    And now that photo of the items for sale. Is the background on multiple travel sites.

    I haven’t sued anyone, I asked for credit from one (that has almost hits). And the others said “they didn’t care”.

  143. The law is there to protect all artists. If you dont want to get suit then dont steal. Is like stealing a $5 drink at 7-11 yet getting five years for that. So next time just get a permission from the photographer and pay a fees for using the photo.

  144. Hi guys, thank you for taking time to write a brilliant Article highlighting this Important issue.
    I am a small business owner and just like you got caught for a completely innocent mistake by posting a photo of a Famous tailor On my website here in Singapore.
    The photo and the blog got only a handful of view yet the asshole is suing me for $10000,
    After he filled charges against me in criminal court we started mediation process which did not go down well. The legal process will be long and I will have to stand trial but I am not backing down and will do my best to prove me innocence.

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