Recently, we have received numerous concerns from clients in regards to copyright infringement due to images posted on their webpages or blogs. Law firms will reach out to companies demanding a significant sum of money in exchange for a release of copyright infringement claims. This type of firm is considered a “copyright troll” and unfortunately, is how they make a living. If you receive one of these letters or accusations, take a step back and consider the following before you agree to settle.
They have the wrong guy.
It is very common for a copyright troll to accuse the wrong person. Is it actually your website or your blog that posted the images? Ask the troll to prove you’re the owner.
Does the troll own the work?
Hold the troll to demonstrating they have actually registered the copyright for the work. If there is no federal copyright registration, they can’t get the big damages they claim. Damages are only available after registration and aren’t retroactive.
Don’t just pay up to settle the dispute.
The troll will scare you by threatening a large amount of money but don’t just pay up to settle. The troll is threatening large damages because the actual damages available are likely so low that it would not be worth going to court. Contact a legal professional to assist with the next steps.
Check your images
Even though copyright trolls are a problem, a legitimate copyright infringement lawsuit can be very expensive. If someone has a legitimate copyright on an image that you are using without permission, damages can range from $30-150k per view of the image! Do a check of your website and make sure you own the images on it, have the permission of the copyright owner (sometimes called a license), or are confident the image is in the public domain and free to use.
These are just a few things to consider when you encounter a copyright troll. Each case is different, and we advise consulting an attorney before taking any action against a troll. The above article is not legal advice and should not rely on it as such. Do not hesitate to reach out to one of our Cokinos | Young attorneys with any questions or concerns.