Alleged Image Copyright Theft Scam is a Money Spinner

I got a comment recently on my blog about a scam that I was unaware of but which, after a small amount of research has made me boiling mad.

First, some background

The Internet is awash with images – mostly pictures of my cat, My Cat (c) Me, 2011 I admit, but they are everywhere – the World Wide Web is now a massively visual medium, made worse by social sites such as Facebook. The problem is, each one of these images is owned [by somebody] and they often don’t take kindly to anyone else using them without permissions [or payment].
The kings of the Pay-to-use images world are the stock photo libraries – massive databases of images, all of which have complex rules and pricelists depending on how, where and how long the image is used. It ay be 99c to have a thumbnail on your website or many $$ thousands to license an image to print on tee shirts or have as part of your company logo.

If you are looking for a picture, say, of a cat playing the piano, you can find many, many of them on any search engine. But each image has it’s own rules about usage.

There are ‘Royalty Free’ image libraries that offer images that you can use without payment [with a few restrictions] and many people with small websites use these services and are very happy with the non-exclusivity and often non-professionally produced images.

Now to the ‘problem’ and the Scam.

If you were to knowingly use an image library’s image without paying for it, or use one in a manner that is expressly forbidden then you would not be surprised to receive some stern reprimands from the owner, with demands for payment for the usage or a cease and desist-type letter. And, in most cases, you wouldn’t have to wait very long. These companies guard their Intellectual Copyright (IP) in just the same way that the shark-like Recording and Mootion Picture Industries do. They have web searching tools that spider the web looking for unauthorised use of their images.

But what if you got an image from a free site, or your website came with a template with pictures that later turned out to be copyrighted?

This is where you will have problems.

Some image libraries (Getty Images being one of the most aggressive) will send you a very threatening letter demanding that:

  1. You Cease and Desist from using the image, which they claim is theirs.
  2. You pay for prior usage of the image, normally at a vastly increased rate (eg. 10x) than normal usage would cost.
  3. You pay immediately or you will be sued for costs that will increase the longer you refuse to pay.

Warning! The law is not on your side in this. Ignorance of copyright theft is no excuse and they use the concept of ‘Strict Liability‘ which means that you can be found liable for an infringement regardless of your knowledge or intent of the infringement. What this means in practice is that EVEN THOUGH you did not know your image use was copyright infringement and EVEN THOUGH you take it down immediately you hear about it, you are still liable for usage costs, penalties, administration fees and interest. What these are seems to be up to the copyright owner, but I have seen cases where an image that would have cost $39 to use, resulted in a fee of over $500.
Getty Settlement Website
A more sinister part of this scam is that the copyright holders seem to be ‘seeding’ free/royalty free image libraries (or buying them outright as is the case with Getty Images and Stock.XCHNG) with pay-to-use images and then coming knocking later for money.

So it’s Extortion, right?

Ah yes. Legally they may be 100% correct in asserting their rights, but as a lawyer in the UK has recently found, the courts are not happy with bulk ‘speculative invoicing’ type court cases. I believe that it is immoral and malicious and extortion to operate in this way as a first resort and any company doing so should be shunned.

If you get caught by these pirates, my first instinct is to ignore them and they may just go away (after first removing the offending image from your universe of course). If they persist, let them take you to court. It actually appears that this is a hollow threat as there are few if any records of this ever happening. I suggest you write a letter (a real letter, with a stamp and certified and everything), telling them that you were unaware of the error, that you have corrected the error and that as far as you are concerned that is the end of the matter.

Here’s the original comment that made me do the research:

… Internet companies offer photos and pics for sale, asking a high fee (f. ex., $500).
At the same time, some of those photos and pics are placed in blogs and sites with no apparent connection to the original company. However, such items now appear with the indication “copyright free”, or just “free photos or pics”.
Periodically, such “ghost-sites or ghost -blog ” disappear, being replaced by new ones serving the same purposes.
People coming across such “free photos & pics” may place them in their company sites or personal blogs.
And then, the original company mails them a letter, demanding payment and compensation for the unauthorized use of their images.


Other links about this issue are here:
Getty Image Settlement Demand Letters
Sample letters from Getty about copyright infringement
A (UK) Lawyer who has handled this kind of issue.

8 thoughts on “Alleged Image Copyright Theft Scam is a Money Spinner

  1. Nathi Sikandar Nandwani Money Scammer and Fraud citizen says:

    Scamming for money on online forex website and also create malwre tool such as crypter to make virus undetect from antivirus.User(Sikandar Niraj Nandwani) is involved in credit card fraud on carders.ws and other websites.

    hackforums.net profile:-
    http://www.hackforums.net/member.php?action=profile&uid=56752

    Myspace account :- http://www.myspace.com/495606568/comments

    Website of his shitty copy/paste stuffs :- http://sicksourcecodes.blogspot.com

    His sister in law(Sony nandwani):-http://www.facebook.com/SoniieBaby

    His sister in law(Mukesh nandwani):-http://www.facebook.com/nandwanimukesh

    His sister in law(Naveen nandwani):-http://www.facebook.com/naveen.nandwani.16

    His whole money scammer family photo:-https://www.dropbox.com/s/33ctmypzvgitzuw/Money%20Scammwe%20family.bmp

    His Real Photo:-
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/o6ra7c97z9uaaeo/383609_343998415615640_169590550_n%5B1%5D.jpg
    and
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/0r95kewx4fgmpdc/548002_599686526713493_1179575536_n%5B1%5D.jpg

    Real Origin:- India( Madras )

    Current stay :-philippines,
    Bacolod City,
    PhilippinesBacolod, Philippines,
    age 24

    Hometown — Makati.

    Facebook profile page:-
    http://www.facebook.com/nandwaninathu

    Real Name:- Mudumbai Kiran

    Full name on net:- Nathu Sikandar Nandwani (Nathu Sikandar Niraj Nandwani)

    yahoo mail id:- mudumbaikiran@yahoo.com

    gmail id:- sikandarindustries@gmail.com

    LR id:- U9061931

    Paypal id:- sicklabs@gmail.com

    Youtube Real channel:- http://www.youtube.com/user/TheSherry0987

    Qualification:-
    2010

    Graduated from Megumi Academy
    Started School at University of St. La Salle

    2006

    Graduated from Don Bosco Technical Institute, Makati
    Started School at Megumi Academy

    1999

    Graduated from Think and Try Learning Center
    Started School at Don Bosco Technical Institute, Makati

    1997

    Started School at Think and Try Learning Center

  2. Seth Sebastian says:

    Hi I have heard about this man Vincenzo. He is the head at UNibank correct? Is he a scammer? I want to know more please!

  3. Aneet Mosumdar says:

    Scam scam scam its all you here about since the digital era! Technology is enabling crooks like Bjorn Koritz, Roger Hedin and Vincenzo Carpanzano operate card scams. Please do not apply for Unibank Card!!! Its a HUGE SCAM!

  4. Dagmar Bergman says:

    Roger Hedins is a scammer with many aliases and known to run many pyramid schemes. I was almost entrapped in one of his Unibank card schemes in which company e is the CFO. I hope no one will suffer from such cons……………………………………………..!

  5. concerned citizen says:

    now that the page is refreshed, i can see that the scams on your page are not limited to those you write about. they are rampant in the google adverts: pay day loan scams, time shares, pay to learn trancendental meditation, work from home and make 100′s of 1000′s, and non accredited online universities.

    It’s an interesting look at the scam/advertiser index.

    thanks!

  6. concerned citizen says:

    do you find it ironic that among your advertisers on your website are “payday” loans that charge fees in the range of 20% of the loan?

    what is your take on that?

  7. Ian Webb says:

    “caught by these pirates”??? I think you’ll find the “pirates” are the ones stealing the images in the first place!!

  8. Ian Webb says:

    You may want to include something that describes “royalty free”. It DOES NOT mean they are “free” for anyone to use. Royalty free (RF) images are my biggest earners. The purchaser has the right to use them more freely, but still within certain restrictions. A “rights protected” image is purchased for a specific use. IE: use on web site, or use in text publication. The purchaser would need to buy an exclusive licence for each use. If its RF, then they just pay the one off (normally higher) fee and they can use it on thier website, magazine and book.

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