Busted. I got caught doing the very thing I warn everyone not to do. Copyright violation.
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash
Last month I received and completely unexpected email regarding an image that I used on this very blog in 2017:
Unauthorized Use of Boxist.com’ Images Cease and Desist / Settlement Agreement – Case #150421B
It has come to our attention that you are using an image (or images) owned by Boxist.com (Stock Photography) for online promotional purposes without our authorization or a valid license which is copyrighted work in accordance with the copyright law, We own the image(s) exclusively and have filings with the U.S. Copyright Office for said image(s) under: Registration Number: VA0002000962.
We have searched our records and have not been able to locate a valid license for the use of the image(s) under your name, Attached for your reference is a copy of the image(s) in question and the usage found on your website, Also attached is a payment demand representing a settlement that Boxist.com would expect to receive for the unauthorized use of the image(s) should no license exist.
Although this use might have been unintentional, the use of our imagery without proper licensing is considered “copyright infringement” and entitles Boxist Stock Photography to pursue compensation for infringing uses, the consequences of copyright infringement can lead to substantial penalties, and If you continue to engage in copyright infringement after receiving this letter, your actions will be evidence of “willful infringement”.
List of the infringement materials on your website:
- The image(s) are displayed at the following pages: http://earthshards.com/shards/2017/06/thats-when-i-knew-her-name/
- Screenshots of the infringement on your website is attached to this letter for your reference.
(Digital cached data and printed proofs of this infringement have been preserved for our use as evidence in any lawsuit or litigation proceedings).
YIKES!! At first, I did what any computer-savvy person would do – I googled the sender, hoping it was a scam. Long story short, it turns out that they were right. This company does provide images but they require a license. They also do a thriving business in searching for people who are using these images without a license, and they found me, four years later.
The image was something I had found through a Google search. Here’s what it looked like in the 2017 blog post:
In my own defense, when I choose something from Google images, I do a cursory search for copyright, but in this case (and in every case) you need to look more thoroughly.
Boxist.com asked for $150 to use their photo – it didn’t matter that I had already taken it down. I had used it without permission. I also found through searches that this company catches a lot of people this way – but they are absolutely within their rights.
In the end, I went to their site and paid $50 for a license to use the small version of the photo which I wasn’t even using any more on a four-year-old blog post. But the law is the law.
I quickly heard back from Boxist.com – here’s the email:
Wow! Thank you for sharing this, Lyn. I used to copy found images a lot in the past, all for my personal artwork use. However, now that I am drawing more, and my drawings are being seen by others, I have stopped this practice, and use either my own photos or ones which I have purchased. Thank you for reinforcing to do the right thing.
That was exactly what I was trying to say, Louise – and I didn’t even have malice in my mind! I just didn’t check thoroughly enough.
Yikes … thanks for sharing … we all may know this, but putting it into practice in the heat of a blogging moment can be so easy to gloss over
On a related note, I once found a blue heron line drawing on Etsy that I really liked. I probably could have riffed on it, but I chose to contact the artist and ask if she would sell me permission to use it for a cloth piece I was making for a friend. She was happy to do so. I also was given her permission to write a blog post about the process.
Liz, what a perfect solution based on best practices! I’d love to see the blog post! Thanks!!
Glad you’re not doing 10-20 in Alcatraz.
If you have any problems in Boston, one of my college roommates is a very fine lawyer. Ha Ha!
Whew! Thanks, Tom – good to know you’ve got my back. 🙂
Thank you for sharing Lyn. It’s hard to distinguish sometimes when a photo is copy right protected even when you do some research.
It really is – of course, the best solution is to use your own photographs!