A while back we received a letter from an attorney asking us to take down 4 images from our website on behalf of their client whose products we were no longer selling.
I’m busy and we have 75,000 images on the site. I did not know nor care what this lawyer was talking about and I kept asking them to tell me which 4 images to remove.
Weeks later I get an email with the URLs of the four images – we removed them – I thought that ended things.
Three weeks later in early April we get this email https://goo.gl/qFxjHW. My wife forwarded to me with an “I told you so.”
I’m old – I’ve been around – I’ve been sued – I’ve filed suits – this email smelled like cow dung – but it was from a lawyer demanding $18,500 (maybe even $1000000 liability) something I could not ignore.
I will look anyone in the eye and tell them I am fearless – they will believe me. I was enraged. There’s never a good time to be on the wrong end of a lawsuit. This is one of the worst times for us and I responded with the following tirade:
Can I call you Eddy? (not his real name)
Before I file extortion charges against your client and your law firm with the Atty. Gen. of Michigan there’s a couple of things we need to talk about one of which is “copyright infringement”
I did not accumulate more than 150,000 images without becoming an expert on image copyright and Creative Commons licensing.
For your imaginary lawsuit to actually work your client needs to prove ownership of said images. The problem is that many of the images we took down were given to her by customers – see-> http://screencast.com/t/nJrYoS6W estarbird toy pictured note the words “people began sending me photos of their bird with the toy”
This issue begs another question – how do we even know the legitimacy of your clients images? Here’s an image http://screencast.com/t/n4AbslsE every bird in a given species is identical – so we have an image of a bird and some rope – please provide me with the origin of this image if you are able.
She did not shoot all of the images referred to in your letter(s) – nor did she nor eStarbird pay a professional photographer (who would technically own the copyright until he/she the photographer signed the the copyright over to her your client) so BJ really has no legal right to file a “copyright infringement” lawsuit – That would be laughed at by a first-year law student let alone a judge.
Because eStarbird customers provided “personal” images to Bonnie Jay and eStarbird without putting a creative commons license in place – a case could be made that the images are actually in the public domain – I’m still researching that.
Under Creative Commons licensing https://creativecommons.org/choose/ if a license were selected for any of the images and she created say a thumbnail from the same image but the license restricted any change to the image – she would be in violation of that level of creative commons licensing – something we need to look in to don’t you think – for her protection?
See Eddy – It’s really about attribution http://screencast.com/t/kDcExJDSt30y if you use somebody else’s images under creative Commons (in that she cannot hold the copyright to images she did not take) you have to provide attribution – Assuming there is a creative Commons license in place otherwise you’re just a thief.
There’s two easy ways to do this – put it on the image – https://goo.gl/sUWHul or place it in an “alt tag” http://screencast.com/t/iQJ3hROP7J (That’s our site on the left)
We “alt” tag everything because that’s conventional website design standards. By the way the alt tag also provides the words to screen readers for the vision impaired allowing a site to speak to blind people – pictorially.
In the screenshot where you see alt tags with descriptive words but don’t see author’s names – that’s because these are purchased royalty-free images with a database of receipts http://goo.gl/V5IWX0 and allows us to describe the image to the visually impaired and search bots
This is the use of alt tags on http://estarbird.com/ – http://goo.gl/6nxsHn Providing no origin nor source for any of her images – a red flag for any forensic coder (my partners hobby – wouldn’t you know it?). I think you need to do a bit more investigation (Where’s Paul Drake when you need him right?)
Lucky for me I have screen shots of the images on her site sans alt tags so we can begin to perform digital filtering and identification
note to BJ – turning off right click to save an image Is not only self-defeating but doesn’t work https://goo.gl/photos/vQiKaUx3EXsPjymU8 – When did you become such a slimy bottom feeder?
In the meantime I am going to help your law firm Eddy – I’m going to seek out via social media anyone I can find who “lent” an image to BJ and eStarbird – I suspect I’ll find two or three at the very least with the bounty I will offer.
I will then let them know that because they never technically authorized their copyrighted content they are actually entitled to as much is $18,500 for eStarbirds unauthorized use of their images – see, maybe that’ll get you a couple of new clients what with BJ job hunting and all. Hey maybe they’re entitled to $1,000,000.
With that simmering in the background I will post this debacle on LinkedIn – I’m a [LION]. It will be interesting to see with the thousands of artists business people and attorneys that I interact with daily on LinkedIn will have to say about eStarbirds operating philosophy. Organic never lies
Bill Schuette right? (Atty. Gen. of Michigan)
I’m curious are you are suing the Swede too? http://www.leksaksholken.se/leksaksguiden.html
I also meant to ask – since I removed the images from the Internet and deleted them from my server then migrated to a new server – for performance actually – never expected this nonsense – there is no digital footprint of the image files ever existed on our servers – so for all intents and purposes the images in play here never existed on http://WindyCityParrot.com
What will you be asking for in discovery so I can be prepared – the server hard drive – admin logs – FTP info – let me know I like being fully transparent –
I’ll let my Florida web hosts legal department know to be cordial to you and certainly respect any subpoena from you – as well as http://www.globalnimbus.com/ in Florida too who hosts the five sub-domains on the site where the pictures allegedly resided – on their 5 servers
https://globalshopex.com in California who’s international shopping cart is attatched to windycityparrot.com
and http://searchspring.com/ (Colorado) servers that provide hosted search and would have hosted the alleged copy written infringed thumbnails
That should give a you pretty clear picture (no pun intended) – I hope you didn’t take this case on contingency?
told you this would be fun.
Hey Eddy – if I converted the PDF you sent in the previous email into Google Doc and made the link to that Google Doc live on the Internet putting it in Google’s index – is that a bad thing?
That didn’t work
so I do the adult thing and give the matter to our attorney which is now costing me money making me even angrier for an angry old white guy. Calm collected legal scholar that she is she puts together the following email for my approval: https://goo.gl/sfV1mX We decide to sleep on it
Before I went to sleep two things happened – I email Jill (my attorney) a list of red flags that made no sense about this lawsuit.
I mentioned earlier in my tirade to the plaintiffs attorney that I was going to damage his client’s reputation on social media.
Sure enough I got the discussion going on our Facebook fan page and not surprisingly she (the client suing us) chimed in but said something that surprised me “what lawsuit?”
I sent her a copy of the attorney’s letter with the not so veiled threats of having to pay tens of thousands of dollars for these four pictures of four birds on pieces of rope
The following day – today Jill (our attorney) reaches out to a mutual attorney that we use who specializes in real estate law but also dabbles in copyright law.
He forwards the following article from March 2011 entitled “beware of copyright trolls”: http://tamharbert.com/blog/beware-the-copyright-trolls/
What’s interesting is the article mentioned Getty images who did in fact send us a cease and desist on an image of a parakeet on a bird scale. They requested $1300 for the parakeet.
We scraped the image from the manufacturers site – no harm no fowl – we sent the letter to the manufacturer who paid the $1300 extortion fee.
Our former vendor is not Getty images – I had mentally dug my heels in absolutely refusing to pay out a dime.
Within 30 minutes of Jill (our attorney) sending her letter – the suing attorney wrote back to me saying this is all going to be a waste of time let’s just walk away from the table – allowing me to use an “I told you so” to my wife which is always fun.
What’s not fun is going through this particular process –
The lesson learned here is if you are on the Internet it’s a good possibility that you’re a target for copyright trolls
written by mitch rezman