PicRights and Reuters... again!

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CathyB111
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PicRights and Reuters... again!

Post by CathyB111 »

Hello, I've read the other posts from members here on their situations with PicRights making claims against them, but mine seems a little different, so I was hoping to get some guidance.

I was contacted on 13th November 2023 regarding an image I used in my blog in December 2016. I had recently started my coaching business and had mentioned that there was a supermoon that month, which included the picture in question. I used the image from Google to illustrate what I was writing about, but it was only relevant for that one month.

At the bottom of that blog page was an offer for something unrelated to what the image was used for.

I can't find the image in any other stock image libraries, although I can see that it once existed on stock.adobe.com and alamy.

PicRights is asking for £510. I have removed the image and the blog post. I haven't responded to their email yet. I have 14 days from receipt of their email to respond.

I'm currently in the phone queue to talk to someone from Citizens Advice as I am on Universal Credit, so this fee is unaffordable.

On Reuter's website, the image in question costs £101.50 for a single website for one year + 5 years digital archiving exc tax.

That's all the information I currently have. I've read from previous posts to not accept liability in replying to PicRights, but I'm not sure how to proceed instead, but I know I need to respond and show willing. I unknowingly misused the image back then and don't want to deny the photographer his due, but £510 seems excessive and would be difficult to pay unless I can make installments.

Please advise, thank you
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AndyJ
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Re: PicRights and Reuters... again!

Post by AndyJ »

Hi Cathy and welome to the forums.

You are entirely correct that the figure of £510 is both excessive and wholly unreasonable. The actual amount of any damages a court would award is the actual true market value of a licence which you would have bought at the time when you first needed the image. Since you think the image used to be on Alamy, you can be reasonably sure their licence fee was in the tens of pounds, and probably less than a tenth of the figure now being demanded. We know that it can't be more than £110 since that is what Reuters are currently charging, although this is clearly an inflated fee which Reuters' clients are used to paying for newsworthy images, and doesn't represent the type of licence which you would have needed at the time, just to illustrate a blog article. Indeed the image Reuters are offering may be at a much high resolution, aimed at the print magazine market, not blogs or websites.

If you can use the WayBack Machine to find the original Alamy or stock.adobe listing, use that licence fee as the basis for your counter-offer. If you can't find the exact image on Alamy or stock.adobe, find a similar image which you might have used to illustrate your article and make that fee your yardstick.

In order to deal with PicRights and the other companies involved in this kind of operation, you need to impress on them that you know where you stand legally, and that the level of damages in a defended case would be based on the true market value of the licence, and not some grossly inflated figure dreamed up to ensure the PicRights can make a profit from this operation while at the same time handing back to the copyright owner what is rightfully due to him or her for a missed sale of a licence. They also need to be clear that you know that all the other extraneous fees they like to add on, for 'opening a case file', 'searching the internet' and 'checking if a valid licence has been obtained' etc and a claimant's legal costs are all items that the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court Small Claims Track will not take into account and award against as defendant, and as such they are clearly irrelevant when trying to justify the figure of £510. This is a claim for civil damages and there is no place for punitive damages even if they are dressed up to look like 'reasonable expenses'. They are in fact the normal sort of overhead costs borne by any stock company involved in selling licences to the public and already reflected in the fees they charge
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CathyB111
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Re: PicRights and Reuters... again!

Post by CathyB111 »

Hi Andy, thanks so much for your thorough reply.
I've spent quite a while trying to work out how to find images on the Wayback Machine on Alamy, but no luck so far. I've not given up yet though.

When you say that I need to impress on PicRights that I know where I stand legally, it it appropriate enough to paraphrase some of what you included in your reply to me? Should I make a counter offer of the £101.50 as a gesture and to draw a line under this, or first find a similar suitable image and offer the cost of that yardstick initially?

Thanks in advance for your help and opinion.
Cathy
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Re: PicRights and Reuters... again!

Post by AndyJ »

Hi Cathy,

Unless the image you used was very specific to the astronomical event you referenced in your blog, then I would be inclined to use any other suitable image licence that you can find on a stock site as the yardstick for the markect value of the comparable licnece. The courts recognise something called the user principle, which basically means that in a hypothetical situation where they are trying to recreate what a reasonable person would have done in the same circumstances, they recognise that most people would use the cheapest licence available, given a choice between two or more similarly acceptable images. As I am sure you be able to find a licence for a supermoon image for between £20 to £40, there is no point in assuming that the Reuters image would have been the one you would have chosen initially. As I mentioned previously I suspect that the Reuters image may be a much higher resolution one which you don't need for your blog. It might be interesting to compare the two file sizes. If you find that the Reuters images is larger than the one you used, this means you didn't copy the Reuters one, and the one you usedt came from another source such as Alamy, so the basis of PicRights' claim is undermined.
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CathyB111
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Re: PicRights and Reuters... again!

Post by CathyB111 »

Thank you again, Andy, for your kind help.

I have drafted an initial response to Jim Barnes at PicRights and I'd be really grateful if you could review it for me before I send it to make sure I have understood the points you made, and also if my counter-offer is reasonable.

When I send the email I will attach screenshots referencing the original Reuters image showing up in a Tineye search on Alamy, etc, and also the comparable Alamy image for £9.99 today.

Much appreciated,
Cathy



Dear Jim,

I have received an email dated 14th November referring to the use of an unlicensed Reuters image on my website. (Your ref: 7983-9991-9348)

The image was used in a very limited way in small, quite unknown blog in 2016. I had recently started my business and I hadn't been aware of copyright infringement. The blog was written in December and the content was relevant only for that particular month. It used a small image (778 kb) - much smaller that the one on Reuter’s site, and wasn't used elsewhere.

While I now know to buy stock images or make my own resources, and don't wish to deny the photograper his due, I believe your fee of £510 is excessive and unreasonable for my unintentional mistake.

I can see from doing a reverse image search on Tineye that the image in question had been available on Alamy and Stock.Adobe.com in the past (see attached), but is no longer searchable. Had I known at the time, I would have bought an image from there, and as a yardstick for comparable market value I have found and attached a similar and preferable image from Alamy, priced at £9.99 today, including inflation over seven years.

I realise that Reuter’s clients may be used to paying inflated fees for newsworthy images, however I just used a small image I found on a Google search to illustrate a blog with a very small reach.

I understand that the level of damages in a defended court case would be based on the true market value of the licence so that the copyright owner rightfully receives what they’re due for a missed sale of a licence, and that the courts would take into account ‘User Principle’; ie that most people would use the cheapest licence available, given a choice between two or more similarly acceptable images.

I also understand that the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court Small Claims Track will not take into account and award against a defendant any extraneous fees and claimant’s legal costs added onto the claim, so I hope to find resolution with this taken into consideration.

Thank you for your understanding that these are indeed very difficult times, and as I am currently claiming Universal Credit due to health issues that hinder my paid work, things are even harder now, and, as such, I could pay £50 to match the price of the £9.99 Alamy image (attached) plus extra for good will.



Kind regards…
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Re: PicRights and Reuters... again!

Post by AndyJ »

Hi Cathy,

I think you have covered all the issues well. I hope it does the trick. Be prepared for them to come back with a refusal and despite intimating that they will be forced to hand the matter over to their solicitors, in fact things will go quiet for a bit. The aim of this tactic, I suggest, is to try and unnerve you and test your resolve. However I think you can be reasonably confident that if a solicitor did actually get to see your counter-offer and justification, they would see the futility of incurring more costs over a claim which was likely to fail if it ever went anywhere near court.
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