Social Media / Forum Images

Advice for those new to the concepts of copyright
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KSGNetworks
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Social Media / Forum Images

Post by KSGNetworks » Wed Jun 01, 2016 4:16 pm

Hi Guys,

This question probably comes up often, but I searched the site and couldn't see anything obvious. Happy for you to move to the correct topic.

Recently the UK Company that I work for received a written request for a decent sum of money with the claim that our website was using an image with copyright.

One of the Company officers was doing a news update and grabbed an image from google. Not sure how the owner of the image found out about its use, probably some form of web crawler.

We didn't investigate further at the time, we paid the claim and removed the offending image. I suppose it could have been a scam, but the Company decided it wasn't worth the hassle.

Anyhow since then I have been very conscious of using images from the web.

My question - I run a small Internet forum in my own time. Users are allowed to post images and create signatures. Am I (as the registered operator of the forum) potentially liable (from a Copyright perspective) for the content posted by the users. So in the example above, if one of the forum users posted the offending image would I be at risk of receiving a similar claim.

Grateful for your thoughts.

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Post by KSGNetworks » Wed Jun 01, 2016 4:18 pm

PS - this is an excellent resource - keep up the good work.

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Thu Jun 02, 2016 7:23 am

Hi KSG,

If postings on your forum are not pre-moderated then you would not be personally liable until such such time as you became aware that something which had been posted by someone else was either infringing or defamatory etc. Once you have been made aware you should act expeditiously to remove the content complained of. This protection is provided by Regulation 19 of the UK's Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002, which as the title suggests, implement an EU Directive on the subject.

The sort of notice that you might get about infringing material is likey to either cite the Ecommerce Directive, or the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which contains much the same provisions. Unless the server on which your forum is hosted is physically located in the USA you are not required to implement the counter notice procedure which applies where a DMCA Takedown notice has been issued. The EU Directive doesn't provide a similar challenge procedure.

Also make sure that the terms and conditions for users of your site make it clear that posters alone are responsible for the legality of their postings. It is not necessary to do so, but it might be helpful to also state that should you decide to remove any posting for whatever reason, the original poster shall not have any right to challenge such an editorial decision.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

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Post by KSGNetworks » Thu Jun 02, 2016 11:27 am

Thanks Andy J,

Great response. So that I understand a few examples:


Online Auction Sites - a seller on a large online auction site uses a popular fantasy space movie related image, captured from an official web site in order to advertise their used star wars goods.

The very international entertainment corp. that owns the rights t to the image, are made aware and say, hang on a minute thats our image you owe us £($)X. The auction site owner replies - oh we weren't aware our user posted that - we will remove it immediately. We are not liable for any costs incurred in doing this.

The very large corp - replies 'oh thats ok then'.

Hobby / Interest Site - Users post images owned by a large image corporation. Same thing happens, a bill lands on the door of the site operator. Site operator does not check all posts so was unaware of the image. They remove it immediately.

The large image corp. is not happy with this response and wants its blood. They wish to proceed with legal action regardless - the operator of the hobby interest site will have to make some legal representation? Resulting legal fees?


I guess that all the big social networks are grappling with this issue all the time. It's ok for them with their big budgets and legal support teams.

I do wonder whether or not it's worth little guys like us bothering.

I looked further into the transgression I referred to in my original post. It was an image reported to be owned by Press Association Image's Imagery. Claim progressed through a license compliance service company.

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Post by AndyJ » Thu Jun 02, 2016 7:23 pm

KSGNetworks wrote:
Hobby / Interest Site - Users post images owned by a large image corporation. Same thing happens, a bill lands on the door of the site operator. Site operator does not check all posts so was unaware of the image. They remove it immediately.

The large image corp. is not happy with this response and wants its blood. They wish to proceed with legal action regardless - the operator of the hobby interest site will have to make some legal representation? Resulting legal fees?
No, the operator of a website of the type we are talking about (whether big or small) doesn't have to engage with someone who alleges infringement, beyond taking down the offending material. If the large image corp. don't know that this so-called safe harbor (note the American spelling) provision exists in both US and EU law, then they can waste money on lawyers making pointless threats which a court will chuck out if things ever go that far.
The regulation I quoted is very clear:
the service provider shall not be liable for damages or for any other pecuniary remedy or for any criminal sanction
Equally the owner of a site like a forum is not required to divulge the identity or contact details which they may have for a member accused of posting infringing material, unless the rights owner obtains a court order to that effect (a so-called Norwich Pharmacal order).

The situation where an ordinry corporate website is concerned is different because it is reasonable to assume that the company which commissions the site from a webdesigner etc will either have had full editorial control over the process, or at the very least will have obtained an indemnity from the designer that nothing in the material he supplies will infringe copyright or trade marks etc of others.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

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Post by KSGNetworks » Fri Jun 03, 2016 6:35 am

Thanks AndyJ - very comprehensive.

There is one doubt left in my mind regarding the incident with my employer.

When the company received the claim from the 'license compliance company' - should we have (as we did) paid it immediately or should we have disputed? Could we have negotiated? Ended up being £500 for one pretty average image.

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Post by AndyJ » Fri Jun 03, 2016 8:39 am

If the compliance company had told you on whose behalf they were acting (the rightsholder) then it would have been advisable to look on the rightsholder's website to see if there was an actual usage fee for that particular image. Alternatively a check on Getty or Shutterstock etc might have provided information about the fees for comparable images. That then would have given your employers a starting point for negotiation. It sounds to me as if the £500 they were charged included a 'punishment' element which was not justified, and certainly wouldn't have formed part of any damages awarded by a court.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

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