Imageright - Can they do anything?

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Imageright - Can they do anything?

Post by tuuliuk » Wed Oct 11, 2017 2:39 pm


So I've just noticed an email from a website called imagerights that is saying I owe £1000 for a photo I have on my website from an article written by an ex contributor back in 2015. I checked analytics and it's been viewed about 350 times in total. From what I knew this image was fine to be used as seemed to be a well used promotional shot.

The company seems to be based in the US so I was wondering if they had any power to actually do anything about this anyways with me being in the UK as I really do not have £1000 to give them even if they want it at this stage.

Here is what I recieved.

"Since sending our infringement notification of 22 September, 2017, we note that the fee of £ 1,000.00 remains unpaid and X's copyrighted image continues to be displayed on X

Your urgent attention is now required to resolve this matter amicably without recourse to further action.

X's copyrighted image (Image ID: X) was discovered on your website for which there is no record of a license. If the image was licensed under an alternate company name (dba) or in the name of a third party, please reply to this email with information on the sales order, invoice or other pertinent licensing information.

However, if a valid license for this use of the image does not exist, a fee of £ 1,000.00 is required to resolve this matter. As the owner of the site, you are liable for the unauthorized use in the absence of a valid license, including cases in which a website designer, employee or intern is responsible for the inclusion of this image on your website. If your use of this image without a license was unintentional, for example if the image was found on the Internet and believed to be available for free use, it is still in violation of copyright law (Title 17 of the US Copyright Act) and ceasing use of the image now will not release you or your organization from liability in this regard.

To resolve this matter, please follow these steps:

1. Review the case documentation, including a screen shot of the infringed image(s) displayed on X

2. Once you have reviewed the documentation, confirmed that a valid license for this use is not in place, and reviewed the Settlement and Release Agreement, then please select Request Invoice to Resolve Claim.

3. Once you have removed the infringing uses of the image(s) from X, please confirm by replying to this email."

I've taken the image down, but not sure what to do from here. Any advice?

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Post by AndyJ » Thu Oct 12, 2017 5:59 pm

Hi tuuliuk,

Imagerights International Inc are one of a growing number of companies which provide this kind of service on behalf of rights holders, mainly photographers. There's nothing illegal per se about their operation, but many people refer to them as copyright trolls because of the manner in which they operate. That is to say, issuing wholly unreasonable demands in respect of the use of images which they say is infringing, and then keeping roughly 50% of all the money they receive. In this they are somewhat similar to claims management companies who deal with PPI claims. It is worth noting that courts here and in the US are extremely wary of claims handled by these sorts of company. (try googling 'Media CAT v Adams', 'Rightshaven' and 'Prenda Law' for more information).

But you probably knew that already. So there is nothing to stop them writing to you, but under UK law, there is very little they can do to carry out their threats of litigation as this is a right only the rightsholder or their exclusive licensee can exercise by bringing a claim in court. And of course you are not obliged to correspond with them until they have established a proper legal basis for their claim. Quoting US law is hardly relevant to you in the UK.

If the matter ever got to court, the sort of damages which a court would contemplate would be based on the actual fees that the disputed image would have earned in a fair marketplace, which I strongly suspect would be somewhat less than £1000. And in any event, you may be able to avoid liablity for any infringement because of the safe harbour provisions of the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (often referred to as the DMCA) or the EU ECommerce Directive see (Articles 12-15), provided that the image was posted without your knowledge or editorial intervention at the time, and that you removed the image expeditiously once notified of its status. From what you have said it doesn't sound as if you have received a properly constructed DMCA takedown notice and so what qualifies as 'expeditious' may accordingly need to be adjusted in your favour. The other matter which concerns me is that you have not mentioned what proof if any was provided about ownership of copyright in the disputed image. For any claim in the US to go forward, the image would have had to have been registered with the US Copyright Office, and therefore I would have expected Imagerights to have provided the registration details for you to verify the claim which they are pursuing on behalf of their client. Clearly anyone can make empty claims with no foundation, and so you should treat their communications with due scepticism until they prove otherwise.
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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