On August 14th I received a FedEx package from a legal firm in Canada, suing me for copyright infringement – demanding $2920. At issue was my use of a photo – very much like the one you see here – that I used in a blog back in 2010. We know this is a gray area. There are millions of photos floating around on the internet with unclear ownership rights. With Google, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and more, there are plenty of choices available. All those great photos on Google Images are so tempting – but just because they’re there doesn’t mean they aren’t protected by licensing. (I suspect that’s where I grabbed the one in question.) Even on Flickr you can’t be sure that the photo is available for common use. But for the particular photo I used, this legal firm was now saying they represented the photographer and I owed the fee. (Yes, this kind of trolling is something bottom sucking attorneys do – they also troll for obscure patent infringement.) What these attorneys typically do is track these unclear uses and intimidate business owners into paying – knowing that it’s less hassle than paying to defend against it.
Yes, the issue of using photos in blogs or websites is a legitimate concern. I use iStockPhoto for most of my photos (that’s where I purchased this one). Of course I use a lot of shots we just take ourselves – assuming my granddaughters aren’t going to find a low-life attorney and sue me later on. But the issue is becoming more common. And my advice is better to be safe than sorry. This has been a frequent topic of discussion in the 48Days.net forums.
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You’ll find many options including:
The photo I used showed no people – just generic prison bars, was used in one daily blog that was not packaged or sold in any way. I simply used it as part of an illustration. I did talk to my attorney (one of the good guys) and then called the attorney in Canada. After a brief phone conversation we settled on $800. I sent him a check via FedEx and got the release the next day. Life goes on.
Any time you raise your head up out of the rabbit hole there will be people who try to knock you down. The only way to be entirely safe is to do nothing. But people who do nothing are typically called bums, loafers, deadbeats, slackers, or couch potatoes. In our attempts to do something extraordinary there will always be detractors. Whether it’s a criticizing family member, a disbelieving coworker, or an attorney with a legal technicality – be prepared to continue on your path to a life worth living.