This blog post was originally going to be an angry letter sent to a blissful family of three—something very out of character for me to do. In fact, it’s so out of character that I actually talked myself out of it after thinking on it for a REALLY long time.
(Like, at least a month).
I’ve instead decided to turn this into a learning experience for others. This is about my experience with a copyright claim that I dealt with earlier this year.
I am always very mindful about what images I use on my blogs and websites, and I always credit back to the source when I reference an image that is not mine or that I have not purchased. However, I was not aware that simply crediting back to the image source is not enough, and I was soon sent an email from a company called Copytrack (more on them in a second).
This email notified me that I was using an image on my blog (sourced from Pinterest and credited with the URL) that I did not have permission to use—I actually needed a license for it.
I was completely unaware of this and thought giving credit would be sufficient. Not only that, but I would have happily taken the image down immediately had I been given notice, or had I realized sooner. But the damage had already been done, and the artist—this family of three– were filing a claim against me demanding monetary payment for damages.
Simply crediting back is not enough—in some cases you must purchase a license, and not every website is going to be clear about whether that is a requirement. You should always seek permission.
My Thoughts & Feelings About The Experience:
First and foremost, I want to be clear that I love the idea behind Copytrack’s company because it protects artists (like myself) from having our work stolen. I fully understand and support the concept that artists deserve to be paid for their work, and that illegal use of their work is a growing problem in this modern day and age.
Copytrack actually handled this entire situation very professionally and I don’t have any issue with them at all.
What I was unhappy about was the way this situation was handled by the artist:
1) My use of their image was in no way for monetary gain, nor was it edited and it was not uncredited. So first off, I was not trying to do the wrong thing—but I was still demanded to give payment without even being notified or warned first that there was an issue I was unaware of.
2) While I understand that this artist has a brand to maintain, a business to run, and work to protect, I was also incredibly annoyed that one artist and business owner would target a startup business and struggling artist outright. And yes, I know that the artist did indeed do this because I did a lot of research on Copytrack after receiving their email, and I eventually stumbled across this post by Jeremy at Living The Dream.
He is a user of Copytrack himself, and I found his review very insightful to understand the process of how an artist is able to submit a claim. In this article, he stated:
“When you wish to move forward on an illegally used image, you can put forward a claim for damages upwards of 1,000 Euro with a percentage modifier to the minimum you’d accept.”
As well as:
“After you move images into the illegal folder, you can either file a claim or use this knowledge to reach out to the host externally to try and get the image removed or proper credit added (we do this with bloggers as Copytrack only goes after commercial entities in the claim process).”
So it is quite clear that the artist had to look at my site and determine if my use of their image warranted compensation. Not only this, but they had the option to reach out externally and have the image removed or properly credited—and yet, they chose not to.
3) It struck me as kind of unfair that this artist had their image sitting on Pinterest (with no indication that it was under license) where anyone could have used it unknowingly, and the artist would have been able to submit a monetary claim. It begged the question that if I were to upload an image that I personally owned, and waited for someone to do the same thing, could I also demand outrageous compensation for it? The difference is that I’m not a dick and I would never do something like that—but furthermore, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt before I go making demands.
4) It’s frustrating that content creators get issued YouTube copyright strikes, and that for an author like myself, the first step of action for anyone illegally uploading my books is a simple DMCA takedown (and not a monetary demand).
Yet, the accidental use of a photograph can warrant a $600.00 fine, despite many photo licenses costing as little as $10.00. I mean, let’s be real—if I need to purchase a photograph, I’m going to buy one under $20.00, not pay for licensing use in excess of that amount.
To sum up this rant, my annoyance stems from not being contacted by the artist first and given notice. This has forever ruined my first impression of them (I’m sure they’re actually very nice people, but I can’t get over the way they chose to handle this situation) and I just feel like communication could have resolved this entire issue much better.
Maybe I’m just too nice, and maybe most people wouldn’t think twice to go and protect their work. As a business owner myself, I can understand that. But I like to think that communication is key when dealing with other people, and especially misunderstandings and complaints. You never know what other people are dealing with, and with total transparency, I want it to be known that I could never had paid the requested amount and afford food four months ago, as I was earning a maximum of $100 a week from my business to live on.
I am incredibly lucky that my business became somewhat sustainable in the time between then and when this claim was submitted. Otherwise, this probably would have gone to court and the artist would have ended up with nothing for their time because I didn’t have a cent to offer them for my honest mistake.
In any case, let the lesson here be that not everyone is as lenient as I am, and to double check that you have permission to be using the content you are using. Be wary, authors—there are ruthless people out there.
So, Where Can I Find Images To Use Then?
I’m sure after reading through this post, the last thing you want is to come by the same fate as I did–so here are some places I like to use to seek images:
FREE IMAGES: Unsplash.com has the nicest selection of photos in my personal opinion, but there is also pexels.com. These sites have royalty free photos, meaning you can use them without credit or licensing.
PAID IMAGES: There’s a large range of stock photography sites with really unique and lovely images, but for a quick and affordable fix, I like creativemarket.com. Not only are the images cheap, but you can also get bundles that come with multiple images for a great deal.
Written by Pagan Malcolm
Pagan is a copywriter and business coach helping writers understand the business side of publishing so that they can become serious authors.