Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Copyright Infringement Demands to UK webmasters

A growing problem for website owners is the receipt of demands for many hundreds of pounds for ‘Unauthorized Use’ of copyrighted material, most commonly images. Getty Images and Corbis are widely reported to sending these to small firms who, often inadvertently, have placed copyrighted images on their website. The senders claim that regardless of the fact the images were often obtained in good faith, a liability exists if it has been used for commercial gain.

However no one seems to be able to identify any instance where the owners have actually gone to court, even when their demands are simply ignored. I.e. Even if these companies believe they have rights they are reluctant to test the matter in court, making the demands appear to be little more than a money grabbing exercise.

I will not cover this matter in detail as it has been analysed very thoroughly here

Suffice to say that if you obtained the image in good faith the act of removing it should be enough, you are unlikely to end up in court for refusing to pay.

More recently I was notified of a case of a secondhand record seller who received a demand because it is claimed that the artist name on an old record they listed was copyrighted and the seller had published that name on the website.

The record company demand appears to be a scam, it was pretty inevitable that, with rights holders making claims others would step in and make more suspect demands, when the whole thing is conducted by post, what assurance do you have that you are paying the actual rights holder even if the name on the letters is that of a reputable company?

If you receive a letter that you consider spurious you should take it to trading standards and try to get them to investigate to see if the sender is committing an offence. As a rule it is probably advisable not to pay any demand you receive claiming copyright infringement without seeking legal advice as you may find you have simply lined the pockets of a scammer.

That said, once notified you should remove the disputed image or text as a precaution as well as sending a reply noting that you have done this and that you refute the demand.

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