You may have seen my Tweet about re-starting my new work year on Jan 26th? The visitors had gone home, family members were back to work, the laundry was even under control, and I was ready to roll. I had a long list of projects to complete and workshop notes to write. I was ready and excited to get going, with creative juices flowing swiftly. Well, the whole thing got off to a very tough start.
I collected the mail (remember those messages that come in envelopes?) from the box on Jan 5th 2015 and began working my way through the correspondence. The bombshell looked every bit like a mass marketing letter. I opened it, and the world changed colour. (It makes me feel ill writing this even now.)
To preface what follows: At Tradewind Knitwear Designs we totally support copyright rules and policies, obey them, and will support those whose copyrights have been violated.
It was a letter from gettyimages in Seattle, dated Dec 24th 2014: Unauthorized Use Notification ‘copyright infringement’… This was followed by 7 sides more of verbiage that I found very intimidating and a demand for $910 in settlement for the unlicensed use of one of their images from mid Nov 14.
That’s is HUGE sum for the inadvertent use of a picture of a pile of parcels for 6 weeks.
They included a screen shot of our home page, showing the image that they claimed to be theirs. Yes, we had used an image which we believed to be free of copyright.
I’m shaking even now. I’d rather not relive this, but I feel it is important. There is a lesson here!
We IMMEDIATELY removed the offending picture as instructed. We made sure it was removed from our server as well. We began researching on line. I have only ever used pictures taken by one of the Tradewinds team or paid for and taken by Hillary for us, but in prettying up the home page News box Stephanie had in all innocence found an image on the Internet on a page of Google images–of a pile of parcels–and used it. (Please note, this is not in any way a criticism of our wonderful Stephanie. There are things that she should have been told, and wasn’t.)
There was no indication of any copyright – no watermark, no text; we’ve clicked on it exhaustively since and can find nothing. I failed to pick up on this stray picture (the buck stops here), and it sailed under our radar and onto the home page in mid – late November 2014. So here we had someone demanding money for this.
Did they really have any rights to it? How could we check? It smelled very like a scam. We searched on the company’s website high and low and couldn’t find the image. I even in desperation checked with our US lawyer for her opinion on this situation. “this is horrible, but it is legitimate.”
We called them to see if we could verify that they had the rights to this image and hopefully negotiate a lesser amount. We had used the image in all innocence and would have paid a modest penalty without argument. If their intention was to bring this to our attention and limit the length of time we accidentally used their image, surely an email notifying us to remove it with it would have done the trick and it would have saved two weeks? Even if they promised a letter to follow up the matter of compensation.
They were polite but intransigent, this was very highly valued picture and it had been used for 6 weeks and although they agreed to reduce the total by a small amount, we paid in excess of $700 in the end. That is a large part of our monthly earnings. We have learned an expensive lesson.
Please be warned: there are images lying around on the Internet with hidden identifiers. Use your smartphone–take your own pictures of everything. There are web crawlers out there detecting hidden data so that the pictures can be traced. Read more about this on-line, there are many other sites that have articles too.
Be careful when a third-party uses a picture on your behalf – you are the one that would be liable. Be cautious about re-blogging. Having said that please feel free to share this, it our photo and you may share it with our blessing. To cheer you up after this miserable saga, here’s Poseidon the cat, hard at work.