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A Cautionary Tale…please share January 31, 2015

Filed under: General Musings,The Tradewinds Team — happystitches @ 14:13

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.

Poseidon taking on the cares of the world!

Poseidon taking on the cares of the world!


15 Responses to “A Cautionary Tale…please share”

  1. hockeyirene Says:

    Oh, Lucy, I am so sorry for this ridiculous claim and payment – that is so much folderol I don’t even have any decent words for it. Somebody, somewhere, must make it his/her job to find such “infringements” and make money for someone. What a blow. I hope some competent IT friend could find out that it is a fraud and get back to them. Meanwhile, thank you so much for the warning – who knew that those “more images on Google” would cost penalties to use? Hugs to you if they help.

    In Peace,


  2. Yikes!! What would happen if you ignored this letter? Can they come after you in Canada? Stop you at the border?

    • I don’t honestly know. I got the feeling that they probably have a well oiled system that would not let this drop. This hanging over me rendered me more or less incapable of concentrating on constructive work too.

  3. Diane Says:

    I’m so sorry for the trouble that has fallen on you and I hope this never happens again. There are a lot of creeps on the internet just milking it for all it’s worth. I am glad, however, that the whole matter didn’t upset the lovely Poseidon .

  4. JoLynn Says:

    Hugs, Peace and Love to you

  5. Donna Gilroy Says:

    I am also so sorry that this happened. It is sad to think that technology can also hurt us unexpectedly. Thank you for sharing and making us aware how easily this can happen.

  6. BMGM Says:

    I took the edX class, CopyrightX and blogged about it.

    I’m a bit rusty, but you can view the class material on the professor’s website for free, even if you are not a member of the class.

    If they send you a take-down notice and you take down the infringing photo promptly, most people are satisfied. For instance, YouTube takes down infringing works within 15 min of notice from the movie studios or music companies and no one gets sued.

    It sounds like this image shop is optimized to victimize naive small businesses. They probably go after small businesses knowing you won’t be able to hire a lawyer to fight this. It’s a nuisance suit.

    Educate yourselves and your staff so this doesn’t happen to again.

  7. Glenda MacDonald Says:

    Lucy, I am so sorry that you had to go through this. It angers me when a good-hearted person is taken advantage of. Those creepies will someday be repaid – perhaps karma will ensure that their yarn always tangles and felts!

  8. Metta Says:

    This is an abominable practice – the internet’s answer to “ambulance chasing” lawyers. The legal profession needs to address standards of practice, just like the medical community does. We should all run these integrity-challenged businesses & legal folks to ground and make sure that they no longer have shadows to hide in (bad grammar). I wish you could publish the “names” & then we could all avoid their traps. I know that’s probably not possible. You have a large cadre of believers & supporters, who love & enjoy your wonderful designs & ideas. You are CREATIVE – – opposite of those who have attacked you – they are small & destructive – just negative & greed-filled scum. You are to be commended (and paid?) for taking a very high ‘road”.
    Knitterly yours,

  9. Prairiepoet Says:

    Thank you for posting about this. I am sorry this happened. I agree with other comments. Someone is making money by looking for infringements by small businesses.

  10. Margaret Says:

    I’m so sorry you had to learn about copyright and web images like this! It’s so disheartening to be hit out of the blue, especially when the penalty is so large.

    While Getty Images is perfectly in the right to stop people from using their images without authorization, and to claim payment as a result, I wish they would do more to educate small business owners about how to properly use images. Many people do not know about EXIF data, and even fewer know how to look for it on an image. Watermarking is not enough, and in many cases is easily removed. (Even worse, EXIF data is easily stripped, too.)

    This is not a scam, nor is it ambulance-chasing. Photographers (and artists) deserve to be paid when their images are used!

    (And yes, Getty Images is a huge company that is quickly approaching monopoly in stock imagery, and it doesn’t always treat its photographers as well as it could, and it aggressively goes after infringement—but that is beside the point. Breaking a law through ignorance is still breaking the law, and penalties should not be assessed in terms of the lawbreaker’s ability to pay.)

    In short, if you don’t have a license for an image that you didn’t take, don’t use the image. If you don’t understand image licensing and copyright, learn about it before you use photography in your business. And keep meticulous records of those licenses (even Creative Commons ones).

    If you question the image, run it through TinEye (tineye.com).

    And thank you, Lucy, for sharing what must have been a painful incident. I hope other business owners and bloggers take heed.

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