Copyright Infringement Lesson Learned
About 5 years ago my mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer. Obviously this was devastating news to her and the family. With such a grim outlook she asked me to help her start a blog to document her journey and to have something to leave behind for her kids. I ended up setting up a blog on WordPress.com, gave her the login and let her go at it. Over 1500 posts and 14,000 images later she had amassed quite collection of stories from her life’s journey. She was always posting anecdotes with pictures she had taken and images she found on the internet to help with the story. Unfortunately, she had no clue she was breaking the law.
Copyright Troll Cometh
About 2 weeks ago I received a rather nasty email from a travel company that I had infringed upon their copyright images registered with the US Copyright Office and that I needed to pay a settlement fee for usage or they would sue. At first I was confused as to why I received the email about my mother-in-laws blog. As it turns out I was technically the owner of the blog. I registered the domain and was paying the bills for it. I immediately contacted my brother-in-law, who is a lawyer, for advice. After doing some research it was the determined that this was a valid company and the claim was valid. I was advised to settle instead of taking my chances with a potential law suit. So that’s what I did, I paid the fee to the troll and moved on. I could have taken my chances and called their bluff but I was not ready to deal with the worst case scenario. The law provides a range from $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed. Could fair use have been argued? Maybe, but again I just wanted it to go away which I’m sure they bank on as it appeared they had a dedicated person who dealt with this within their organization.
Knowing my mother in law had used many images she had found on the internet, we determined the only course of action was to completely remove the current blog and start fresh. Yes this sucked. All that work she had put into the blog , stories and connections she had made gone. At least from the public. Leaving the site up ‘as is’ was a huge liability. We explained what had happened and she was devastated. But she has started fresh and is as positive as ever. You can find her blog at http://chapelofhopestories.com
Ultimately I should have explained to her before she ever got started that she should only post images that she owned or that has a license that allows you to post. Don’t let this happen to you. Below is a list of sites that have creative commons or other licenses that allow you to post images on your site. Some required attribution and/or have commercial limits. Just be sure to read and understand the license associated with the image. Above all never just grab images you randomly find from the internet.
Here are a few image resources. Again make sure you understand the license before you use any image.