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I don't understand how the "damages" amount is decided on for image copyright. Trying to claim one million vs 1000 isn't much different if the person doesn't have the money to pay for it.

What are the options of an individual who is not part of a business if they get hit with a massive copyright claim that is unaffordable? Is it best to contact and try to negotiate or best to just sweep it under the rug and see if it progresses to the point of a proper copyright claim?

I got a claim from a company called copytrack asking for 1400 in damages for one single image. This is a huge amount of money considering I run this website as a hobby and it would take me 2 years to even earn that much before I consider the costs associated.

I live in the EU and copytrack is based in Germany (not the same EU country as me). It looks like the copyright holder is American, but they have not given me any information. It was a simple you have infringed on our client's image, pay us right away to avoid legal issues kinda message. I don't want to blindly pay but at the same time, I am worried.

Edit: To add some more specific data. The email does not mention me or anything about me. Nor does it mention the copyright holder. It just says this image violates copyright. This could very well be a scam as they may not represent the copyright holder at all. I am in a dilemma as I do not know whether I should respond and dig myself into a hole or if i should send this very suspicious email to my spam folder which might also be the wrong thing to do.

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    If you have no information about the alleged copyright holder, you might as well be the target of a scam and/or of extortion. – Iñaki Viggers Apr 1 at 20:38
  • is that an opinion or a legal fact? I do indeed find it suspicious that I have gotten an email (on april fools of all days) telling me i have done wrong but not who i have done wrong to. Still, i do not want to risk anything serious happening. the company do seem legit and have hit lots of people. im just unsure if trying to negotiate would actually put me in a worse position. what if they dont even represent the copyright holder? – user1889580 Apr 1 at 21:25
  • It is a known fact that scammers do send such letters. But so do more or less legitimate "copyright management" firms. – David Siegel Apr 1 at 21:41
  • to me it has all the signs of a phishing scam. Who asks for money wiithout giving any sort of invoice or proof that payment is owed? its the severity of the threat that has me even considering a payment. this feels like a scam – user1889580 Apr 1 at 22:03
  • @user1889580 "is that an opinion or a legal fact?" It is an opinion. To state this as a legal fact, one would need to assess the details and circumstances of those communications, the applicable legislation (US vs EU), whether the claim has prescribed (having uploaded the image 5 years ago), whether their representations are truthful or legitimate at all, etc. Based on your inquiry and subsequent comments, it seems to me it is the typical shady scam. – Iñaki Viggers Apr 1 at 22:43
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You can certainly ask for evidence that the image is under copyright, who the rights holder is, and that this firm has authority to represent the rights holder. You could also ask on what basis they have valued the rights.

There are scammers who send out such notices without ever being authorized by anyone. If they collect, they keep the money. If they don't, all it cost was a letter or email.

You might want to research the reputation of this firm. I know nothing about them.

If a copyright infringement claim actually comes to trial, damages are based on lost actual or potential profits to the rights-holder, plus unlawful profits, if any, by the infringer. In addition, punitive damages are sometimes assessed against 'willful' infringers, particularly if they seem blatant and unrepentant.

Without knowing how the rights-holder markets or might market the image, there is no way to guess what that might be.

But you might want to review your policy on images. If you host many images without proper permission, a valid claim is likely, sooner or later. How did the image in question get onto your site, and what efforts, if any were made to check its copyright status? You really should not display any image unless you know who holds the copyright, and that you have permission or the right under some exception to copyright.

If you aren't confident that you have the right to display the image, you should take it down until you can confirm that, whether you respond to the claim or not.

A Google search on "Copytrack reviews" shows that a number of photographers and image creators do use this form, and have collected small settlements. They indicate that the rights-holder checks on automatic matches found by Copytrack's software, and the large majority are false positives. Of the remainder, only a small proportion, the reviewer says, are pursued. The rights-holder sets an initial amount to ask for the rights, but copytrack often cuts this, it is said. Most of copyttrack's money is made by out-of-court settlements, on which they take 30%, but some on court cases, in which they take 50%. If the rights-holder is not diligent in discarding false positives, they may well be asking for money when their client actual created a similar but different image.

According to people who use their service, they often settle for 1/3 or less of the initial asking price. They have to operate in bulk, with not too much time spent on any one case, to make money on this.

If such a case actually went to court, they would need to hire a lawyer, and prove that their client owned the rights on the exact image you had up, and prove what kind of income the rights holder got from the image, and how your hosting it harmed their business, or their plausible potential business. Or they could prove how you profited, or both. Having taken the image down would not stop such a case, but it would be likely to reduce any damage award.

Possibly useful links:

I can't advise you want to do, but those facts may be helpful.

  • The problem with that is that if he contests it without taking it down, he may incur more fees. – Putvi Apr 1 at 20:50
  • The image was uploaded by me around 5 years ago back before I even knew what copyright was. I understand this means i am fully responsible and I accept it. I just cant afford the massive fee they are looking for. I would pay a more affordable amount if it came to it. From what I can find, this company never sue anyone, they just do a lot of threatening, but thats a risk I dont want to take. It was a picture of a celebrity on the red carpet – user1889580 Apr 1 at 21:18
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Copytrack itself says that it will ask you to form a post licensing agreement. That means they will ask you to license the picture after they found you to be using it without permission. https://www.copytrack.com/service/

If you were asked to take it down or license it and you did not, you are probably in violation of the copyright. If this is the first letter, they sent you, just tell them you will take the image down. I think they will be ok with that.

You need to take the image down right now though, so you do not violate it anymore.

  • I took it down immediately. The email said that taking it down wont fix the issue though. Here are the exact words "If you are not able to provide that proof, in the interest of fairness our member is offering you an opportunity to purchase a license for your image use ex gratia retroactively. You would retain the right to continue using use the image. Without a retroactive licensing a legal enforcement of the license and damages will be inevitable. Removing the image from your website will not inhibit these steps." – user1889580 Apr 1 at 21:19
  • You still want to take it down to avoid further problems. You are going to have to email them back and work it out, though. – Putvi Apr 1 at 21:21
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    I would at least need to confirm they are actually representing the copyright holder as they have no proof. I do not think it would be foolish of me to withhold a payment until they provide some proof. does responding count as an admission of guilt or anything like this that could worsen my situation – user1889580 Apr 1 at 21:27
  • @user1889580 responding with a question as to their authority would in no way be an admission of guilt, and would be highly prudent. A google search does suggest that this firm is not just a scammer. – David Siegel Apr 1 at 21:39
  • Yeah @user1889580, you need to respond to them and work it out. How would ignoring it stop them? Also, anything they can do if do if you respond, they can do if don't respond. It's going to be better if you respond, because the worst they can do is say no and then you are in the same boat you are now. – Putvi Apr 1 at 21:44

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