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I am looking for some advice on copyright infringement. We are an independent media run by volunteers and have not income, assets or offices at all. Therefore the staff varies. One of the volunteer download a photo from a blog that it seemed to be free use (the photo has been published hundreds of times in blogs that doesn’t ask for copyright) and we published the photo thinking it was OK.

But weeks ago a company called Copytrack emailed us and asked for money for the copyright infringement. So, I do some research, and found that indeed the use of the photo needed a license but when it was downloaded by the volunteer it was from a blog. So, it was a real mistake, but also an unintentional copyright infringement. So I remove the pic and article in full and I sent an email apologising for the mistake and even I offer to do an interview to the photographer or something similar, as we don’t have money.

They replied in identical terms they told @user1889580 “you have infringed on our client's image, pay us right away to avoid legal issues”, etc.

So, I reply with a more comprehensive letter, apologising again, explaining that we don’t’ receive money, plus we never make any profit from the work we published. Something easy to prove and in fact I invited them to check in internet, were you find that we don’t receive more than 30 pounds a year. So, I said I would paid something, from my own pocket.

They haven’t reply yet, but I have been doing a research and talking to colleagues and press associations. And there is a consensus: Copyrigth is a legal company but doesn’t act ethically, they act as scam and there are many complains. Plus I found this: “In view of German copyright law and the respective jurisdiction of the German courts, the amount that Copytrack claims is far too high”.

The amounts they usually charge are absurd. For instance, if a photo cost 30 Euros or 100 Euros, Copytrack asks for 500, 600, 1000 euros and more. We think this is because they don’t charge for their services to their clients, so the way to get their fees is by doing this.

I am are aware copyright infringement is something serious and we respect other people’s work, but I want all this managed in a fair, ethical and reasonable manner from both sides.

I have been asking for advice and my colleagues say, I must ignore it. But like @user1889580 , I am worried. I am ready to pay, but to be honest the blog doesn’t have money and me either, so I I have asked for a symbolic fee or for the minimum amount.

I am still checking and doing some research but I would appreciate your advice.

  • set this related question – David Siegel May 8 at 2:26
  • Who actually owns the copyright? – Lag May 9 at 12:55
  • The Photographer owns it. And I think is OK from him to claim money for his work. The photo was uploaded from a blog that doesn't ask for copyright so the volunteer who did, acted in a good faith thinking it was a free use pic, plus the photo have been reproduced by hundred of blogs. But at the end, it was a copyright infringement and I am ready to pay, but a fair, ethical amount. We are a 9 years newspaper and this is the first time it happens, but we are aware that copyright is a serious thing., But we want to deal with ethical serious people. – Reborn1990 May 9 at 17:41
  • Actually, @Reborn1990 you don't know who owns it. The photographer would have owned it initially, unless it was a work-made-for hire, in which case the employer would have. But the initial owner could have sold or given away the copyright. But his (or her) assignee has the same right to profit by it. – David Siegel May 17 at 1:17
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Absolute Lofts South West London v Artisan Home Improvements is informative.

It suggests that the appropriate damages where the breach is not knowingly made and/or quickly remedied is "the sum that a willing licensee would pay a willing licensor in a hypothetical negotiation". That is, if you could source a stock photograph then the damages are about what you would pay for it (£10-50 say) or if you couldn't source one, what it would cost to commission a photographer to take it (£150-300) say.

With respect to not having any money: the law does not care. You did the copyright infringement, you have to pay the damages - or declare bankruptcy.

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Copytrack apparently makes its money by taking a share of any settlements it arranges, and a larger share of any any verdicts at trial. It has apparently taken a few cases to trial, but mostly settles. Online reports indicate that they will accept settlement offers well below their initial demands.

You don't indicate what jurisdiction you are in, although your mention of "pounds" suggests the UK. The determination of damages from copyright cases brought to trial varies by country.

You can offer what you think is a reasonable sum, or perhaps less than that, and see if they will agree. You could consult a lawyer.

If the case winds up in court, they would have to prove damages, which might be based on the copyright holder having lost income due to your use -- which can be hard to prove. Or based on your profits, which is easier to prove, but it sounds as if that would be very low in this case.

In the US, in some cases statutory damages are available without proof of loss or profit. I don't know if anything similar is available in the UK.

  • Thanks. How much to pay for the pic? I haven't found prices for the photographer's work at all. I guess he negotiates after someone asks for his work. In the newspaper, indeed based in the UK (but without offices. We work virtually), we have no money and as you say, it's easy to prove it. But I am ready to pay for the photo 50 GBP max 100 GBP and definitely can't pay a Lawyer! I tried with a firm that sounds very linked to copyright but they charge around 200 GBP plus. I hardly have money to pay for the photo. Have any heard of a fair arrangement with copytrak? – Reborn1990 May 8 at 3:07
  • Having no money is not a defence. – Dale M May 8 at 3:15
  • @Reborn1990 At Shutterstock.com you can buy five images for £29; read their terms and conditions. They are one of the biggest sellers of stock images, so I'd recommend trying to find the photo on their site - there's a good chance. Copytrack isn't interested in copyrights, the only thing they are interested in is your money. Do NOT tell them how much you are willing to pay (if you say £50 max £100 they will ask for £200). Just tell them that you replaced the photos and you have no money. That will reduce their willingness to take you to court. – gnasher729 May 8 at 13:17

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