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Creative Commons Photos on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

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Starting this thread to discuss any copyright issues over posting Creative Commons licensed photos on social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook Groups or pages.

We received a copyright violation letter from Pixsy asking for $750 for an image of a town square by a non-US photographer which was shared on his Flickr under CC BY SA 2.0. The image (a low resolution version) was posted to our Twitter without linking to the CC BY SA 2.0 and mentioning the photographer's name.

Photo URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/30478819@N08/33422812735/in/photolist-SVsDMZ

The photo was searched, downloaded, and queued by our Filipino offshore staff who had limited knowledge about such limitation related to CC images being shared in an informational tweet.

Clearly, a mistake was made and we were happy to resolve it within an hour of receiving the email from Pixsy.

That said, one has to acknowledge the fact that a tweet is limited to 280 characters. Our offshore staff provides all licensing and author information and necessary links when using a CC photo in a blog post.

Moreover, we use an automation tool (Buffer) to queue hundreds of tweets in advance. The tool picks up images automatically from a recently published blog post but doesn't pull in captions or any links/text mentioning CC licence link and/or author name.

When Pixsy first emailed us, we immediately deleted the tweet within 1 hour of their email and notified them regarding the same. We take copyright seriously and have a large blog that thrives on linking to one another's work to make this "Internet thing" great for everyone.

As creatives and photographers ourselves, I feel asking someone to pay money (any amount of money) for an image released under the Creative Commons, is a violation of the "spirit of creative commons" itself.

If you genuinely understand Creative Commons, one should know that the whole purpose of this non-profit is to promote creativity and shareability AND protections from Sharks (aka aggressive Extortionist) and Leeches (aka Copyright Trolls).

Let me explain the purpose of this thread.

I am starting this thread to:
1. Document how we are handling this dispute with Pixsy
2. Seek community guidance
3. Have others share any other similar incidence.

We have seen many instances where a blog or website is targeted for using a copyrighted photo or materials without having a licence.

But, I have not seen a case where someone has received a similar threat for mistakenly posting a creative commons image in a tweet and then getting harassed by these rent seeking (blood sucking), copyright trolls (aka non-producing members of society).

In this first post, I am going to share Pixsy's first opportunistic/harassing email to us and our response.

--- Quote ---Pixsy Case Management Team <resolution@pixsy.com>
Tue, Aug 28, 12:33 PM

The Art Of Travel

By email: [email]

Unauthorized Use of [Mr. Photographer's Image - Case Reference: 000-0000000]

August 28, 2018
Attn: [AOT]
Pixsy acts on behalf of Mr. [Photohrapher]  as their authorised licensing and copyright agent. We have been notified by  Mr. [Photographer]  that  The Art Of Travel  has been using their imagery without license or permission. Details of the unauthorized use are set out in the attached pdf documents ' Unauthorized Use Report' and 'Evidence Report'.
The unauthorized use was detected at this location on your website:
Your use of Mr. [Photographer's] image without a license is a violation of his exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, display and prepare derivatives of his copyrighted work. Unlicensed usage takes power away from the creator and significantly devalues their work.
Steps required to resolve this matter immediately:
1. Review the details of case 000-000000 in the attached Unauthorized Use Report and Evidence Report
2. Refer to the attached FAQ if you have any questions about why you received this letter
3. Make payment of your license fee for your use of Mr. [Photographer's] image on or before 18/09/2018.
Payment can be made through our secure online portal at the following URL, and alternate payment options are available to you in the attached PDF:
It is our belief that every artist has a right to be fairly compensated for use of his or her work, and we will take every effort to ensure that our clients' intellectual property is protected.
Note that a failure to resolve this matter of unlicensed use within 21 days will result in escalation to one of our partner attorneys for legal proceedings.
We look forward to resolving this matter with you.
Kind Regards,
[Name], Case Manager
Pixsy Case Management Team
Phone:  +1 (323) 284-9404
Post: Pixsy Inc., 340 S Lemon Ave, Walnut CA 91789 

Email:   resolution@pixsy.com   (please always reply to the email thread and include the case reference number)

Web:   www.pixsy.com

** Please note: Contact information obtained by Pixsy for this case is from your website(s) and/or publicly available sources. All data storage, processing and communications are subject to our Pixsy Privacy Policy available at: www.pixsy.com/privacy-policy/

Email ref:_00Dxxxxx._5001p2akH1o:ref

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL. This e-mail, its contents and attachments are private and confidential and is intended for the recipient only. Any disclosure, copying or unauthorized use of such information is prohibited. If you receive this message in error, please notify us immediately and delete the original and any copies and attachments. The information provided by Pixsy Inc. is general information only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice.
Our Privacy Policy is available at www.pixsy.com/privacy-policy/

--- End quote ---

Our response:

--- Quote ---Dear [name],

Hope this email finds you well.

Please accept our sincere apologies from behalf of our entire team for mistakenly using Mr. [Photographer's] image under CC BY 2.0 image.

We have removed the Frankfurt, Germany tweet containing that photo. (8/28/2018) The non-commercial and informational tweet was made on April 5, 2018 and had received 4 Retweets and 5 Likes.

Upon further investigation on our end, we found out the photo was downloaded from Google images > Free to use results.

The photo referenced in this emails is shared on Flickr website by Mr. [Photographer] under Creative Commons license.

We take copyright materials very seriously and believe in fair use. We do our best to credit the original creators and/or image license by linking, however, due to the character limitation of Twitter platform, a link to Creative Commons license and [Photo and Photographer's] name could have been missed by our offshore staff.

I hope we can settle this case in good faith and with no further action necessary.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance in this matter. I have contacted Mr. [Photographer] on Flickr as well.

Best regards,

--- End quote ---

Our first email to Mr. [Photographer] on Flickr:

--- Quote ---Subject: Pixsy and Copyright trolling

Dear [Photographer],

Greetings from Boston, MA. Hope you are having a wonderful day!

I am emailing you on behalf of thousands of independent bloggers and creative artists who rely on the spirit of Creative Commons and fair use.

Recently, we have received a copyright infringement notice from Pixsy which states they represent you. They are demanding $750 USD + up to $35,000 USD for court case compensation for a photo that was published under CC BY 2.0 by you.

The photograph in question is: Main square of Frankfurt / Hauptplatz von Frankfurt

This photo was tweeted by us to encourage people to visit Germany. Since tweets are limited to 280 characters, it did not mention and link to the CC licence and/or tagged you on Twitter. This was clearly a mistake on our part.

Since we use an automation tool for advance queuing our tweets, the photos from our blog (where CC links and author credits are always mentioned) are lost. The photos are picked by the tool and all texts and links are added manually by our offshore staff.

The moment we learned about it (through email from Pixsy), we deleted the tweet within 1 hour.

Also, after realizing this gap and limitation with Twitter automated queuing, we have stopped this process completely. We are currently manually adding tweets.

I have two requests to make:
1. As an independent artist myself, I understand that copyright protection serves an important role. That said, I also believe that if someone is infringing your work, you should ask the person to either stop using it and/or provide proper credit (whether monetary or via a backlink and mentioning the original creator).

The Creative Commons movement was created to protect and enlighten this spirit of shared repository where creatives don't have to fear copyright trolling from large media companies or rent-seekers.

2. Everyone wants to make money to pay their bills and artists don't have to starve. But by joining rent seeking trolls such as Pixsy, you are contradicting the very spirit of Creative Commons.

Under copyright protection laws and Creative Commons community guidelines, the first step towards protection of any intelectual property is to send a "ceise and desist". Not, threats and unreasble money demand. This is a pure form of harassment.

As you know, 99% of independent bloggers, photographers, YouTubers, amateur creatives make $0 USD of income.

Now, if you demand them to pay a fine of thousand dollars which is perhaps more than even their net worth, it's not just harassment or copyright trolling but evil.

As a fellow human, fellow artist, I request you to not partner with Pixsy or any middle layer rent seekers. By partnering with them, you are encouraging them and even helping other companies to form in this area of copyright trolling.

I hope that you would give this matter your sincere thoughts.

Best regards,
The Art of Travel

--- End quote ---

Alright folks, I am happy to update everyone on how this issue gets peacefully resolved in due time.


--- Quote from: aot on September 28, 2018, 02:58:10 PM ---Under copyright protection laws and Creative Commons community guidelines, the first step towards protection of any intelectual property is to send a "ceise and desist". Not, threats and unreasble money demand. This is a pure form of harassment.
--- End quote ---

Nope: this is pure fantasy.

US copyright laws mandate no such thing, and though the Creative Commons community may wish disputes to be resolved in such a manner, a rightsholder can seek to rectify a breach of license in any way the law permits - and that can even mean that their first step could be to file a petition with the courts.

With that said, civil courts often (rightly) frown on matters being put to them if no attempts have been made to resolve matters outside litigation... hence Mr. Verch using Pixsy to track, trace and contact any entity that breaches his licensing terms.

Getting to the heart of the matter: whether Creative Commons language or any other terms are used, rightsholders who allow conditional use of their works are doing so within the bounds of copyright laws and, again, as you are a US-based company, you should look to what your own laws say. In this instance, it would be 17 USC 106, subsection 3, summarised as

"The owner of copyright has the exclusive rights to distribute copies of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending"
(emphasis added, and redundant phrasings removed)

License terms, whether CC or otherwise, constitute a lease of a work to you. A breach of lease equates a breach of copyright - it's that simple.

I also note that you're using emotive terms such as sharks, leeches, trolls, rent-seekers and so on, as if seeking monetary compensation is an inherent evil - yet your own twitter account and blog plainly advertises merchandise for sale, proudly stating "#1 Travel brand for #adventurers & #wanderlusters ☼ Shop for #Travel clothing, t-shirts, gears & accessories ♡ http://www.artoftravel.tips "

So is a capitalistic enterprise fine when the money flows in your direction, but not away from you?  ;)

To help all current and future ELI forum users who might be facing a similar situation (or any future incidence).

Beginning-to-end timeline:

First email from Pixsy: Aug 28
Second email from Pixsy: Aug 31
Third email from Pixsy: Sep 12
Fourth email from Pixsy: Sep 12
Fifth email from Pixsy: Sep 16
Sixth email from Pixsy: Sep 21
Seventh email from Pixsy: Sep 27

First email from Pixsy: Aug 28, 2018
Attachments: Unauthorized Report; Evidence Report
Our response: Same day, Aug 28. Sent our apologies and deleted the tweet.
We took screenshots of the tweet, etc. Image deleted from our server even though we can continue to use it on our blog. But any photographer who partners with rent-seeking, non-producing middle layers, we don't want to use their photo and promote them by linking to them on moral and ethical grounds. (I'll share more detail in another response on what we have since decided to eradicate this social evil, including what defines a "social evil". Remember, slavery and Indentured servitude was also legal not too long ago. Just because something is legal doesn't make it "right" or "lawful" or "21st century, going to Mars generation.")

Second email from Pixsy: Aug 31, 2018
Our response: Ignored

Third email: Sep 12, 2018
Our response: Ignored

Fourth email: Sep 12, 2018
Our response: Ignored

Fifth email: Sep 16, 2018
Our response: Ignored

Sixth email from Pixsy: Sep 21, 2018
Our response: We asked for Copyright registration proof. Email response sent on Sep 22, 2018. (Next day)

Seventh email from Pixsy: Sep 27, 2018
Attachment: Batch copyright registration of 750 images by Mr. Verch. The image in question neither listed or shown.

PS: The reason, I am doing this, is not because I have either 'time' or 'money' but because I have neither and I know this now from a first-hand experience how damaging these copyright trolls are to the independent artists, creatives, bloggers, entrepreneurs, small business owners, et. al. and their dreams and hard work.

Ironically, they are these businesses, who claim to help individual artists protect their work by charging (extortion?) the bottom 50% of the population who are trying to make a living. (aka the majority of the victims of this kind of trolling and bullying)

PPS: Copyright laws is in the urgent need of updates. Particularly the "statutory damages clause." Without, the blanket, unclear, muggy statutory clause, 99.99% of these cases are worth just the Spam folder.

Good luck everyone; and PLEASE don't pay a penny to any bully (you will only encourage them to bully more).


--- Quote from: aot on September 29, 2018, 10:28:53 AM ---Copyright laws is in the urgent need of updates. Particularly the "statutory clause." Without, the blanket, unclear, muggy statutory clause, 99.99% of these cases are worth just the Spam folder.
--- End quote ---

Are you alluding to wanting statutory damages eliminated from the range of possible penalties available to a plaintiff when filing an infringement claim in Federal court? I just want to be clear on your point of view.

DvG, no.

Part 1:

"Statutory damages" is there for a reason and it serves a purpose where "actual damages" and "profits" are hard to calculate. (More on it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statutory_damages and click links to US Code)

But, if "actual damages" and "profits" are negligible or none, then as a start it could be like "tax brackets" or a "warning-penalty" system. Not a fixed amount just because you had to pay legal fees. The burden of punishment should be in relation to how much the punished can bear.

Also, I am assuming the infringer is "not innocent". IF innocent or if a mistake was made due to a lack of knowledge or proper understanding, the punishment should further be reduced by half (at minimum) to full pardon (based on the court's judgment).

PS: Let me explain:
Modeling tax bracket for any types of legal fine:

A college kid making $12,000 USD/year working at McDonald starts a blog on the side. S/he uses a photo that was copyrighted. The copyright holder brings a lawsuit and asks for $750 USD in damages.

The kid has made no profits for herself/himself AND the use of this photo has not caused any loss of income or brand reputation damage to the copyright holder.

Now, in this case, the only way to get at $750 USD amount is by implying "Statutory damages". But since the kid is in 10% tax bracket (12K minus deductions, etc.), the Statutory damages = (100/40)*10

40% tier = highest bracket = $750
10% tier = (40/100)*10 = 4

$750/4 = $187.50 (The burden of punishment should be in relation to how much the punished can bear).

If innocent, the maximum fine above should be no more than 187.50/2 = $93.75 USD.
Or, ideally, $0 and a warning for first offense.

Note: I have picked arbitrary numbers. I am sure, many folks much smarter than I can do a much better job at fixing this broken loophole which allows leeches to swim.

Part 2:

I have not spent enough time in copyright laws to make concrete suggestions on how it should be improved and why current "Statutory damages" is the loophole that Getty and Getty clones are exploiting. (Note this point. This argument is going to repeat again and again.)

But I can tell you this, this whole forum and forums like ELI are full of victims (commoners) of complex laws. A Netflix documentary is long due on this and like Pay Day loan sharks, some folks are awaiting possible jail time or business shut down.

I believe the end of this BS is near. Be it in the next 5 months or 5 years or 15 years.

Part 3:
DvG, I have two questions for you:
1. Do you think the current copyright laws are clear, concise, and most importantly fair (with no room for improvements)?
2. By discouraging and scaring common people here on this forum, what do you gain? Boost to your ego? Satisfaction of trolling? Or do you feel smart thinking, I am a contrarian.

For example, you clearly do not have my interests at hand. So why do you expect I engage with you? Or anyone for that matter.
In this fight, I have my skin in the game. You don't.

If someday you can understand this basic principle, you may very well be surprised by discovering many other better things are out there that deserves your limited time on this planet.

--- Quote from: DavidVGoliath on September 29, 2018, 12:57:57 PM ---Are you alluding to wanting statutory damages eliminated from the range of possible penalties available to a plaintiff when filing an infringement claim in Federal court? I just want to be clear on your point of view.

--- End quote ---


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