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Author Topic: Masterfile Letter: Is this a Scam?  (Read 18270 times)

artalacarte

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Masterfile Letter: Is this a Scam?
« on: February 17, 2013, 06:10:02 PM »
I received a letter from MF a few days ago telling me that I have been using one of their copyrighted photos on my website. They included their own picture and mine. Sure it was! I have a small pet business, whineranddiner.com and I needed a picture of a cat lying down to incorporate into my own picture. So I Googled "cat lying down" and found a picture with no copyright information or watermark and saved it to my photo librairy to use it and I did (I still have the picture in question).
So I immediately took the picture in question down and called MF (Michael Hilsheimer). From the $1940.00 asked in the letter he went down to $900.00 after a 10 minute conversation. I told him that I have not had this picture up on my website for a year (which they claim). I had gone back to Google, Bing and Chrome to find the picture without their watermark I have downloaded and by some weird coincidence it's nowhere to be found again. When I mentionned this to Mr. Hilsheimer he just changed the subject and offered to put me on a payment plan...I told him I did not have $900.00 right and I will get back to him.
What should I do at this point just wait it out? I do not want to pay them because I strongly believe that they seed their pictures to be downloaded, wait a few months so they are removed from image searches and go after small businesses picture - users and contact them about infringement.
Why can I not find that picture with no watermark again anywhere online and why did he drop the fee by half so easily and so fast???
Since this, I spent hours removing and replacing pictures from my website (I have over 100 pages) that could have been questionnable as I "found" them the same way as I found that cat...And I don't even like cats...
Thank you in advance for any advice.

SoylentGreen

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Re: Masterfile Letter: Is this a Scam?
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2013, 06:32:21 PM »
It's not really a scam.
But, it's scam-like in that they attempt to extort a large sum of money from minor copyright infringements.

Masterfile doesn't have to place any copyright or watermark on its images, strictly speaking.
Additionally, they normally charge for a 1-year license+, even if its been on your site for a single day.

Many people offer a small settlement, maybe 200 dollars.
If it's not accepted, then many people simply wait it out.  They keep bugging you for a long time, however.
They're unlikely to escalate this over a single image, and they seem to be busy with bigger things right now.

Be sure to read through prior posts on the forums, MF is well-known on here!

S.G.


Greg Troy (KeepFighting)

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Re: Masterfile Letter: Is this a Scam?
« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2013, 09:17:33 PM »
As SG has sent there does not need to be a watermark on a picture for to be copyrighted, if you are getting your images through search engines and it sounds like there are many of them I'm surprise you have only received one letter. It sounds like you have done the right thing by removing all questionable images but I would also suggest that you go to www.archive.org and remove any archive screenshots of your website that may be there as well.

Copyright exists from the moment a photograph is taken in regardless as to whether the image has been registered with the copyright office. All of the paperwork needs to be in order for masterfile to go after you for damages, however masterfile is one of the companies that tend to have all their ducks in a row for the most part although they lost a recent case against Chaga for having their images registered in compilations or groups.

I believe that what SG has said is sound advice and you can make a case for an innocent infringement and offer the $200 as a settlement since you have already admitted to them you took the image from a Google search. Make sure the archive.org is clear of any screenshots from your website so they cannot get multiple images and to send you letters over and then if they do not accept it wait out your three-year statute of limitations. Again I agree with SG and feel that the odds of MasterFail taking you to court over a single image would not be worth it.

Please keep us posted as to what you decide to do and how everything works out.
Every situation is unique, any advice or opinions I offer are given for your consideration only. You must decide what is best for you and your particular situation. I am not a lawyer and do not offer legal advice.

--Greg Troy

Oscar Michelen

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Re: Masterfile Letter: Is this a Scam?
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2013, 01:25:26 AM »
Read the forum posts on the subject (especially those at the top of the first forum page) Look at the videos, get educated and don't panic (and Don't pay!)

artalacarte

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Re: Masterfile Letter: Is this a Scam?
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2013, 03:02:22 PM »
I just got off the phone with Mr. Hilsheimer. I did offer him $150.00 at first and then $200.00 but he refused. "My hands are tied and I have to pay my artist" he said. He then said that he could put me on a payment plan for 6 months ($160.00 per month). I told him I could not afford it, and politely left it to that.
He called me back a few minutes later to tell me that I should look into my business insurance which may cover the fee. I don't have a business insurance...So, should I just wait it out at this point?
Thank you all for great information and advice.

Robert Krausankas (BuddhaPi)

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Re: Masterfile Letter: Is this a Scam?
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2013, 03:15:12 PM »
I just got off the phone with Mr. Hilsheimer. I did offer him $150.00 at first and then $200.00 but he refused. "My hands are tied and I have to pay my artist" he said. He then said that he could put me on a payment plan for 6 months ($160.00 per month). I told him I could not afford it, and politely left it to that.
He called me back a few minutes later to tell me that I should look into my business insurance which may cover the fee. I don't have a business insurance...So, should I just wait it out at this point?
Thank you all for great information and advice.

waiting it out will be a long threes years, since he now has you're phone number...I think calling was a mistake, and making it much to easy for them..If you "found" all of your images via a google search don't be surprised if you don't get more letters from Getty Images, and maybe others as well..at least you were proactive in removing anything questionable..
Most questions have already been addressed in the forums, get yourself educated before making decisions.

Any advice is strictly that, and anything I may state is based on my opinions, and observations.
Robert Krausankas

I have a few friends around here..

artalacarte

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Re: Masterfile Letter: Is this a Scam?
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2013, 04:21:05 PM »
He could have gotten the phone number off my website where he found the image in question...Thank for your reply Robert.

Robert Krausankas (BuddhaPi)

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Re: Masterfile Letter: Is this a Scam?
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2013, 09:50:08 PM »
He could have gotten the phone number off my website where he found the image in question...Thank for your reply Robert.

My apologies if I came across rude, it wasn't meant to be...yes he could have gotten from your website, chances are good he never went to it or saw it, picscout is completely automated and creates the screen captures that they send along to the trolls...more importanly my point was to not make it easy for them, don't accept their emails or phone calls insist everything be done through the mail...this also serves a second purpose...you'll have complete records of everything, and there is less room for them to slip up this way..
Most questions have already been addressed in the forums, get yourself educated before making decisions.

Any advice is strictly that, and anything I may state is based on my opinions, and observations.
Robert Krausankas

I have a few friends around here..

artalacarte

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Re: Masterfile Letter: Is this a Scam?
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2013, 10:50:46 AM »
No offense taken Robert...And yes I will ask them to proceed through the mail. Thank you!

artalacarte

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Re: Masterfile Letter: Is this a Scam?
« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2013, 01:46:05 PM »
This is the a claim just received: Any suggestions as what I should do next? Thank you so much...

Please be advised that NCS has been retained by Masterfile Corporation with regard to the settlement of an image infringement claim in the above referenced matter. In that regard, we have been assigned this file, and have attached hereto copies of the letter previously sent by our client together with copies of the unauthorized images and the capture of said images on your website. Our client has attempted to resolve this claim by communicating with your company directly, but has been unable to do so. Our goal is to resolve this claim on an amicable basis, without having to resort to further action in this regard. We do have some flexibility with the amount claimed if this is resolved immediately. Alternatively, if we cannot settle this imminently, we would be obligated to refer the file back to our client for further action including the potential initiation of suit. It would be preferable to settle this matter upon terms agreeable to both parties, and to avoid the time and expense of potential protracted litigation. We trust that we can resolve this amicably, and we look forward to hearing from in this regard upon receipt of this email.

This is an effort to effect a settlement and any information obtained will be used for that purpose.

Robert Krausankas (BuddhaPi)

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Re: Masterfile Letter: Is this a Scam?
« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2013, 04:02:53 PM »
this is a "claim" not a debt, nicely tell NCS to pound salt....they have no right pestering you and they know this....you can refer to the following thread for more info

http://www.extortionletterinfo.com/forum/getty-images-letter-forum/my-response-letter-to-ncs/
Most questions have already been addressed in the forums, get yourself educated before making decisions.

Any advice is strictly that, and anything I may state is based on my opinions, and observations.
Robert Krausankas

I have a few friends around here..

Mulligan

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Re: Masterfile Letter: Is this a Scam?
« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2013, 05:32:04 PM »
This is the first time I've heard of Masterfile using a debt collection agency. Either I've missed some information or MF is no longer using strictly ever-escalating threats of lawsuits to get money out of folks.

Robert Krausankas (BuddhaPi)

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Re: Masterfile Letter: Is this a Scam?
« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2013, 07:45:45 PM »
This is the first time I've heard of Masterfile using a debt collection agency. Either I've missed some information or MF is no longer using strictly ever-escalating threats of lawsuits to get money out of folks.

Hi Mulligan!, good seeing you here and partaking in the conversation! I've seen MF use NCS before...hope you and the missus are well!
Most questions have already been addressed in the forums, get yourself educated before making decisions.

Any advice is strictly that, and anything I may state is based on my opinions, and observations.
Robert Krausankas

I have a few friends around here..

fighting_masterfile

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Re: Masterfile Letter: Is this a Scam?
« Reply #13 on: April 08, 2013, 08:27:02 PM »
Yes Masterfail uses NCS out of Florida to try to collect.  Wait till they start the e-mail.  It is most funny.  Do not fall for the strong arm Extortion they try but make them an offer like the $200 you already did and then wait them out. 

Greg Troy (KeepFighting)

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Re: Masterfile Letter: Is this a Scam?
« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2013, 09:27:59 PM »
I would reply back to them letting them know that this is a claim not a debt and you are dealing with Masterfile so do not contact you again.  This will kick it back to Masterfile and you won't hear from NCS anymore.
Every situation is unique, any advice or opinions I offer are given for your consideration only. You must decide what is best for you and your particular situation. I am not a lawyer and do not offer legal advice.

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