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Author Topic: My Very Own DeBoer IP Extortion Letter from John M. DoBoer  (Read 4465 times)

Amanda

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My Very Own DeBoer IP Extortion Letter from John M. DoBoer
« on: April 14, 2015, 03:54:48 PM »
Hello everyone! I am the newest member to ELI and the latest victim of this legal extortion douchbaggery. I have been lurking around the forums and reading a lot on blogs about this stuff  a few days after I received my extortion letter in March of 2015 from Deboer IP from his assistant Diana Diaz which was CCed to John M. DeBoer at 11 pm at night Eastern. All of the threatening language and accusations sent me into a complete traumatic stress episode (as I am a survivor of complex PTSD). It took me three days to calm down and to talk with friends to get me back straight and for my nightmares, edginess, tremors, and the diarrhea to stop. After getting back into my "right mind", I was able to research and approach this methodically and analytically after I had amassed some information.

I had hired a website designer to create a custom designed website for my business since I have been unemployed for quite a while and I scraped together some money to begin this venture. I have made very little money yet and mostly from doing other freelance PR and blogging stuff.

The image was used on a free listing for visiting authors to list their "bargains" on a free list. I didn't make anything from this.

The image in question is not from Getty Images. It is from a duo of photographers Shattil and Rozinsky and Shattil and Rozinsky Photography. DeBoer asserts that went to the clients' website, removed the copyright information, altered it, and am using it illegally so he wants $1320 for a single image or he will sue me. There was no prior cease and desist. This is preposterous and absurd. I contacted my website designer and she told me she had gotten the image off of a stock photo site and she had done the appropriate licensing searches for "free photos for commercial use with modification" since I was on a tight budget. She hasn't gotten back with me about which site in particular she had gotten it from since it has been two years since she did my website and she has to replay the search and if anyone knows the Internet changes constantly. There are several bald eagle photos for the theme of the site and just one has been flagged. I removed this photo the next day after receiving the letter.

I called DeBoer's office and responded to the email twice on the same day I removed the photo and haven't received a single response. Seems to me like he isn't interested in trying to settle this in a reasonable "business to business manner". He also mailed printed versions of the attachments to my home. How did he get my mailing address when I don't have it on the website?

Furthermore he asserts that the photo has been used for three years (since 2012). This is impossible since the domain name and the hosting were purchased in 2013 and the site wasn't started or completed until 2013. I have domain and hosting receipts and the invoice from the designer to prove it.

I researched the so called "copyright document" that was enclosed. The title of the compilation (if that is what it is at all) that it may have belonged to is called "Webshots uploads in some dates in 2004". I tried the individual photo by what the photographers called it and what DeBoer called it at the LOC and there is no record. When I put the ambiguous title in there is a note that there was a prior submission back in 1991 and this new registration was made when "american flag was added to the background". Was this all the photos in the compilation? The bald eagle picture? Some of them but not that one? I don't know, but something tells me this is incorrect documentation. I can't find the file at the LOC for the submission in 1991 unless I had the title to the original compilation  :-\. What is striking to me is that there was another thread from a different person about DeBoer IP that had a similar document with the same ambiguous title of "Webshots uploads with dates in 2004". I wonder if it's the same photographers. If not, then there is some kind of coincidence, or is it just me? As an author a title like this makes no sense. It would be like calling all of my ebooks "Amazon or Smashwords uploads 2008" or something.

I put the url that was enclosed in the "documents" and the photographers' site comes up with an error message. I do a search on Tineye.com and voila, there is the URL with the image (cloak and dagger?). It only works if you go into Tineye. It shows the photo with the copyright information like the one I actually find on the photographers' website, but with a different url. Plus, the photographers have the image for sale on their site for a 99 cent puzzle download. I then use my author contact information to contact the photographers to see if I could purchase the photo from them for a writing project, how much it would cost, and all of those sensible things, and they don't even respond. Looks suspicious to me. From that Tineye search there are 147 other sites with this one photo on it. 147 other potential targets for this one photo alone. I don't think they all removed the copyright information :P. It almost looks like something like HAN is doing. I wonder if these photographers/DeBoer are seeding the internet on purpose since HAN uses Webshots to seed the Internet. Common denominator: Webshots.

He goes further to assume I have the original copy of the "infringing" photo stored on all my computers (there is just me right now--there is no team). I never did. All I ever had was the altered one. There is just me; I am not a corporation (yet?). Should it go to court he wants access to my computers, blog back ups, you name it. It feels like I am selling documents from the Pentagon to Iranian terrorists and I am getting a complete workup. Seriously? Over one freaking image? I am a sole proprietor right now working on getting my LLC, so I don't have business insurance as I am still poor and trying to build me a job since nobody will give me the time of day despite my skill sets (yes plural) and he mentioned something about "advertising injury" or something if I had said insurance. Why should I buy business insurance when I don't even own a home or a car right now? I am both ticked off and sick right now.

Anyway, people have brought up mail/email fraud, abuse of power, extortion. I think we can add racketeering to the mix. I think these so called "retroactive licences" are a racket. But how about invasion of privacy? What about spam laws?

Any additional information or advice is welcome. I will go public about this pretty soon.

Thanks!

stinger

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Re: My Very Own DeBoer IP Extortion Letter from John M. DoBoer
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2015, 04:07:59 PM »
Your website designer may be able to find where they got the image on www.Waybackmachine.org.  This internet archive preserves pages by date.  If they have an idea of when they found the image, this might help them find where.

I don't expect anyone is going to file a lawsuit over $1300.  If they do (your never know what others might try), it would be nice to be able to show a judge that you are not a habitual copyright infringer and that your hired help was duped by said site.

Robert Krausankas (BuddhaPi)

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Re: My Very Own DeBoer IP Extortion Letter from John M. DoBoer
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2015, 05:16:25 PM »
Naturally I would love to see this letter and "All of the threatening language and accusations"

You could pursue your web designer, but that may be costly. I'll make a few points to your post.

1. "DeBoer asserts that went to the clients' website, removed the copyright information, altered it" he can assert all he wants, he would need to PROVE this IF it were to go to trial.

2. "There was no prior cease and desist"....none is required

3. "she had done the appropriate licensing searches for "free photos for commercial use with modification" ...I've never heard of such a search, and highly doubt there would be any results..there are very few reputible site offering "FREE" images for commercial use.

4. "I called DeBoer's office and responded to the email twice on the same day I removed the photo and haven't received a single response."...have no fear, you'll hear from them again, as they now know they have a "live one"

5. He also mailed printed versions of the attachments to my home. How did he get my mailing address when I don't have it on the website? .... a simple search of the domain whois database probably gave him this info, or a myriad of other places, it's very simple these days.

6. "Furthermore he asserts that the photo has been used for three years (since 2012)." again they can assert all they want all day long, that's different from proving something.

What is "LOC"??? you should search for this image in the copyright.gov database, it may not even be registered, or it may not be properly registered, which would greatly reduce any award they would get IF it went to trial.
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..

Jerry Witt (mcfilms)

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Re: My Very Own DeBoer IP Extortion Letter from John M. DoBoer
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2015, 11:25:57 AM »
My only other suggestion is for you to NOT chase them. Don't be so desperate to get a response. Their only response will be "pay us." So you need to play the long game until the three year statute of limitations is up.

And seriously, their petty claim is not worth loosing sleep over. You've identified other places the image is available. "Web Shots" images have very murky usage guidelines. A third party built your web site. They are not going to sue you. They are going to send you irritating letters every few months. But there is no way in hell this is worth it to sue.
Although I may be a super-genius, I am not a lawyer. So take my scribblings for what they are worth and get a real lawyer for real legal advice. But if you want media and design advice, please visit Motion City at http://motioncity.com.

Amanda

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Re: My Very Own DeBoer IP Extortion Letter from John M. DoBoer
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2015, 02:10:09 PM »
Thanks everyone for the advice and additional help.

BuddhaPi, LOC is the Library of Congress. I Google searched to find the copyright archives and from the website it says the Library of Congress/US Copyright archives (that is where I found the other info)--so I did search the copyright archive--I took a screenshot and saved the search URL on a word doc. If you want to take a look let me know how I can get in touch with you. I can also send some of my research and screenshots, if you like. That is the best way I describe the web search where she tried to check the licensing. She also does graphic and cover design. But anyway I don't know where the image came from yet. I don't plan on suing anyone.

I guess I fell into the same trap that everyone does by responding since I didn't want to appear like I was not trying to cooperate. I am an honest person who tries to do the right thing. Almost felt like I had a proverbial gun to my head.

If/when they contact me should I respond? Or should I just ignore them since I have pretty much called their bluff? I don't plan on telling them anything I have found. I  haven't gone out of my way to contact them since then.

I really don't think they really have any proof that I did anything. I have pretty much proven them wrong.

I am really trying to keep my peace about this situation, but I won't say it hasn't been difficult when one is dealing with a lot of other unrelated personal issues (not that it matters a hill of beans, but just saying). I don't see much of a difference from these people and muggers on the street (maybe except for tactics and sides of the legal system?). The mob? The school bully who steals lunch money for the other kids?

I am not going to cave. I am going to fight since I don't owe these frauds a dime (even if I had it to spare which I don't) >:(.

I have been blogging for over 5 years and have never had a problem 'til now.

 

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