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PicRights/AFP at a Student Org


Hi all,

As my username tells, I'm a college student at a large state university in the US. I'm also the Treasurer for a fairly large cultural/ethnic student organization on campus. The organization has an executive board which helps plan events and manage the responsibilities of the organization. Last year, I was the Webmaster, so I handled everything on the website, including content updates and whatnot. One thing I did as Webmaster is create an informational section on the website that showcased various aspects of the culture. In this section, I mistakenly used a copyrighted image of an eagle (I found it on Getty Images, $175 for small and $499 for large). I had looked up stock images on Google at the time for the image, but alas, it was not royalty-free. This is entirely my mistake, and I feel terrible about it.

Last month, a few of our board members received emails from PicRights (representing AFP) demanding proof of license for the image, but neither of them mentioned it, so time passed by without anybody knowing. Yesterday, we received a follow-up email from PicRights - this time demanding $710 for the usage of the image. This time, our fellow board members mentioned it, so now we're trying to deal with the issue. To be completely honest, we really don't know what to do. Our organization is 100% not a business at all. We host events on campus for students and non-students and most of our funds are provided by the university's SGA. We do make money for our organization by working concessions at football and basketball games, but we don't sell any products (besides tickets to our events and apparel for our members). I would never consider an on-campus student organization to be a business.

I've been reading through this forum for a little while now and I've seen cases where victims of these emails didn't respond at all, and others where they paid a settlement. Since we're a student organization, our funds are quite low, so paying the $710 seems a little outside of our comfort zone. However, our executive board changes every year and I don't want the future boards to have to deal with this mess, especially if PicRights keeps coming at us for years to come.

I looked up the original photographer of the photo and it looks like he's not working with AFP anymore, so is it possible that he may still pursue a lawsuit even though he's no longer employed with AFP? Would it be smart to reach out to him? If so, what should I ask him?

This is quite a difficult situation that's had me stressed non-stop since we received the emails. Do you guys have any advice for us? I'm happy to answer more questions, whether it be on this thread or in a PM. I really appreciate your help!

Matthew Chan:
Nearly every stated figure to settle in a demand letter is subject to negotiation and reduction. But you do have to put in the work to provide explanation of how it happened (assuming it was unintentional), removal of images in question, issue an apology, and counter-propose a number you think is more appropriate. So, with the right explanation and responses, that $710 can be reduced significantly. Again, that is a generalized statement which will have varying degrees of success.


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