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My experience with Vincent Tylor and J.Stephen Street thus far

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Oscar Michelen:
Having been involved in this litigation for some time now on behalf of two clients, my opinion of this VT situation has changed. Below is a blog post I posted about the subject on my blog site:

Hawaii has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Capturing a breath-taking view of one really requires being in the right place at the right time.  And no one has been in the right place at the right time more than Vincent Tylor (Note: Vincent Khoury Tylor is the father of Vincent Scott Tylor- both are Hawaiian Photographers) (We’ll call them collectively "VT"). VT has made a career of taking and selling his scenic photographs of Hawaiian beaches through his own websites like and But the Internet has produced a secondary career for VT who - copyright infringement litigator. The ability to search for and locate digital imagery through the Internet has opened up a cottage industry for VT where he sends out cease and desist letters with large demands against alleged infringers and on occasion he then files suit against them in his home state of Hawaii.  I have recently become involved in two such lawsuits filed in Hawaii against folks who allegedly used VT's images on their websites. I will not discuss their individual cases here of course, but I will share what I have learned from my involvement in them.

What VT Does Right
Let me start by saying what I feel VT does right.
(1) He registers the images with the Copyright Office. He also does so in an organized fashion that makes it relatively easy to find the registration for the particular image. Copyright in an image attaches the minute the photographer snaps the picture and there is no legal requirement that you register the image in order to obtain the copyright in the image. Generally speaking, you took it, you got it. But registering the images allows VT to easily prove that he is the owner of the image and allows him to seek statutory damages and legal fees should he win a lawsuit over the use of the image.
(2) On his sites, he watermarks the images so that it is further easy to prove ownership and if someone removes the watermark (or content management information as it is legally known) that creates a second claim or cause of action against that person.
(3) He hired an experienced well-known lawyer in Hawaii - J. Stephen Street - to process his claims. His lawyer knows his way around a courthouse and knows copyright law. Too often, folks on both sides of an infringement suit don't hire someone well-versed in copyright law or in litigation. They call the lawyer who set up their company or helped them incorporate or did their business lease. You need a lawyer who knows intellectual property law litigation in general and copyright law specifically. I have spoken and dealt with Street and he is professional and knowledgeable. While I don't see eye-to-eye with him on a lot of things, our conversations have been courteous and productive. I can't always say that about the lawyers that handle these digital image copyright infringement matters.
(4) VT takes beautiful and professional pictures of Hawaii. 

What VT Does Wrong
(a) Asking too much. VT's demands both in his letters and through his litigation ask for damage amounts that I believe exceed what he would recover in a court of law. I have discussed this with Mr. Street and we have agreed to disagree on this issue. I recently represented a photographer whose business is similar to VT except his island of choice is Granada.  He found a travel agency that was using his images without license. He hired me to send a cease and desist letter. Luckily, the target company hired qualified IP counsel and we settled the case quickly for a fair amount. We didn't try to scare anyone into overpaying for the images. Asking for a rational amount based upon the use made of the image and the guilt of the party (was it intentional, where did they get the image from, did they re-sell the image etc) is the best way to a quick resolution
(b) Suing in Hawaii. Without getting into too much legalese, before you can file suit in a certain State, you have to show that the defendant has sufficient "minimum contacts" with the State so as to allow them to be hauled into court in that State. In the two cases I am handling, I feel the connection to Hawaii is thin. Of course, Mr. Street would disagree with me. But to even argue that, they then have to get Hawaiian counsel and fight the case until they can convince a court that they are right. The time zone difference also adds to the difficulty in dealing with the case. This added expense and pressure is unfair if the party really has no ties to Hawaii. We’ll see if the court agrees with me or Street.

Added Note of Caution about “Free Wallpaper and Free Images” Sites:
If you do a reverse image search on Google for just about any VT image, you will find it on dozens and dozens of websites propounding to provide "free images" or "free wallpaper shots." This is where many VT's targets get their images from. People believe that when a site says something is "Free" its "Free." But the site does not own the images and has no legal right to sell them. Incidentally, using an image from a free wallpaper site as a banner for your website which advertise  your business is not “wallpaper.” For a time, on ELI and in other places, there was speculation that VT was "seeding" his images onto these sites in order to entrap or ensnare folks into using them and to then make them targets of later suits.  Having been involved in this issue for some years now, I can state that no proof of any such seeding has ever been found. Street also demonstrated to me the many attempts VT has made over the years in trying to get “Free Wallpaper” and “Free Images” sites to take down VT’s work. It’s like playing “Whack-A-Mole” – you knock one down another pops up instantly.     

What's All This Mean?
It means that if you intend to use an image of a Hawaiian beach, chances are its VTs unless you go old school. It means that you cannot assume that just because an image is labeled as "free" that you can use it without a problem.  It means that chances are if you want to use a picture of a Hawaiian beach you will have to pay for it now or later. Or else you could find yourself saying "Aloha" to a judge in the Federal Court for the District of Hawaii.


--- Quote ---It means that you cannot assume that just because an image is labeled as "free" that you can use it without a problem.
--- End quote ---

I see this as the problem.  This is where many people get trapped.  It's one thing to be in the business of digital image photography and use.  But today, software is everywhere that allows anyone to build their own web site or blog.  The neophyte user is not trained in the law.  And they don't really learn about it until they get caught.

Companies that overcharge are basically using the law to build a profit center that may be more profitable than being in the digital image licensing business.  There must be some middle ground.  We need to get our lawmakers to help find that middle ground.

Ideas:  Feel Free to contribute to this list

* Meta-data, watermarks, copyright labels of some type should be required to warn people that someone owns the rights to this image.  If they get removed, the poster who removed them could be help to higher penalties than the innocent infringer.  If someone misuses and image that never contained identifying information, and can prove where they got it from, their penalties should be much lower than the penalty for the infringer who removes identifying information.
* Require warnings about copyright law in software that is designed for neophytes that allows them to use digital images.  The warnings need to be loud and obnoxious, not hidden in the fine print of a license agreement no one reads.
* An easy resolution standard for innocent infringers = say something like the image license fee plus a $10 penalty.  Maybe the image owner can choose from immediate take down, or retro license.
* Perhaps a much harsher set of penalties for those who make it easy to take images and strip out identifying information from the images.
* Maybe browser standards that make it difficult to copy digital images from web sites without a warning about potential legal ramifications.
* Lots of photographers build web sites to let people see their work that do not allow browser copy/paste functions.  Maybe this standard should be required for those in the image business.

I'm not exactly sure what has "changed" with regard to Oscar's opinion of this VT situation. Perhaps it is his views regarding what VT does right?

Personally speaking, I'm going to agree with Oscar's views of what VT does WRONG. Of course the number one thing being ASKING TOO MUCH.

I am still bothered by the issue that Oscar pointed out, that VT's attorney has demonstrated to him the many attempts over the years of trying to get "Free Wallpaper images" taken down of VT's work. This says that VT is obviously AWARE of this problem and that a lot of alleged infringers are finding his work on these sites and using them under the assumption that they are "free".

VT still chooses to send demand letters starting at a usual minimum of almost TEN GRAND to start and from there the price keeps going up if the letter recipient chooses not to comply! From there VT chooses to FILE SUIT on a chosen few demanding as much as THIRTY GRAND along with a threatening note that because his work is "registered" he may be entitled to the maximum amount for "WILLFUL INFRINGEMENT" of 150K! 

I agree with Oscar's point and perhaps a "here endith the lesson" to NEVER ASSUME that images on the internet are FREE to use...period end! As for Vincent K Tylor, my personal opinion is that he is still a major ASSHAT!


I'm going to add another "walk down memory lane" for those who are new here. This story by EVNL, is a story that I personally will NEVER FORGET regarding her dealings with Vincent K Tylor. I'd have to say that this should be added to Oscar's post regarding what VT does WRONG!

Just another opinion on my part.

I am going to take a guess here that he is somehow having to do this as part of some settlement agreement because this makes no sense.  I don't know why Oscar would post this unless he was forced to. 

This is part of Vincent K Tylors strategy and why he gets away with this time and time again.  He uses the legal system to force people into settlements or bankruptcy and part of the settlements they have to shut up.  That happened with Aloha Plastic Surgery, everything was silenced right?   

Let me clear some things up about Vincent Kay Tylor.

Hawaii has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Capturing a breath-taking view of one really requires being in the right place at the right time. 

NOT TRUE. Scenery does not change.  This is not like Photojournalism and any moron with a decent camera can catch a good image in Hawaii. I have seen Highschool kids with old GoPros get better images than Vincent Kay Tylor.  The right place and right time should refer to legally.  He knows how to work the system that is it.

(Note: Vincent Khoury Tylor is the father of Vincent Scott Tylor- both are Hawaiian Photographers)

HE IS NOT HAWAIIAN.  He has only lived there 10 years.  If he was Hawaiian or even a respectful local he would not be going after people in his own state, many who live on the properties he treks through to catch his images.  The more people become aware of what he is doing, he is going to have a very hard time with the locals there.  Hawaii does not like people especially "haoles" that act like this.

On his sites, he watermarks the images so that it is further easy to prove ownership and if someone removes the watermark (or content management information as it is legally known) that creates a second claim or cause of action against that person.

As someone else pointed out here in this forum, he has not done the proper things a photographer does to protect his images. I wish I could find the post where someone shared an email to him where they pointed that out and he said he was going to be doing that. This was like 2 years ago.  His website has NOT changed. You can still right click his images, and none of the other things that were suggested were done.  He added a copyright notice to where he outright LIED about not providing images to wallpaper sites.  That same post I referenced also had him admitting that he supplied his photos to a website that provides images to a wallpaper site.  He even said he STILL DID IT even after knowing. (if anyone can find that post and share it that would be great, there is so much on this subject I can't find it now and I don't remember the user name)

In addition several of his most popular stolen images are still highly ranked in google, from temporary Wordpress blogs NOT wallpaper sites.  One blog that appears to be his.  Being that he is so aggressive with removing images he could have easily gotten that down through Wordpress or even easier with GOOGLE who can remove it from searches.  And why does he have a crappy little unmanaged blog indexing photos? 

VT's demands both in his letters and through his litigation ask for damage amounts that I believe exceed what he would recover in a court of law.

This is strategic.  He drains people financially or scares them into settlements to keep it out of court.  He is preying on people's ignorance of copyright and not basing amounts on usage, duration, size, traffic, position.  This was evident in that one case recently which now appears to have gotten taken down, where the women was getting sued for $100,000 for some small blog image that had no traffic.


I don't buy the whole victim card, that they can't get people to remove images etc.  I can give you a list of about 20 really great credible Hawaii photographers who are well published and have fantastic images.  NOT ONE of them have the issues VKT does.  I have spoken with a few and asked why they dont have these problems.  They all said the same thing.  They take the proper steps to prevent it, they never allowed their images to get out in large file sizes, and they know how to effective takedowns, notices, and google reports.  IN the few cases they lost control of an image, they did not pursue any aggressive legal claims unless the people didn't take the images down right away.  They also said that by dealing fairly, most people were very accommodating and willing to pay fair fees.  They have never had any complaining about it.

In fact when you search Hawaii images why is he the one that has the most images out there. Do you have any idea how many good Hawaii images are out there? 

Another thing that has been mentioned several times by Hawaii businesses is that VKT should never be treating the local businesses like that.  It is a cultural thing.  When you live in a state where you are guest, where people are behind everyone else, you don't sue like that.  Photographers are not happy with him because he is making it harder for them to recover legitimately without looking like a copyright troll. 

He has no care about what he is doing to his career, his name and potentially his future when eventually the courts catch on.  People will come after him and he is going to be in a world of trouble legally.

**I am trying to login to my old account here to find my history so I can reference the posts I talked about here.  But if anyone has a link to it can you post?


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