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Author Topic: My experience with Vincent Tylor and J.Stephen Street thus far  (Read 5488 times)

Oscar Michelen

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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 CourtroomStrategy.com 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 HawaiianPhotos.net and HawaiianPictures.com. 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.
 
« Last Edit: October 23, 2014, 06:41:30 PM by Matthew Chan »

stinger

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Re: My experience with VT and Steven Street thus far
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2014, 12:05:45 PM »
Quote
It means that you cannot assume that just because an image is labeled as "free" that you can use it without a problem.

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.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2014, 12:11:24 PM by stinger »

Peeved

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Re: My experience with Vincent Tylor and J.Stephen Street thus far
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2014, 07:38:59 PM »
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!

Peeved

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Re: My experience with Vincent Tylor and J.Stephen Street thus far
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2014, 08:38:27 PM »
http://www.extortionletterinfo.com/forum/getty-images-letter-forum/looking-for-more-info-on-actual-and-expected-results-from-defense-letter-program/msg7648/#msg7648

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.

Robert

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Re: My experience with Vincent Tylor and J.Stephen Street thus far
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2014, 07:31:03 AM »
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.

LASTLY

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?
« Last Edit: November 05, 2014, 07:35:28 AM by Robert »

Robert Krausankas (BuddhaPi)

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Re: My experience with Vincent Tylor and J.Stephen Street thus far
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2014, 09:32:41 AM »
Rest assured Oscar was not "forced" to post anything, just like You and I  we are free to post our opinions, Oscar has been dealing directly with Street and this Tylor thing, obviously he has seen things we have not, I'm sure he would not just simply change his opinion on a whim, does this make Vincent K. Tylor or attorney Stephen Street any less of an asshole..IMHO no, they are both trolls looking to make a quick buck.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2014, 03:50:11 AM by Matthew Chan »
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..

Peeved

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Re: My experience with Vincent Tylor and J.Stephen Street thus far
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2014, 03:56:03 PM »
@ Robert (not BuddhaPi)...

Firstly, you may want to revise your post to spell Vincent "K" Tylor's name correctly verses "Kay". After all, it's best to be as factual as possible.

I found the following statement in your other post "humorous":
"Oscar posts a message that seemed oddly like he was being held at gunpoint."

QUOTE:
Ok so lets just say it.  They got beat down didn't they?  Posts are getting removed here, her posts are getting removed, Oscar posts a message that seemed oddly like he was being held at gunpoint.

Reason being is because I had the same thoughts (but not in a literal sense) as it was indeed a seemingly "off" post for Oscar. As an attorney however, Oscar is in the "negotiation" business and I'm sure he is doing what he feels is in his client's best interest.

Wishing Peggy the best possible outcome regarding her case.

Matthew Chan

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Re: My experience with Vincent Tylor and J.Stephen Street thus far
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2014, 04:09:23 AM »
I concur with Buddhapi that no one "forces" Oscar to do anything. Oscar very much has his own mind. He is not being "forced" to do anything. Having said that, Oscar doesn't have to explain his reasons for his post nor do any of us have to agree with him. I respect Oscar as an individual and a professional as well as his role as a lawyer to represent his client as he sees fit.

If it means anything, Oscar's post did seem a bit odd to me also. I have not asked him why he posted what he did or what motivated him but I am going to assume he did it for the greater good. He certainly owes me no explanation to post.  Please note that Oscar is very clear in his points of what he believes and what he does not believe.  He is NOT embracing VKT here.

Oscar's view is reflective of his own views.  There are aspects of his post that I agree with and there are aspects I don't. I am sure that is true with every reader.  People make their own judgments with the information they have.  I have no problems saying (barring any new information) that I have little respect for either James Stephen Street and Vincent K. Tylor. I remain a strong supporter of Vermont Studios and very much against this Hawaiian "team".

So count me in with Peeved and Buddhapi that count both of these "people" as "asshats" to put it mildly.

What is interesting to me is how observant people are and how dedicated ELI readers are.  Enemies of me and ELI are amongst are most devoted readers and they are amongst the biggest cry-babies.  After all, they seem to have no problems profiting and causing misery, forcing others to give up large amounts of money. They have no problems being hated by their victims but seem to be easily wounded when others talk about them.
I'm a non-lawyer but not legally ignorant either. Under the 1st Amendment, I have the right to post facts & opinions using rhetorical hyperbole, colloquialisms, metaphors, parody, snark, or epithets. Under Section 230 of CDA, I'm only responsible for posts I write, not what others write.

Matthew Chan

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Re: My experience with Vincent Tylor and J.Stephen Street thus far
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2014, 04:12:06 AM »
Email me: matt30060 / gmail. I will try to help you find your old account if you give me your name, email address, and any other info that will help me locate your account.

**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?
I'm a non-lawyer but not legally ignorant either. Under the 1st Amendment, I have the right to post facts & opinions using rhetorical hyperbole, colloquialisms, metaphors, parody, snark, or epithets. Under Section 230 of CDA, I'm only responsible for posts I write, not what others write.

Oscar Michelen

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Re: My experience with Vincent Tylor and J.Stephen Street thus far
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2014, 09:50:52 PM »
To quote Freud " sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." Will it help my VKT clients to have me post a positive statement about him and his attorneys? Well, it couldn't hurt I guess. But I was not forced to make any post by gunpoint or any other method. I have been involved in a few litigations with VKT and Stephen Street and Dana Anderson for some time and have not seen evidence of "seeding" or any other unscrupulous behavior on their part. I disagree with them on many levels (as my post states) but they have been litigating fairly and professionally in court. I have participated in numerous court conferences on the cases with both lawyers and two Federal judges who are aware of the number of cases filed on this issue and the court treats the lawyers with respect and professionalism. Part of the reason ELI has been so successful is that its information is current and accurate. I do not want people coming to the Hawaiian Art forums and being misled that they will find evidence that VKT seeds his images on "free" sites or is not doing anything to stop the "free" sites from putting his images out there. They will not (at least I have not to date and neither has any other litigant including Aloha Plastic Surgery). So the purpose of my post was just that - give people some insight on what I am seeing as I litigate these matters to the extent that it is ethical for me to discuss them (that's why I don't set forth specific facts about the cases or my clients' positions). That being said, we are ready willing and able to continue to litigate these cases to test the images' true value and the extent that a court will allow a non-resident corporation to be sued in Hawaii but I hope that we can get finality sooner rather than later by reaching an amicable resolution.             

Matthew Chan

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Re: My experience with Vincent Tylor and J.Stephen Street thus far
« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2015, 06:40:32 PM »
As far as the "seeding" issue is concerned, there may not be any evidence of VKT seeding the Internet but there is no question in my mind that he is EXTORTIONATELY and DISPROPORTIONALLY PROFITING from all the "free wallpaper" websites.

I can't speak for anyone else but in my view anyone who wants to take unfair advantage of such circumstances and trying to reach into my pocket, I would do everything in my power to fight it even if that meant going outside the legal system and using publicity to my advantage.  Contrary to some people's belief, expressing strong, negative opinions is NOT the same as defamation.  For some, they have been accustomed to working too many years in ivory tower offices outside of public eyes.

There is no person that I know who would ever agree that asking $2,000 or more as a "fair settlement" because they found a stray Hawaiian image on a "free wallpaper" website. They are taking egregious advantage.  ELI has established that extortion lawyers work for their 30%-40% commissions and they want to do it secretly without anyone ever knowing.

VKT and his extortion lawyers can try and line their pockets. The best thing that anyone can do is to make sure they name names which includes their sleazy lawyers like James Stephen Street, Dane Anderson, and Adam Gafni.  As far as I am concerned, they are all part of the VKT Extortion Scheme, financially RAPING their victims, and then silencing them through "confidential settlement agreements".

As far as I am concerned, I could not let those kinds of people figuratively and financially RAPE and me and get away with it expecting me to stay silent. But I know that is only MY OPINION and not reflective of how others might feel.

I take things very personally and I have no problems writing unflattering opinions for others to read and let people make their own judgments.  Too many people are way too polite and "civil" which is why they get bent over and get figuratively and financially "raped" by VKT and his extortion lawyers.
I'm a non-lawyer but not legally ignorant either. Under the 1st Amendment, I have the right to post facts & opinions using rhetorical hyperbole, colloquialisms, metaphors, parody, snark, or epithets. Under Section 230 of CDA, I'm only responsible for posts I write, not what others write.

 

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