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Author Topic: Mathew Higbee & Photog Michael Grecco Launch  (Read 1931 times)

Matthew Chan

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This news nugget was submitted by a loyal ELI reader. Thank you to that person who wishes to remain anonymous.

The number of firms pursuing copyright infringement and issuing extortion letters is growing again. It appears that Attorney Mathew Higbee and Litigious Photographer Michael Grecco has launched Image Defenders.

Higbee has previously represented Grecco on various copyright infringement cases which can be found on Justia and Pacer. Apparently, their pre-existing relationship has led to this new Image Defenders venture and business partnership. It is safe to say that we will soon see the first Image Defenders Settlement Demand/Extortion Letters.

The domain was registered in February 2018. That means this is a very new venture. With Grecco's credentials, I imagine he will be able to find some photographers to sign up for the new service.

As reported previously, it has been my estimate that Higbee and other lawyers in his line of work get a 30% to 40% (roughly a third) commission for their collection/extortion efforts. However, Image Defenders claim to only want to charge 20% collection fees in the pre-lawyer stages with the other supposed 80% going to photographer. However, I am not convinced that the 20/80 split will stay for long.

Image Defenders is the only service that has NO upfront fees. The service is through acceptance, we are looking for artist with high value to their work and registrations with the copyright office. We then assume all cost for the search, any filing fees with the court and services fess. Image Defenders also takes the smallest percentage of any agency of its type, we charge 20% of the gross after expenses. The core law firm works for a rate of 30% deliver 50% of the gross settlement to the artist or their representative.

Supposedly, the advantage that Image Defenders as is, of course, the direct connection to the Higbee law offices existing staff and infrastructure. Another interesting "competitive edge" is reading between the lines. Image Defenders is touting that they are using search technology to find potential infringements, not proprietary search/scanning software (such as PicScout which Getty Images uses and acquired for $20 million).

We know our strengths. Rather than spending our time and resources developing proprietary search technology like many other services, we utilize three different proven search engines developed by companies who are experts in search.

By utilizing three different search engines, we can offer unparalleled search capabilities worldwide. The technical aspects of Image Defenders do not distract our network of lawyers from their primary task, which is getting you paid.

Reading between the lines, we can probably assume Google and Bing are two of the major search engines they are using. I am not sure what the third search engine might be. Yahoo Search doesn't count because as far as I know it has been reliant on Bing for years.

On good point that Image Defenders make is this statement:

Unlike most other services, Image Defenders does not charge a monthly fee for our services. You pay nothing out-of-pocket. There are no fees until your claim has been settled.

Once any claims have been settled, you retain 50% of the actual settlement. While others claim to pay 40-50%, in most cases, that percentage is calculated after the lawyers take their cut of up to 40%. Which means you are actually only getting 20-30% of the initial settlement.

Image Defenders was formed with the idea that photographers should be paid for their work. That is why we strive to pay the highest percentage in the industry.

It is no secret that most photographers are not very business-savvy and most are desperate to collect any monies on their photography however small it might be. It is not a surprise that photographers get relatively very little money in the extortion letter business because the other firms all have to get their share first before the photographer gets anything. And that assumes that these firms are honorable in reporting monies collected. Quite frankly, most photographers have no way of verifying what anyone collects. They are at the mercy of these "service firms".

I have to say Higbee is quite clever and entrepreneurial. The Image Defenders venture feeds his law firm with new clients.  Image Defenders can simply send a couple of weak, token letters to potential infringers. When they don't pay or answer, they can transfer the case to Higbee's own law firm and claim his 50%.

If we use our in house legal services, you get paid 50% of the actual settlement, not what’s left over after everyone else has been paid.

I find it hard to believe the photographer Grecco would incur any labor costs himself. I think Grecco will be leaning heavily (or entirely) on Higbee's existing office operations and staff. I think ImageDefenders will largely be represented and operated by Higbee's inhouse non-lawyer, clerical staff, perhaps a paralegal might be involved. And for victims who refuse to pay ImageDefenders, the "case" will be "transferred" to another Higbee inhouse staff member.

It seems very likely existing Higbee employees will be working in the Image Defenders venture. To the general public, there will be an Image Defenders extortion letter.  And then there will be a separate the Higbee Law Firm extortion letter. They will refer to each other in the third-person as if they were really separate firms when, it is quite likely in a practical sense, they are one and the same. At best, if they are not one and the same in a practical sense, it would be an incestuous arrangement.

Most of the public who are new victims and do not read ELI will not make the connection between the newly formed Image Defenders and Higbee & Associates Law Firm. They will be fooled into thinking that Image Defenders and Higbee Law Firm are two different entities. Based on my read, it is likely an incestuous operation. Grecco will be the "networking cred" to attract photographer clients into the venture to earn his keep in the venture.  But it looks to me, Higbee's non-lawyer, clerical staff will be getting more work now that Image Defenders appears to have come online.

Overall, I have to say it is quite clever and entrepreneurial for Grecco and Higbee to work together in ImageDefenders. It is something to watch and observe in the months and years to come.
« Last Edit: July 02, 2018, 04:05:52 PM by Matthew Chan »
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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