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Author Topic: Got a Higbee letter - how can I ask for proof of copyright ownership?  (Read 1480 times)

Sid the geek

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Hi all! Newbie here. This is a great forum, extremely helpful. Very grateful for the support!

Long story short, I got a letter from Higbee. Looks like it's a follow-up to some emails and letters that picrights sent earlier in the year, that I ignored, pertaining to just one image on our website (which I promptly took down as soon as I got the first email). Higbee now asks for $1200. Before I respond to him: How can I ask for proof that he or his client actually owns the copyright? In other words, is there perhaps a US Copyright Library website somewhere, to which I can ask him to provide a deep link, showing the specific image and the copyright number with which it is registered? Obviously if he can't prove that he or his client owns the copyright, we shouldn't have to even bother with this.

Thanks in advance!

marketer44

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Re: Got a Higbee letter - how can I ask for proof of copyright ownership?
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2018, 03:11:43 PM »
I just received one too, claiming a small amount of $1400 for one image used twice. Asking the community to share their case information on how they beat this or what they did as the outcome of this situation. Thanks!

Ethan Seven

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Re: Got a Higbee letter - how can I ask for proof of copyright ownership?
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2018, 03:25:57 PM »
@sid.  It is always good to ask for proof of ownership. However, no reputable lawfirm would knowingly help a client enforce images they do not own.  So, don’t expect that approach to be more than a delay tactic.  Also, not all images are registered with the US Copyright Office, so you might have to look at other sources of proof of ownership, such as credibility of the claimant or other sites crediting the photographer for the image.  Good luck with it.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2018, 03:28:44 PM by Ethan Seven »
Even if I am a lawyer, I am not your lawyer.  Copyright matters can have serious consequences.  If you have assets worth protecting, consult a lawyer who is familiar with copyright law and who can review the facts of your case. If you cannot afford one, call your state or county bar association.

Ethan Seven

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Re: Got a Higbee letter - how can I ask for proof of copyright ownership?
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2018, 03:35:41 PM »
I just received one too, claiming a small amount of $1400 for one image used twice. Asking the community to share their case information on how they beat this or what they did as the outcome of this situation. Thanks!

How to beat it?   Well, absent a license, a valid defense, such as fair use, is a good place to start if the facts support it.   You could challenge the ownership of the images if ownership is in doubt.   

The options usually boil down to ignoring it and hope they don’t sue for three years (which is the statute of limitations), you negotiating a settlement, or you hiring an attorney to settle it.   What you do is up to you.  It is a business decision that involves many factors ranging from financial to emotional.
Even if I am a lawyer, I am not your lawyer.  Copyright matters can have serious consequences.  If you have assets worth protecting, consult a lawyer who is familiar with copyright law and who can review the facts of your case. If you cannot afford one, call your state or county bar association.

Sid the geek

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Re: Got a Higbee letter - how can I ask for proof of copyright ownership?
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2018, 04:10:41 PM »
@Ethan Seven Curiosity question, then:

Quote
Also, not all images are registered with the US Copyright Office, so you might have to look at other sources of proof of ownership, such as credibility of the claimant or other sites crediting the photographer for the image

How does the attorney prove ownership in court (if it comes to that), if there is no Copyright Office record? On what basis would a court believe an ownership claim?

Ethan Seven

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Re: Got a Higbee letter - how can I ask for proof of copyright ownership?
« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2018, 05:18:37 PM »
@sid

Ownership of a copyright is always proved the same way, by evidence presented to the judge or jury.   Registration is just a piece of evidence, it is not definitive.  Registration within 5 years of publication only creates a presumption of validity and ownership.  Evidence can include testimony from the author, witnesses to the creation, sustained and unchallenged public use of the work, ownership of similar photos, and on and on.   

It is best practice to make sure any release you sign includes a provision that warrants that the releasor will idemnify you from any future claims of infringement from any third-party.
Even if I am a lawyer, I am not your lawyer.  Copyright matters can have serious consequences.  If you have assets worth protecting, consult a lawyer who is familiar with copyright law and who can review the facts of your case. If you cannot afford one, call your state or county bar association.

Robert Krausankas (BuddhaPi)

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Re: Got a Higbee letter - how can I ask for proof of copyright ownership?
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2018, 11:37:50 AM »
I'll just add this...copyright exists at the moment of creation.."Registration" is NOT required, although it does afford more legal protections for the artist... It would be very easy for me prove if someone used my images..I would simply present the RAW file, which is the original file which could not be altered or duplicated..and includes all of the image data.
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.
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Matthew Chan

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Re: Got a Higbee letter - how can I ask for proof of copyright ownership?
« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2018, 06:03:05 PM »
For 99% of the people, there is no "beating this" in the conventional sense because it is being done entirely outside of the court system.  Daring (or angry) folks sometimes decide they will call their bluff and not pay because they are not generally sue-worthy.  Most people tend to negotiate and settle the matter.  Everyone "pays" one way or another through their time, energy, or risk-taking if they don't pay financially.

You generally either settle or you mitigate and ride out the 3-year statute of limitations. That is the short answer.

I just received one too, claiming a small amount of $1400 for one image used twice. Asking the community to share their case information on how they beat this or what they did as the outcome of this situation. Thanks!
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: Got a Higbee letter - how can I ask for proof of copyright ownership?
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2018, 06:11:20 PM »
As others have pointed out, registration is not necessarily "proof" of ownership. It just means you were willing to pay money to claim ownership and register the image. US Copyright Office doesn't generally verify anything except whether someone submitted the paperwork correctly.

The US Copyright online system is horrible, outdated, and shows very little. It is a frequent complaint and needs a serious overhaul. No one can verify or corroborate anything whether you are the accuser or the accused.

And if you believe they don't own an image, you can call them out, call their bluff and not pay. IF YOU truly believe that being the key phrase here....

In other words, is there perhaps a US Copyright Library website somewhere, to which I can ask him to provide a deep link, showing the specific image and the copyright number with which it is registered? Obviously if he can't prove that he or his client owns the copyright, we shouldn't have to even bother with this.
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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