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Author Topic: Higbee, PicRights and Agence France Presse  (Read 2391 times)


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Higbee, PicRights and Agence France Presse
« on: July 02, 2018, 06:28:08 PM »
We received a letter a few months back from PicRights with the standard boilerplate threats about copyright abuse and a demand for money. Given that the email had incorrect information, we assumed it was a scam, found this site and decided to ignore. We are [formerly] a small graphic design business that is now closed and have been for some time. The single image in question was an image that appeared on a deeper level page around 2015/16 and we cannot remember whether it came with the theme or was found on a free image portal. Regardless, the image was removed and subsequently, the site was hacked and lots of material was injected into the site, but what's more, the site is basically inactive as we are not taking clients and have no existing work.

We ignored several subsequent emails from PicRights, thinking again that it was a scam/extortion. Just recently, we received a very threatening email from the attorney Higbee, but searching these forums allowed us to see the exact same language everyone else dealing with this extortion has received. Now, just a couple days ago, two more emails; one from Higbee and another from a "Case Manager." Again, boilerplate language and escalating threats.

What we are confused by is the weird connection and association of these letters. First we received emails from Pic Rights that claimed to represent Agence France Presse, and now we're getting emails from Higbee saying his firm represents Agence France Press. And then there's the actual photographer? We are really confused. One set of letters is demanding one amount, Higbee's letters are -- not surprisingly -- asking for much more, with the threat upwards of hundreds of thousands -- for one image.

Our business is technically closed and basically there is no money left in it to pay any of these demands. But the question is... are these emails even legitimate when multiple outfits are claiming to represent the same "client"? And in doing research, the ultimate client seems to be Getty as we finally found the image after searching and searching on stock websites, and it turned up on the Getty website.  I question the legitimacy of any of these emails as their are multiple parties claiming to represent the same client, and we're not even sure how Agence and Getty are related, if they even are. This reeks of extortion and harassment.

Any advice would be appreciated and helpful.

Matthew Chan

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Re: Higbee, PicRights and Agence France Presse
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2018, 03:29:26 PM »
Agence France Presse (AFP) is a French news media company.  They likely acquire/buy the rights/copyrights of their images from independent photographers. However, I have never seen any hardcore documentation on this. It is an educated guess on my part that might be worth a defendant to challenge.

I have seen a recent surge of AFP claims come through being submitted to me. A number of the claims initially being submitted are from Picrights. Surprisingly, some are very low settlement amounts such as $158. I am not a proponent of simply paying off a copyright claim letter but if you did infringe (however unintentional), it is hard to get my sympathy to NOT pay it UNLESS you are prepared to go the long haul and fight to the bitter end. $158 is a very low settlement that is hard to ignore.

If Picrights doesn't get the response or settlement they want, they hand it off to Higbee & Associates to handle the AFP infringement. Picrights & Higbee work together for the mutual client that is AFP.  In theory, the photographer is out of the equation because the rights/copyrights of the images have been sold/transferred to AFP.

The lower ones I have seen get transferred to Higbee and, of course, they jack up the settlement amount.

However, I don't think I have EVER seen a AFP U.S. copyright registration. A potential weakness I see that can help defendants is that AFP's imagery may not be copyright registered in the U.S.  But nevertheless, bringing it up is insufficient. People actually have to have a spine to stand up to the counter-argument that will inevitably be made. Most people aren't going to "convince" them to back off. 99% of these cases will not be "convinced" away.

It always comes down to the resolve and determination of defendants.  We provide insights and some level of knowledge and education. But we can't help people grow spines. You either have it or muster it up. Absent that, settle aggressively to get it as low as you can.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2018, 03:31:55 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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Re: Higbee, PicRights and Agence France Presse
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2018, 10:03:09 AM »
Are there any known lawsuits that have been filed involving AFP/Picrights/Higbee?  Have seen some posts of cases that have been filed on this forum, and have not seen any where the plaintiff was AFP.  In a similar situation, curious to try and gauge the likelihood of of a lawsuit when AFP is the client being represented by Higbee.


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