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Author Topic: Nicholas Youngson Photographer (Rep. by Higbee Associates) Copyright Abuse  (Read 9135 times)

nycopyrightabuse

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Hello, I represent a U.S. company (name redacted as the complaint is proceeding) that received a settlement demand letter from Higbee & Associates (represented by Matthew Higbee) on behalf of Nicholas Youngson - the photographer and owner of http://nyphotographic.com.

The reason I am posting is because we believe that Mr. Youngson is engaging in copyright abuse by engaging in deceptive and misleading business practices. That is, he is freely distributing his images and encouraging others to use them only to later issue settlement demand letters over copyright infringement.

I am going to explain the situation and ask the community for help in order to substantiate the claim that Mr. Youngson's business practices are a pattern of behavior (impacting many people) and he is well aware of the nuances of his actions.

The initial complaint by Youngson/Higbee
Higbee's initial complaint to us alleges that we used images on our website that violate his copyright. For brevity, I am only going to include evidence related to one image.

Full complaint link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7ZbRXn38e7SVTBtak9JdzBsRzA/view?usp=sharing

Here is a summary of the complaint:
  • Mr. Youngson's images are copyrighted (as of August, 2016)
  • We used five images on our website without a "license"
  • Mr. Higbee demanded the sum of $20,000.00 or otherwise we will be sued
Now, here is a link to the image in question -
"Obamacare Scrabble": https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7ZbRXn38e7SeWhwMXVjeTRta1E/view?usp=sharing

Investigation and findings
We spent weeks investigating the matter and found some strange oddities with regards to how Mr. Youngson operates his photography business.

First, he distributes his images for a fee on his primary website, http://nyphotographic.com.

However, he also owns and operates a number of other image websites (the Mirrors), as many people in this community know:
On his Mirror website, we obtained the same image from this URL: http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/wooden-tile/o/obamacare.html

Note that at the top of the image, there is the following language:
Quote
The image below related to the word Obamacare is licensed by it's creator under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license which permits the free use of the image for any purpose including commercial use and also permits the image to be modified, see license details below.
Please ensure the license and image size are suitable for your use, alternatively you can purchase the original full size image on a rights managed license for a few dollars from NYPhotographic.com here

There is attribution language at the bottom of the image:
Quote
Free License permits: Sharing, copying and redistributing in any medium or format including adapting, remixing, transforming, and building upon the material for any purpose, even commercially. Attribution required.

Additionally, Mr. Youngson has images from his Mirror websites indexed by Google images and listed as "Free for commercial use with modification."

See the Google search result: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7ZbRXn38e7SMFVDejk5ZzNnTDA/view?usp=sharing

But he does not allow his images to be indexed under the same licensing rights for his primary domain where he sells images.

Summary
In short, Mr. Youngson encourages others to take and use his images on Mirror websites, but sells them on his main website.

Interpretation
By distributing his images on the Mirror websites and presenting sparse and vague licensing information up front, there is a high possibility of confusion. It is this confusion that prompts any logical reader to ask the following questions:
  • Does Mr. Youngson own and operate the Mirror websites?
  • Why does Mr. Youngson allow the distribution of his copyrighted works on the Mirror websites?
  • Why does Mr. Youngson allow Google to index images on the Mirror websites with a “labeled for reuse” license?
  • Why does the copy on the Mirror websites prominently highlight free use language, while burying the attribution clause at the bottom?
  • Given Mr. Youngson’s core business of copyright licensing/collection and the plethora of other cases involving his Mirror websites, why hasn’t he reached out to the webmaster or modified the language in the copy of the Mirror websites to reduce end-user confusion?
Indeed, a reply from Mr. Higbee's office yielded the following response:
Quote
Each one of those domains mentioned is owned and managed by our client, Nick Youngson. He uses them as a platform to showcase his work. As I am sure you are aware, each image is available through a creative commons license. The terms of the Creative Commons 3.0 license can be found on the URLS that your [sic] provided. It also states that the top of the web page that attribution is required [sic].

Mr. Youngson is well-aware that his licensing/distribution causes confusion when reasonable parties look for images on the web and his counsel has not addressed the confusion in any capacity.

Abuse of copyright
In knowing that his distribution is the root-cause of the problem, Mr. Youngson has done nothing to amend his business practices. Instead, he has teamed up with a law firm (Higbee & Associates) to track down individuals who fall prey to this sort of "entrapment." Had his licensing terms and attribution stipulations been more prominently listed on his Mirror websites, I highly doubt many reasonable parties would use his images.

By allowing others to use and download his images under these circumstances, I believe that Mr. Youngson may be violating the U.S. Copyright laws by engaging in deceptive and misleading practices in an effort to gain settlement compensation.

We're asking for the community's help
We would like to conclude our business with Mr. Youngson and also ensure that others don't fall victim to the same deceitful enterprise. To do that, we must clearly establish a pattern of behavior by Mr. Youngson in the following areas:
  • Mr. Youngson is aware that his Mirror websites cause end-user confusion with reasonable parties looking for images
  • Mr. Youngson has pursued numerous copyright violations claims on the basis of his distribution on his Mirror website
  • Mr. Youngson refuses to amend the copy in his Mirror websites because he continues to profit from the confusion
This is the part where we need the community's help: if you have been impacted by a similar scenario involving Mr. Youngson's Mirror websites (listed above), please fill out the form linked below.

https://goo.gl/forms/1v2I0uIyfLcF4PEj1

Only include information you feel comfortable sharing. The replies will not be shared with the public (or anyone else) by myself or the company. If you do share your name, email and an incident summary, it will greatly increase the likelihood that Mr. Youngson will be prompted to amend his business practices and provide clear language on his Mirror websites. We only intend to share the total number of legitimate replies we receive with Mr. Higbee's firm.

Thank you all very much in advance. I hope that our effort in this endeavor will minimize the instance of settlement demand letters for ourselves and others.

You can also share any private emails with me using this dedicated email address: [email protected]
« Last Edit: February 24, 2017, 02:33:46 AM by Matthew Chan »

nycopyrightabuse

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Re: Nicholas Youngson Photographer (Rep. by Higbee Associates) Copyright Abuse
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2017, 03:39:52 AM »
Update
Thank you all so much for the positive Google form response rate. We have received numerous replies (mostly from attorneys in the same situation as us) indicating that we are not the only ones going through the same nuisance. Our next reply to Higbee & Company will include total response data (no personal information included, as promised) in order to show that their enterprise of demand letter extortion is not acceptable and a pattern of misconduct.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2017, 10:29:09 PM by nycopyrightabuse »

Defender

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Re: Nicholas Youngson Photographer (Rep. by Higbee Associates) Copyright Abuse
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2017, 12:24:05 PM »
Thanks for posting this.  Please keep us updated as to the status of your situation.

ih8trolls

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Re: Nicholas Youngson Photographer (Rep. by Higbee Associates) Copyright Abuse
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2017, 02:09:25 PM »
Yes, please keep use posted on any progress. Higbee seems to be taking more of an aggressive approach at least in my situation.

Matthew Chan

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Re: Nicholas Youngson Photographer (Rep. by Higbee Associates) Copyright Abuse
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2017, 08:23:36 PM »
I am going to chime in here as I feel a bit uncomfortable with some aspects of the post by nycopyrightabuse.

I am uncomfortable with the solicitation of information from the ELI Community without any disclosure who you are. If you are a lawyer, you should be disclosing your identity.

And if you are NOT a lawyer, you have asked people to entrust their private information to someone who has no standing or credibility. You are simply an anonymous account at this point. You purport to be a victim and you might well be but I am wary of anyone trying to obtain other people's information when you are yourself posting anonymously.

I have sent a private email to the email address listed regarding this matter.

For people reading, I understand the desire to share information and to assist one another. However, how does anyone know that it isn't Higbee, Nick Youngson, or someone related to them trying to collect information from anonymous readers here?

I will not allow an information honeypot to exist here. I don't believe that is the case here but the potential for foul play exists.

For that reason, I exercise LOTS OF CAUTION before giving any information to an unknown party of has NOT identified themselves, not matter how good their intentions might be.

Until I get clarification directly from the author, I am redacting the email address in the interest of community security.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2017, 08:28:10 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.

nycopyrightabuse

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Re: Nicholas Youngson Photographer (Rep. by Higbee Associates) Copyright Abuse
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2017, 09:57:51 PM »
Matthew Chan, thanks for taking the time to reply to my thread. Truthfully, I debated for a few days whether or not to reach out to you privately before writing my initial post. I should have trusted my gut instinct and done it.

I am not a lawyer and only represent a U.S. based company. The company decided to conceal the identity because our situation is ongoing and we didn't feel comfortable fully disclosing company matters that may turn into litigation. I also completely understand and agree with the merits of your post.

We are asking for the ELI community's help and agree that there isn't much information from us except for the linked documents we provided. You are right that this does present inherent risk for anyone who contacts us. To our credit, we stated multiple times that any information provided would not be used or published - and we encouraged others to redact information they didn't feel comfortable sharing.

With that being said, I want to express an apology if my initial post seemed like it was an "information honeypot." It was not my intent and I understand your concern. I will be replying to your personal email shortly to address the matter privately - something I should have done at the start.

Thanks you.

nycopyrightabuse

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Re: Nicholas Youngson Photographer (Rep. by Higbee Associates) Copyright Abuse
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2017, 10:33:13 PM »
Matthew, I replied to your email (as promised) and look forward to providing details and information in order to verify my positive intentions and objectives with the community. I appreciate your adherence to the community's best interests with regards to safety and also look forward to getting the email address reinstated on my original post.

Thank you.

Matthew Chan

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Re: Nicholas Youngson Photographer (Rep. by Higbee Associates) Copyright Abuse
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2017, 11:13:42 PM »
NYCopyrightrightabuse,

I have received your email and will respond personally there. Once we hammer out the details and issues, I think we should be fine.

IN a general sense, I do like that you are being proactive, strongly voiced your position/opinions, and taken the initiative to do something. I am not giving an endorsement of what you are doing or your arguments but I do respect that you are not sitting back and letting yourself or your client become blindly victimized.

I will offer this nugget to anyone regarding receiving the Higbee letters regarding Youngson's photos. There is a tremendously disproportionate number of Higbee letters and Nick Youngson letters showing up. There is something not right about this.

At least Getty Images, Masterfile, and other stock photo agencies have an "excuse" to send out large numbers of letters. Because they have such a huge library of images from which people can infringe upon.

But the Youngson image issue appears to be VASTLY because of "gotcha infringements".  The majority of victims are making an attempt to find appropriate Creative Commons images to use but getting tripped up on the attribution issue.  And because of that, people are getting bullshit $5,000 "speeding tickets" for goofing up the attribution issue with little or no advance warning.

So whether it is intentional or unintentional, there is a honeypot situation that exists as far as I am concerned.  And it appears to me that these $5,000 demands are taking UNFAIR advantage of that situation. And that is what is creating the outrage right now. The Higbee operation is being followed and reported very closely.

It seems in the near future, there might be a dedicated Higbee Letter Forum due to the significant numbers of people I am hearing from. 

Essentially, the best thing for Youngson image victims to do is spread the word on this trap.

Regarding the anonymity issue, I have no problems with people posting anonymously as long as they do so in a responsible way. Some people and websites abuse the anonymous posting privilege which is why I am vigilant and watchful on the matter.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2017, 11:57:31 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.

nycopyrightabuse

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Re: Nicholas Youngson Photographer (Rep. by Higbee Associates) Copyright Abuse
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2017, 01:04:51 AM »
Matthew Chan, thank you very much for the speedy reply and note about us being proactive. I look forward to hammering all of the details out in a swift fashion and to your satisfaction. I agree with the entirety of your post and think that the Higbee letters do deserve their own forum.

Indeed, the Higbee/Youngson complaints are a different animal because the enterprise was designed to trap innocent people into using images they thought were free for use. Nicholas Youngson is not in the photography business -- he's in the settlement collections business, and he has partnered with Higbee and Associates to handle the paperwork.

I was going to wait for our next reply from Higbee before making an update, but think now is a good time to disclose some new information our research team discovered in the last week. The items listed below have serious implications for many Higbee demand letter victims and give insight into how the ELI community is making a serious impact on their nefarious operations.

Update 1. A closer look at Youngson's copyright registrations
TL;DR - summary Youngson may have lied on his copyright registration application by saying that all of his many images in one "collection" were unpublished. Finding one image in his collection before the date of June 10, 2016 may invalidate his entire copyright to the collection.

Long answer. In our recent correspondence with Higbee's office, we asked for the full copyright registration of the images in question - including the certificate AND visual assets. Jeremy C. refused to provide this and replied with the following:

Quote
Hello, What you are requesting is a deposit copy. Please contact the US Copyright Office with your request. They will provide what you are seeking in the form of a CD. There is a fee and a lengthy turn around [sic]time. Please be advised that per 17 USC §410(c), providing the registration constitutes prima facie evidence and we will not need a deposit copy should our client wish to proceed with litigation.

This response is designed to add more duress (stress) to the situation and pressure the victim to submit to the nuisance settlement demand.

However, the problem is that we didn't dispute the validity of their copyright registration. We wanted evidence that the disputed images actually belong to the certificate they provided. This is an important concern: the copyright registration certificates they submit with their demand letters include many images under a generic title.

Consider the fact that for three distinct (and visually contrasting) images we were accused of infringing, there is one registration certificate with the following unique identification information:
  • Copyright registration number VAu 1-248-878
  • Title of work: still-images-16-06-10
  • Effective date: June 10, 2016
  • Basis for registration: unpublished collection

Link to copyright registration certificate: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7ZbRXn38e7SX3FLTDJXNTd6Vjg/view?usp=sharing

Note a few things:
  • "Still images" is not descriptive enough to justify that an image is indeed part of the registration.
  • "Unpublished collection" means that ALL of the images in the entire collection (most likely hundreds) were not on the internet and available when it was registered (Copyright statute).

Given that Mr. Youngson has been selling his images for many years, it's hard to believe that he would create hundreds (maybe thousands) of images as part of a collection and wait until they were all done and copyrighted to publish them online (in June of 2016). It makes sense why he would do it as a collection - to save money on copyright registration fees.

The opportunity - to invalidate Youngson's entire copyright collection
The Copyright law statute is clear in asserting that if you lie or misrepresent facts on your application that (1) you face a financial penalty up to $2,500.00 and; (2) your copyright registration is invalid.

So, if any one of the images in the entire collection was published online (available to the public in any way), it is possible that Youngson's entire copyright collection may be invalid (because he lied on his copyright application). Maybe someone from the community can find it?

Our internal research efforts
We have tried to locate the images, but it's difficult because Youngson is refusing to provide the original registration documents. We are currently waiting for their reply to our request and may have to request it from the copyright office ourselves (at a high fee).

We tried to ping earlier versions of Youngson's Origin and Mirror websites using Wayback Machine: http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://nyphotographic.com/

However, he has settings that disable indexing. See screenshot: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7ZbRXn38e7SWUdNNklEakNNREU/view?usp=sharing

They have also refused to answer why they don't want to provide full copyright registration. After all, a court would force them to in the case of litigation.

Update 2. A new Youngson website to combat ELI's search engine presence
Since we started this thread the Youngson/Higbee camp has responded in a clever way. They noticed that when you Google terms like "Nicholas Youngson" the main results are for the ELI forum threads:

Google search results for term "Nicholas Youngson": https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7ZbRXn38e7SWW9uWlVleGpSM0E/view?usp=sharing

This is bad for their settlement collections business as it means fewer people will take their demand letters seriously. Plus, Nicholas is earning a solid reputation of being a copyright troll. Just imagine Youngson's plight if you were in his shoes: when people Google your name, they see search results for "extortion letter info" and negative comments about your character/business practices.

Well, Youngson has made a move. He recently registered the domain name http://www.nick-youngson-photography.com on February 19, 2017.

See the who.is registration screenshot: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7ZbRXn38e7STDQ0YWd0RGpVUUU/view?usp=sharing
See the who.is registration page: https://who.is/whois/nick-youngson-photography.com

The timing is an unusual coincidence: just two days after we posted our initial thread.

Interpretation
Youngson registered this domain name to combat the negative search results about him and his business. My company is thoroughly trained in search engine optimization (SEO) techniques and knows how it works: to get high rankings for certain terms you should provide content relevant to the topic and use keywords associated with it. Well, Youngson's new website is a blog (no images for sale as of February 23, 2017) focusing on posts related to the following keywords: copyright, images, Nicholas Youngson, Creative Commons License...etc.

The intent is clear: he is trying to control search engine results with his name to reduce visibility of good information related to ELI and his business practices. Luckily, the ELI forums are a relevant and trusted source of information about his operations - more relevant than his own websites according to Google's intelligent search ranking algorithms.

Call to action for the ELI community: Reading the posts on this forum are not enough; consider registering an account and post your input on these matters in the appropriate thread (while following the forum guidelines set forth by Matthew Chan of course) to ensure that these tangible sources of information continue to rank higher in Google search results for Nicholas' related search terms.

Final thoughts
There are many holes and issues with Youngson's business practices and the validity of his copyright registrations. I intend on providing more useful data as our research team uncovers new evidence.

Since our research and correspondence is ongoing, we humbly ask the ELI community to continue submitting our Google Form replies for incident data. Again, you don't have to provide identification information if you are not comfortable with it. We just want to collect data on how often this situation is happening to other people in order to build our case. We won't share or use your information other than for compiled statistics - nothing else.

Report your Higbee demand letter incident: https://goo.gl/forms/1v2I0uIyfLcF4PEj1

I hope that this new information is useful and I will continue updating the ELI community as we uncover new evidence.

Thank you.

nycopyrightabuse

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Re: Nicholas Youngson Photographer (Rep. by Higbee Associates) Copyright Abuse
« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2017, 03:58:29 PM »
Update: He has another new site which distributes images from the origin site: http://www.creative-commons-images.com/nick-youngson-nyphotographic-com.html

He seems to be very active with his development work.

Matthew Chan

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Re: Nicholas Youngson Photographer (Rep. by Higbee Associates) Copyright Abuse
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2017, 03:59:46 PM »
To be fair, the Creative Commons link is one that we are familiar with and how some people are obtaining Youngson's images. (I got another link confused with a new domain and website creative-commons-images.com which was only registered Feb. 18, 2017. Boy, this one is going to entrap more people.)

Regarding the new domain-website nick-youngson-photography.com, that is very interesting. It is only a couple weeks old.  It seems to be an educational website which is probably a good thing.

Maybe one article he needs to write about is using fine-print attribution rules as a financial honeypot.  Or how they can justify $5,000 demand letters for $10 images simply because someone didn't attribute the image.  After all, attribution is easily remedied if that is truly what he wants.

Or set settlement demands to a more reasonable amount.

But as we have said on ELI about some parties, for some, the honeypot effect and the subsequent financial windfall is too hard to resist.  Some use the infringement as a justification to gouge people for settlements.

And there are some photographers (beyond Youngson) who hide their names or use alias names to extract settlements from people.  Yes, that kind of information does find its way to ELI.

Update: He has another new site which distributes images from the origin site: http://www.creative-commons-images.com/nick-youngson-nyphotographic-com.html

He seems to be very active with his development work.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2017, 04:35:21 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.

splitsecond

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I recently received one of these letters as well. I want to highly encourage anyone who has received these letters to file a complaint with the California State Bar and include the information that ELI has compiled here. The attorney's involved are taking part in copyright abuse and likely in violation of several ethics rules. I will post the violations here after I have a chance to go through them.

clist

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Looks like the NYPhotographic Facebook page has now disappeared..
Knowledge isn't free - you have to pay attention.

blueiis4u

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I recently received one of these letters as well. I want to highly encourage anyone who has received these letters to file a complaint with the California State Bar and include the information that ELI has compiled here. The attorney's involved are taking part in copyright abuse and likely in violation of several ethics rules. I will post the violations here after I have a chance to go through them.

I have considered doing this as I agree, the attorney's conduct seems to be a violation of ethics rules, given the behavior of the client.  Has anyone else filed anything and if so, any response from the CA Bar?

ih8trolls

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I'm interested in any response from CA BAR association as well. Need to file my own complaint with them ASAP.

 

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