Retired Forums > Riddick/Imageline Letter Forum

My Comments on the George Riddick/Imageline Controversy (by MatthewC)

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Matthew Chan:
(Please be advised this editorial will be updated or revised to include the latest news and developments.)

Please refer to the Getty Clones page and Riddick/ImageLine Letters page as reference in this discussion.

Disclaimer: Ths editorial is NOT legal advice. It reflects my opinions only, not those of Attorney Oscar Michelen. His response to the Riddick controversy is pending.

I have had the opportunity to read numerous emails written by Mr. Riddick and evaluate his communication pattern. It is clear that Mr. Riddick has been able to inflict an incredible amount of psychological stress by his aggressive and quite unprofessional letter tactics. His behavior is far more egregious than anything I have seen before as it relates to copyright protection.

First off, I believe in copyright protection but I also believe in taking reasonable actions. And if a settlement cannot be reached, then more aggressive measures can be taken. A big problem I see is that Mr. Riddick lacks credibility. He comes across as inconsistent, scattered, and a person that rants and raves. He appears to make threats that he does not follow through on. His rationale is flawed. He displays multiple sides to his personality. He can be civil, gracious, respectful, hostile, insulting, and condescending all in the same email! More importantly, his email threats ring hollow on so many levels. Unfortunately, many letter recipients’ are ignorant of copyright law and proper legal process and so Mr. Riddick has single-handedly distressed the embroidery community.

While I certainly do not condone what Mr. Riddick has done, the effectiveness of his letter campaign is effective because you, the letter recipient, because you have not yet become educated on the issues involved. And you have also unwittingly played into his psychological game by driving this underground. I will list some reasons why this letter campaign has been so effective in creating stress thus far and where I see the lack of credibility comes from.

Most people who are in the artistic community lack a fundamental background on how business works. In the world of business, there are good people and there are bad people. When you encounter bad people in business long enough, you eventually learn what you can and cannot do to fight back. Part of fighting back is knowing what resources, entities, agencies, and tactics actually work. Another part of protecting yourself and fighting back is that you learn to grow a backbone. And if you don’t immediately grow one, you learn to fake having a backbone. I am not saying to this to be insulting. I am saying this because I have to make my points quickly.

Everyone knows that bullies will only back down if you stand up to them. Bullies like Mr. Riddick will only prey on who he believes are weaker parties such as those in the artist community. He tries to overwhelm you by dragging in all kinds of legal arguments that may or may not pertain to your specific situation. Have you not wondered why he would chase after a class of people who have relatively few assets and income vs. larger companies? He does so because uninformed people who are unaccustomed to business and legal conflict are easy prey. He knows he has the upper hand because he has just enough information to sound credible and strike fear within you.

In his email communications, Mr. Riddick makes many legal threats on many fronts but fundamentally he has done nothing. From what I can tell, Mr. Riddick has not sent any physical letters or Certified Letters to anyone. All communications from him appear to be emails only. There has been no indication he has done anything on the legal front against smaller, weaker parties.

What is interesting to me is that my search of Imageline Inc in Virginia indicates that this corporation is currently in delinquent status and even if it were not, has a history of not being in compliance with the State of Virginia’s corporate filings. He has missed the years 1999, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2008. Most of these corporate filings cost $100 to simply update.

Does a corporation that cannot consistently make their annual corporate filings for such a small annual fee sound like a corporation that can hire an attorney to sue anyone? As Oscar Michelen pointed out, a corporation without good legal standing cannot sue. Further, any corporation that wants to sue MUST hire an attorney because corporations cannot self-represent, individuals and sole proprietorships can. Corporations are only legal entities, not human entities.

Mr. Riddick has often mentioned contingency attorneys. Contingency attorneys are smart people. Most are in it to make money, not to do pro bono work. Most will demand an upfront retainer to start work on the case. They will only forgo a retainer and their hourly fee ONLY if they are certain there will be a big payday. Fortunately for you, (but what many of you fail to realize) is that it would not be worth any contingency attorney’s time and effort to sue you because most of you do not make enough or have enough assets to collect on. Mr. Riddick would then have to be like the rest of us in having to hire an attorney at $200-$400/hour. Even for a medium-sized corporation, this is no small expense. And most attorneys would demand an upfront retainer before they start the case. For a 10-hour retainer, this could cost $2,000-$4,000 per party! If he wanted to hire an attorney to sue “only” 5 people, he would have to come up with a retainer of $10,000-$20,000. Do the math with all the letters he is sending out.

From what I can tell, Mr. Riddick is primarily a one-man operation. He appears to use many aliases to create the appearance he works with a staff but I am not yet certain that is true. Currently, I take the stand he is primarily a one-man operation. Does this sound like someone capable or willing to cough up that much money to file suit?

Also, filing suit across state lines and out of country is incredibly difficult because part of filing suit against someone is being able to properly serve defendants personally. There are also jurisdictional issues. Most of you are outside his state of Virginia. And so, you are difficult to reach. Defendants who do not want to be found will not be easily be found and it will be an additional cost to hire a good process server to successfully serve someone.

Copyright infringement is generally a federal issue. Filing suits in federal court can get quite expensive when you take into account attorney fees, filing fees, and travel fees. Yes, someone is going to have to travel and it is most likely the plaintiff that will have to travel. Does Mr. Riddick sound inclined to want to travel to you and testify against you? Even if he was, how many people could he actually sue given that he is a one-man operation?

Even if he were to make it all the way of hiring an attorney, paying the retainer, having you successfully served, traveling to testify, and meet in court, there is the matter of winning the case. It has been my experience that courts are sympathetic to smaller, more vulnerable parties. Judges strive to be fair and reasonable. They look at your intentions and your actions. Did you do it intentionally or not? Do you a pattern of past intentional abuses? Court cases are often not clear cut which is why even attorneys like to settle. They do not like the uncertainty and surprises that can come up. I have been in court many times most often as a plaintiff but I have occasionally been a defendant. There is never any clear “slam dunk” for any side.

Even if you lost the case, the judge would ensure any ruling would be “reasonable”. I believe Mr. Riddick might only stand to “win” a few hundred dollars at best plus attorney costs. I could be wrong but that is what I believe at this point. Even so, there is yet another obstacle for him. If he got a judgment, there is the matter of actually collecting on it. It can be very difficult to collect money judgments from people who have relatively smaller incomes and smaller asset bases.
Are you beginning to see why getting educated on the issues is very important?

Another point I like to make is that Mr. Riddick uses the tactic of urgency. He sets artificial deadlines to force a response. From what I have seen, many letter recipients have disregarded his deadlines with little or no consequence. That is an indication that these are empty threats when there is no follow-up action with the exception of another derogatory email.
Mr. Riddick has made threats to a letter recipient sue them for libel. In other words, he wants to keep his communications with you a secret from others. He wants to keep you isolated. He does not want his tactics to come to light. It takes away the power when EVERYONE knows about how he conducts himself. It is not advantageous for him for all of you to come together and share knowledge as some of you have done with me. In domestic abuse cases where the abuser/bully wants control, a common tactic is isolation and keeping secrets. I should also point out telling the truth is an absolute defense against libel.

In some of the emails I have seen, there is an emphasis on “Confidential”, “Non-Disclosure”, and the like. For the record, if you are the intended recipient of any correspondence, you have the right to openly share it with anyone (unless there was prior agreement by BOTH parties to keep communications confidential or in cases such as attorney-client or doctor-patient confidentiality.) In other words, you have the right to share any communications you have Mr. Riddick with me, Oscar, or the world at large. 

The reason I have gotten involved is I know that reporting this will help neuter his efforts to keep you isolated and silent. You now have a platform with our online discussion forum to openly discuss (not rant, cuss, or concoct) your stories in a safe open environment.

You see, karma says that what goes around comes around. Many of you have begun stepping up and stepping out. Continue to get educated on the issues. Speak out openly. Start growing a backbone. You will find that Mr. Riddick may eventually back down, become more reasonable, or go away. And if not, then it is up to him to take the next action except that a lot of people are now watching him.

Matthew Chan:
When Oscar and I decided to look and report on the Riddick/Imageline Controversy, little did we realize the "enthusiasm" and "passion" to which our involvement has been received.  With this "passion" and "enthusiasm" has come some serious misinformation and untrue statements regarding what advice we are giving people and what statements we made.

First off, aside from Oscar Michelen's brief statement to "Not Settle" and that he would formulate an official response, Oscar has NOT made ANY other official response or recommended course of action regarding the Riddick/Imageline Controversy.  He has taken the time to do some research, reflect, consult with me, as well as take care of his other cases.  Oscar has assured me a response is forthcoming and will likely appear early next week.

So please refrain from saying "Oscar said to do this....." because he has yet to reply publicly.

Second, I have made two official statements of my position.  

One was a general response/editorial of the Riddick/Imageline Controversy.  I brought up important issues as I see them.  But this is NOT to be construed to be legal advice for anyone because everyone's situation is different.  HOWEVER, if you read carefully, you can probably deduce some of what I might do if I was a Riddick Letter Recipient.  

My other official statement was an Open Reply to Mr. Riddick where I openly expressed my dissatisfaction and outrage of his conduct in this matter.  I said his outrageous letters more than overshadowed any legitimate issues he had and I strongly recommended he clean up his act or his emails would continue to published for the world to see.  There also is no legal advice there.

Some other points that people have mistakenly attributed to me.

1.  I have never told anyone to go to the Police or FBI.  Riddick's letters, however outrageous, is NOT what I consider criminal issues, they are civil issues.  His letters would involve them ONLY if he threatened physical bodily harm to you, physical damage to property, or anyone associated with you.  This does NOT appear to be the case.

2.  The advice and articles written regarding the Getty Images case may or may not pertain to the Riddick/ImageLine controversy.  I have made no comments about RICO, collection agencies, destroying evidence, the police, FBI, etc. as it pertains to the Riddick/ImageLine Controversy.  Please be careful to not take those Getty IMages-related articles out of context.  You can extrapolate some advice but it was never intended to be "one advice fits all situations".

3.  I generally do my best to preserve what is written in the discussion forums.  However, some of the comments MADE BY OTHERS are being attributed to me.  It seems that in my efforts to minimize editing/censoring the discussion forum is being taken that I endorse the advice.  That is simply untrue.  However, I have begun deleting/editing occasional comments by anonymous posters that make statements that do not appear to be based on fact but entirely on rumor.

4.  I do not condone copyright infringement but I do allow for some cases of "innocent infringements".  I believe in "reasonableness".  I also believe in aggressively defending your position if you strongly enough about it.  But I have not YET given any specific advice to HOW you do this.  I reserve my statements until after Oscar posts his official response.

5.  Oscar and I consult each other in this matter and will continue to do so.  The power of our synergy comes from the two perspectives of the same side we represent.  He represents the expert legal opinion.  I represent the practical "street entrepreneur" with a view of what truly happens in the  "real world".  We will have an announcement soon about how our synergy might impact you.  I believe many of you will be interested with our upcoming announcements starting next week.

Last points:

A.  I am interested in reporting this factually and I have no interest in engaging in rumor or gossip.  If you submit information and want it to be seriously considered, you must be able to substantiate it.  You cannot simply say, "So-and-so said this and that."  That is not enough.  You must have direct, first-hand experience or point to someone/something that does.

B.  If Mr. Riddick were to clean up his act, then my role is largely done except for my sharing my views dealing with "innocent infringements".

C.  You will always be more credible if you make statements and identifying yourself.  You obviously may remain anonymous but you will then always have to have your statements corroborated and scrutinized.

D. If you need clarification as to what I or Oscar say or advise, get it in print here on this website or our discussion forum.  Do not blindly accept someone else's words.  READ IT FOR YOURSELF and read it in the context it is supposed to be in.

Thank you for your help in these matters.

Matthew Chan

Matthew Chan:
Below is my open reply to George Riddick's Email to

Mr. Riddick,

Thank you for taking the time to write to me.  I appreciate the civil and respectful tone because I half-expected that when I started reporting on you, you might be inclined to become unpleasant and attempt to threaten me as you have with others.  You should realize that I am taking the opportunity to respond to you for the benefit of my reading audience and it allows me to voice my opinions, not because I feel obliged to you.  

Let me start out by saying that I have not taken the time to carefully study your copyright complaints or claims.  You may or may not have legitimate complaints.  What I ABSOLUTELY DO KNOW is that your conduct is appalling, disgraceful, unprofessional, and is borderline harassment.  I also find your communications to be extortionistic and bullying in nature.

It is for that very reason that I have chosen to report on the events surrounding you and Imageline Inc.  Quite simply, I could not believe the emails that were submitted to me were from any so-called knowledgeable professional.

I have no problems in your protecting your copyrights but there is a right way and there is a wrong way.  And because your communications has been so outrageous and over-the-top, it greatly overshadows any legitimate issues and complaints you might have.

You have made false accusations that what Oscar and I do on this website is a business and “venture capital source”.  Believe it or not, I get no financial compensation whatsoever except from the few donations that come in where some people want to express their gratitude over the valuable information and support they receive here.  

Oscar freely and generously donates his time to reply to queries in our discussion forums, write articles for the website, and do telephone interviews.  It is only when readers decide that they need personalized attention and service that Oscar even begins to bill anyone.  Even then, Oscar charges a minimal hourly rate for such a service.  I assure you that far more people receive “free service” than are charged.  And those that do pay do so willingly and happily with no hard selling on our end.

Last year, I launched this website as a counterattack to what I felt was unreasonable demands and bullying tactics by Getty Images.  I wanted to resolve things peacefully but despite my best attempts, they continued to threaten me legally.  When that occurred, I knew that the only way I could protect my interests was to fight back aggressively and publicly.

To set the record straight, I first heard about you and your tactics nearly a month ago.  However, I did not feel it was necessary to provide any news coverage as I thought your impact was fairly small and reasonably harmless.  It also did not directly relate to the subject of our website.  However, when I saw and read the actual emails you wrote to letter recipients, I was outraged and appalled.  You took the whole idea of an extortion letter to a whole new level.  As I have said, even Getty Images, MasterFile, and Jupiter Images combined did not match your venomous emails.

Regarding my posting links to blogs that complain about you, I chose only the ones that seemed most substantial.  There could have been many more links posted but I did not feel they were substantial enough to link to.  Oscar has nothing to do with any content he does not write.  Ultimately, I am the Editor in Chief of the website so I accept responsibility for the decision to post those links.

I believe people inherently prefer to avoid conflict.  And so, when there are entire blogs dedicated to fighting and complaining about you, I believe there must be some substance to it since it appears you have angered and upset so many people.

I have no wish to dedicate any more time to covering your case than is necessary.  It is not good use of my time.  My time is better spent elsewhere on other projects. I personally have no axe to grind with you because I have never met you.  However, I cannot in good conscience allow others to be subject to your bullying and extortionistic behavior when I can do something about it.  You appear to be relentless in spewing your venom on others that your letter recipients felt like they needed to reach out to us for help.

This has come full circle.  The very emails you have sent others have now come back to you for all to read.  The interesting thing is I need not say much about them.  The emails clearly speak for themselves and they do not paint you in a very credible or positive light.

If I had a request, I would ask you to conduct yourself more professionally and appropriately if you truly care about your issues and want to be treated more seriously.  You have not engendered much goodwill and your credibility is low.  For you to become righteous and claim that you are trying to stop digital piracy rings hollow for me.

If you wish to continue the dialog, you may do so on our discussion forum.  Any future communications you send to me, I intend to publish on the website for the sake of transparency.


Matthew Chan
Publisher & Editor of


Here was Mr. Riddick's original email to us that was made public on this post.

Dear Mathew (sic),

When I first read about your “case”, I had some empathy for the position you found yourself in. We have suffered enormous losses over the years at the hands of design and graphics companies in India, China, Russia, and Brazil, where there are virtually no copyright laws to speak of (and certainly no enforcement of the laws that do exist).

The more I read, the less empathetic I became, however. Here’s why:

1. On your web site, you clearly state that it is your objective to present the facts from both sides, do your homework thoroughly, and provide some relief to end-user “victims” who end up with copyrighted material on their web sites due to the poor business practices and ethics of others, much as is with your case with the folks from India. That’s exactly what we do, Mathew (sic). Yet you posted the rants and raves of two or three disgruntled embroidery industry participants without making any effort at all to hear the other side of this “story”, or to verify what they have told you.

2. It appears to us that both you and Mr. Michelen see these “victims” as becoming another venture capital source of your new online venture. That is simply not right, Matthew. At times, “right” and “wrong” should come before the cold interpretation and/or enforcement of our law.

3. You made no mention, whatsoever, that Imageline has never gone after end-user infringers, like the music industry has done for years, or as you claim Getty Images, Jupiter, and Corbis are now doing. We only go after the “middlemen” (much like the company you dealt with in India) who are sub-licensing and re-distributing our copyright-protected property for their own commercial gain on their web sites and in their CD/DVD products, and distributing the pirated images and designs to others.

4. You also never mention that Imageline agrees to release all of the end user infringers (such as your company would be) when we settle with these “middlemen”. In other words, if your new buddy “Pat” were to distribute unlicensed versions of one of our digital designs to 2,000 embroidery people over his web site, the per infringement settlement fees would be less than $3.75 per end user who is infringing under our laws. That’s a lot less than even the $200.00 minimum Mr. Michelen posts on your blog.

5. Who wouldn’t become angry and agitated if people caught with their hands in the cookie (and very thoroughly researched and documented by Imageline) don’t remove the infringing images after notice, or even have the courtesy to respond to an official cease and desist letter/e-mail communications we send each of them?

6. In fact, we follow the exact same C & D and take-down procedures Mr. Michelen claims he recommends for his clients.

7. This looks like nothing more than sensational investigative journalism to me. I would have been more than happy to share the whole truth with you if you had only bothered to ask.

8. Imageline has been considered the “David” in the copyright battle with a number of “Goliaths” for over fifteen (15+) years. Over ninety- five percent (>95%) of the companies we go after for infringing our hard earned copyrighted works are substantially larger than we are. You would be surprised at how incorrect you and Mr. Michelen have been here, and have interpreted a few ‘out of context’ communications to support your own pre-conceived notions and business plans … not the truth.

9. Finally, posting links to blogs hosted by people who hide behind the anonymous nature of the Internet to conduct smear campaigns is not what anyone should expect from a web site moderated by a professional attorney, and stating that it is your objective to deliver “all of the facts” and the truth. We are very confused here. Does Mr. Michelen’s law firm know what he is doing in these ventures? Lawyers here in Virginia are not allowed to practice law in this manner. I am particularly concerned that he advises everyone to destroy evidence on your web site.. Please have him contact me directly if he has any interest at all in representing the information regarding Imageline in a factual manner to your audience.

Again, please feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions about what we are trying to do to lower the “digital piracy” rate here in this country, and to begin to accomplish the same goals overseas.

ALL legitimate book, software, audio/visual, and graphic arts content publishers and copyright advocates should support the reduction of Internet-based piracy or they will all soon be extinct. At least that is my humble opinion.

I look forward to hearing back from you soon.


George Riddick
Imageline, Inc.

Matthew Chan:
Most recently, George Riddick of Imageline appears to have been caught impersonating an attorney and law firm by his emailing out forged letters. I was provided copies of correspondence and communications that appear to substantiate this.

To read more about this from the person who investigated and discovered this impersonation, please read this post:,1033

It is quite surprising but not necessarily out of character from what I know of Mr. Riddick's prior letters that were also forwarded to me by other letter recipients.

Oscar Michelen:
Next court date is 9-3-10 Can't wait to see what happens


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