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Extortion Letter from PicRights UK

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I am a web designer for a company in the UK. A client of mine has received an email from PicRightsUK regarding a stock image that I have used on their website.

The image in question was downloaded in good faith from a free stock image website,

In my Naivety, I had assumed this was a public domain image, but realise now that this isn’t the case.

I have of course since removed the image in question and deleted all trace of the image and URL from the web server, but regardless of this, they are requesting that my client pays £850

They have sent out by way of email and via post 3 reminders now, which we have just ignored. Their latest reminder says...

"Unless you contact us or remit payment within 14 days, we may refer this matter to legal counsel to pursue other options"

What should we do? Do we keep on ignoring this and hope they will go away? Are they just bluffing or will they really get a solicitor on the case and bump up the cost even more?

Has anyone else had dealings with PicRights?


You're free to ignore it if you so choose but, if they do file a court claim (which they don't need a solicitor to do - you can self-represent for the majority of UK civil cases) then it won't go well for you/your client.

Ignoring the claim and any court action will leave the door open for them to claim flagrancy i.e. you knew you had infringed, yet declined to communicate. This can add up to 100% of the claim amount as a court award. They can also legitimately claim interest from the date of the infringement, usually 4% PA simple interest and, if they prevail, you/your client will be made to pay any associated costs.

Assuming the lost licensing revenue is what they're seeking, then the £850 settlement can quickly become a £2,000+ court claim.

Worse still, if you/your client ignore any court claim which then results in a default judgment (and a CCJ on your/their credit file), the rightsholder could refer the claim to High Court Enforcement Officers i.e. bailiffs, and then a £2,000 claim can quickly become a £4,000 once the bailiff's fees are added. If that goes unpaid, they can legally enter any related business (and sometime personal) premises and seize property to be sold at auction which will cover the fees... and yes, that action also hikes the associated costs again. This could be IT equipment, vehicles etc.

Lastly, and this is often overlooked: there is no statute of limitations for bringing court actions for infringement in the UK. If you ignore a claim, a court filing could be effected in as little as a few weeks, or it could be years down the line. This was established in the House of Lords some years ago, where they heard an appeal on infringement action that went back more than thirty years.

So: sure, you could ignore whatever claim has been made if you're happy to roll the dice of living with an uncertain and potentially far more costly outcome down the line.

Hello UKDave,

I have received the same letter from PicRights UK a week ago regarding a Dubai image. This is the first letter and e-mail they have sent to me and PicRights are asking whether I have a licence or not.  I am an Interactive, Media Web Design student. I have created a Travel website and used images from unsplash, freepik, pinterest. I have researched the image on TinEye - image search engine and the image belongs to a photographer / journalist with images published on CNN and the independent.

I am not sure of what action to take.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Best Regards

Matthew Chan:
Generally speaking, PicRights is not a copyright owner. They represent copyright owners.   As such, Picrights cannot sue anyone, their clients possibly can.  The most that PicRights can do is to facilitate a connection between a lawyer and their client to legally file lawsuits.

And broadly speaking, lawsuits don't just show up and go straight to the judge. There is a tedious, time-consuming process to do this. And "bad" lawsuits have a way of bouncing bad things back to the filer.

No one can give you a simplistic answer of what to do.  Broadly, you can negotiate it down to settle the matter. Or you can stand your ground with or without a written explanation of why you won't pay. Or you can go dark and ride it out.

But rest assured, what they communicate will be skewed against you and in their favor. And it will be reliant on most people's legal ignorance.

Copyright is a strict liability Tort, ie you either infringed or did not infringed. If a third party such as the websites mentioned  here gave you permission to use the image then you are still liable. The way the law works then you would have to pay the damages to the claimant and could then sue the person who gave you the invalid permission to use them. A suitable case judgement to read would be David Hoffman  vs Drug Abuse Resistance  Education (UK) Ltd  [2012] EWPCC 2 .

Its always wise to read case law as its just burning money to repeat arguments which have tried and failed before.

The advice often given on here is to ignore the claim, however my won advice is to check that the claim is legitimate and if it is then try to seek an out of court settlement.  If you ignore a claim and the claimant issues proceedings then it will count very much against you at any damages aware. Civil Procedure Rules expect the parties to correspond and each set out their opposing cases.  Failure to do so may result in an award of additional damages pursuant CPR 27.14,2(g)

Many people seem to beleive this does not exist so here is a link to the Government website -

I know of one recent claimant who was awarded more than 750 GBP in additional damages under this head of claim because the defendant failed to engage with the claimant ( ie they followed advice to ignore the claim ) That 750 was on top of the damages for the infringing use of the image. The total was over 2800 GBP.


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