Have You Received a DCMA Complaint?
How To Avoid DCMA Complaints.
When developing a web site, before we place images on clients web sites, we always ask “Do you have the right to use these photos and graphics?”
DCMA complaints are no laughing matter. If you do not have the proper license to use a photo or graphic, you can be sued and risk a DCMA infringement complaint requesting you pay for use of the image(s) in the mail. Removing the photo and ignoring the notification will not make it go away, some companies gather evidence of unauthorized use before you are notified of the infringement.
More often than not, these letters are from a large company that will remain nameless for the purpose of this article who employs an aggressive team that scours the internet for unauthorized use of copyrighted images and makes demands for compensation.
If you have received a DMCA letter, you have a problem and should not ignore it. Some companies are relentless and will pursue you until a settlement is made.
For research purposes, there are a number of articles on the internet posted by those who have received these letters and how they dealt with it.
On the other hand, you may receive false claims as well, and as a web development company we have experienced this first hand where we had to respond to an infringement complaint with proof that the photo on the site are paid for and we have full permission/license to use it.
A Few Clients Have Called With DCMA Issues:
- I received a complaint and demand for payment, but the photo is ours, taken by a company staff member.
- I received a complaint but the photo was sent for use by an affiliate who provided the photo.
- I received a complaint about a photo that was a on a website we purchased.
- I have received a DCMA complaint, please remove the image and maybe they will go away.
One company we hear about most often has collected thousands, if not millions of dollars in recovery.
A tragic example was a new client who left it to a past webmaster to work on their web site and apparently the designer used a photo right off the internet from an aggressive company looking for unauthorized use. The client received a DCMA letter and was forced to pay 25,000.
Another story that circulated in the office was a business that used images taken by an independent photographer and was sued in court by the rights holder and a judgment was levied to pay a large undisclosed amount for use to the creator.
What To Do
If you have received one of these letters, we suggest you contact an attorney, they can help you negotiate or fight for your rights. A photo depending on its use can also fall under “Fair Use.” Fair Use is an image you use in an article or commentary about a specific subject. However, we recommend that when in doubt, use a photo you have the right to use in order to spare yourself grief, or better yet contact your legal counsel to make sure you are covered under “Fair Use.”
Fair Use Images
“Fair Use” states that there is a limitation and provides exceptions to the exclusive copyright law to the author of a creative work. Fair use permits limited use of copyrighted material without getting permission from the rights holder. Examples of Fair Use include news articles, teaching and more. There are many articles on the internet detailing Fair Use.
As stock photographers, we understand the use of creative work by permission only. Many times we have stumbled upon web sites using our photos where we own exclusive rights. We generally just request the photo be removed and are satisfied with that. However, there are other’s that will not stop and who will pursue you to pay large sums for the use of their work.
Stock Photography Web Sites
If you are looking for stock images, below are two that we use when working with clients to develop their web sites. When you purchase stock photography images, they include the rights to use them on your web site. PhotosofCalifornia.com and Dreamstime.com
Better Safe Than Sorry
We recommend that when you are creating a web site, purchased an existing web site or have been supplied pictures by an affiliate or company you are promoting on your site, make sure all images have the proper licensing and keep records. This due diligence will alleviate any issues in having to pay for unauthorized use, not to mention avoiding the stress when facing exorbitant demands for payment. You as the site owner are responsible for the content on your web site.
WebmasterDeveloper is based in San Diego, California and has been creating web sites for large and small businesses and services nationwide since 2003. If you are looking for a webmaster, developer or just need consultation about your online business, give us a call to speak with a project coordinator about your web site needs.