April 18th, 2013

Man Infringes Copyright to Profit from Boston Bombing

Intent on making a quick buck from the Boston Marathon bombing, a self-publisher allegedly offered an e-book full of stolen news photos for sale on Amazon.com, titled “The Boston Bombings First Photos.”

The NPPA reported yesterday that the book, published by a man identified as Steve Goldstein, included more than 60 images used without permission from The Associated Press, Getty Images and The New York Times. Goldstein was charging $7.99 per download.

Amazon has removed the book, apparently in response to Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) take-down notices from copyright holders.

According to the NPPA report, a New York Times attorney sent a cease-and-desist letter to Goldstein. In his response, Goldstein wrote, “We will stop using the photos that you mention. Sorry for the use without permission.”

For more details, see the NPPA report.

October 8th, 2012

Facebook Copyright Takedown: Justice or Injustice?

An alleged copyright infringer appears to have gotten his just desserts from Facebook, which has summarily removed his Facebook fan page. But the story highlights the lack of transparency in Facebook’s policy regarding its handling of infringement claims.

Bill Tikos, the founder of the design and culture trend spotting site The Cool Hunter,  has complained on his Web site that his Facebook fan page was taken down for an alleged copyright infringement. A FB page and 788,000 fans “nurtured meticulously over the past five years–was gone,” Tikos wrote. “No explanation, flimsy warnings, no instructions on what to do next. None of our numerous attempts to rectify the situation and resurrect the page have worked.”

Cool Hunter–not to be confused with Cool Hunting, another trend-spotting site that remains in good standing with FB–says Facebook has refused to provide any detail about the alleged infringement. The dust-up was first reported last week by The Next Web, an online tech publication.

“We have no idea what we were infringing on. Which image/s or posts, specifically, have caused this?” Tikos wrote on the Cool Hunter Web site.

From there he goes on to say that he knows of two images posted on Cool Hunter without credit–both of them images found elsewhere on Facebook without credit, Tikos says. And then he digs himself in a little deeper:

“The other reason that could have caused the closure of our FB page is that we sometimes use images even when we do not know who has taken the picture,” he wrote. He goes on to say that everyone else–FB, Tumblr, Pinterest, and “millions of people and organizations share images – theirs and someone else’s – freely every day.” Tikos says he wants to give copyright holders credit if he can find them; his web site (and Facebook page, before it was taken down)  invite copyright owners to get in touch if they see their images on either site without credit.

As it turns out, others have had their Facebook fan pages removed without recourse or due process, The Huffington Post reported last year. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, internet service providers (such as Facebook) can protect themselves from liability for infringement by their users if they act quickly to take down infringing content.

Last year, Facebook told one site owner that it didn’t have time to judge disputes over copyright take-down requests, according to The Huffington Post report. FB said it was up to the site owner to contact the person who submitted the take-down notice–and get that person to withdraw the complaint. After The Huffington Post reported on the lack of due process given to those who lost their FB pages as a result of allegedly fraudulent DMCA complaints, Facebook issued a statement saying “Abuse of DMCA and other intellectual property notice procedures is a challenge for every major Internet service and we take it seriously.”

So are Tikos and Cool Hunter just victims of Facebook’s legal expediency?  Did Facebook overreact, as Tikos suggests, to a couple of alleged infringements without giving him due process, and a chance resolve the complaints?

The Next Web investigated, and reports that it got a statement from Facebook that said: “This [Cool Hunter] account has been disabled due to repeat copyright infringement under our terms and the account has been removed from the site accordingly. Additionally, we have thoroughly reviewed all related reports and have determined that we took the correct action in this case.”

OK, but in the name of transparency, how hard would it be for Facebook to post the evidence for everyone to see?

February 13th, 2012

Photog Says Radio Station Stripped His Credits, Infringed His C-rights

A Colorado photographer says a Denver radio station took 21 of his images from the Web site of a competing radio station, stripped the images of his credits and copyright notices, and published them on its own site and Facebook page without permission. The photographer now accuses the station of refusing to pay a retroactive usage fee.

Photographer Scott D. Smith of Denver says radio station 92.5 The Wolf stole his images of country star Jason Aldean from the Web site of 98.5 KYGO. Smith shot the images at a concert last October, and licensed them to KYGO, which has been a client of Smith’s for the past six years. All of the images he licenses to KYGO, including the Aldean images, display his credit and copyright whenever viewers scroll over them or click on them, the photographer says.

The Wolf displayed the images for about a week, and also made them available on its Facebook page “for the whole world to download,” Smith tells PDN.

When Smith finally got the station manager at The Wolf on the phone to hear his complaint, he says, she apologized, told him the image would be taken down, and offered Smith free advertising as compensation. Smith declined. “I’m very loyal to KYGO, plus that (advertising) doesn’t compensate me for what [The Wolf] did,” he says.

Over the past four months, Smith has tried unsuccessfully on numerous occasions to get the station or its corporate owners–Wilks Broadcasting Group of Duluth, Georgia–to pay a fee for the unauthorized use of his images.

But managers and owners won’t return his calls, Smith says.

Recently, he got through to a Wilks employee who informed him that the company has determined that it has no responsibility to compensate him. “She said, ‘Do whatever you have to do,’” the photographer recounts.

Smith hasn’t filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement–at least not yet. “I talked to some lawyers who told me it’s going to cost a fortune, take forever, and they’ll just try to wait me out,” the photographer explains. So he’s trying to generate negative publicity for the station in an attempt to shame The Wolf into paying him.

“I think people are tired of corporations screwing people over, and saying ‘We don’t have responsibility’ when they’ve done something wrong,” says Smith.

Jeff Wilks, CEO of Wilks Broadcasting, did not respond to several requests from PDN for comment. But he recently told a Denver alternative newspaper, “There was no copyright on the photos. We found the photos, then we were notified about the photos, and the photos were taken down immediately.” He indicated to the newspaper that Wilks Broadcasting doesn’t intend to pay Smith a fee.

Asked what he considers a fair fee, Smith says, “In the beginning, I was willing to really work with them on a price. Since they are lying and making this as hard as possible, I feel I would start at around $500 an image. I do feel that is fair since the images were used as advertising for the station.”

Smith’s allegations, if true, echo a case last year in which a federal appeals court upheld a photographer’s claims against a New Jersey radio station for copyright infringement, as well as for violation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA.) The DMCA violation resulted from the radio station stripping a photographer’s credit and copyright from an image that it copied and then displayed on its web site without the photographer’s permission.

Related:
Removal of Printed Photo Credit Qualifies as DMCA Violation, Court Says
TV Networks Play Fast and Loose with Photographers’ Copyrights