November 19, 2023

Rachel Strella

Tips for Navigating Unfounded Image Copyright Claims

Image copyright claims

In the ever-evolving online content landscape, many small businesses find themselves facing groundless copyright infringement claims. I’ve written previously about my experience with Getty Images and Pixsy, who target unsuspecting businesses, demanding hefty payments for alleged unauthorized use of images. 

Now, there's a new player in town, a company named Copytrack based in Berlin, Germany. My recent internet search indicates that although Copytrack was founded in 2015, the bulk of its claims activity has surfaced in the past year. Copytrack’s website boasts about its record of winning cases in 115 countries. 

In an interesting turn of events, a #Strella client and I both received distinct demand letters from Copytrack within the same week for alleged image copyright infringement of the same rights holder. These were unfounded claims because all the disputed images were legitimately licensed through my longstanding Adobe Stock subscription.

Having navigated a similar ordeal involving image copyright infringement claims in the past, I've gleaned some insights that might prove beneficial if you ever find yourself facing a demand letter. Please bear in mind that these suggestions are drawn from my personal experiences and should not be construed as legal advice.

Considerations for Addressing Copyright Claims

1. Conduct thorough research.
When faced with a copyright infringement claim, delve into the origins of the contested photo(s) and retain any evidence you uncover. Additionally, research the company that sent the claim and read the legal articles, blog posts, and any other information you can find about them. The beauty of the internet is that you can learn how others have handled similar situations. If nothing else, it may give you some peace of mind that it can be resolved in your favor. 

2. Consider seeking legal advice.
Engaging an attorney to scrutinize the claim and inform you of your options can be beneficial. They may be able to negotiate a settlement at a reduced cost if they determine liability. In the case of Pixsy, my attorney discovered their lack of legal grounds for the claim, citing protection under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for pass-through website owners and potential fair-use defenses. 

3. Do not ignore the claim.
While the instinct may be to disregard the notice, it's crucial to acknowledge receipt of the letter. Request additional information, such as…

  • Proof of authorization to represent the original copyright holder
  • The company's documentation for the image(s)
  • A copyright history, including details of any third-party licensing agreements 

Refrain from apologizing or admitting liability. 

4. Remember, you have rights.
Despite the intimidating nature of these letters, resist the urge to settle a claim hastily. While these companies assert they protect original copyright holders, they seem to aim to intimidate small business owners with limited resources for defense. In the United States, they must substantiate claims of copyright infringement, so request this proof and any other necessary documentation. If they fail to comply and persist in alleging infringement, such communication could warrant further investigation. 

Three Claims, One Course of Action: Fight Back!

My encounters with Getty Images, Pixsy, and Copytrack underscore a common theme — these companies frequently target small businesses for quick settlements. They leverage inflated claims or innovative click-through allegations, taking advantage of businesses without the means for lengthy legal fights. The key takeaway: Resist intimidation. Seek legal counsel, challenge unjust claims, and raise awareness. Only through unity can we safeguard ourselves and our fellow entrepreneurs from copyright extortion.

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