COPYTRACK – How to beat them and not pay a penny (review)

This article is about how to beat COPYTRACK. I am more bullish than the other websites discussing this topic. You will see advice elsewhere. Some of it is not great. I know what I’m talking about. I’m a retired solicitor (attorney in the US). I retired 20 years ago. I still remember the basic law! Also, I am angry at the way Copytrack are preying on people who’ve innocently used a photo and don’t know the law. Copytrack targets these people as they are likely to pay their excessive demands under threat of litigation.

Short summary: If you don’t live in Germany, simply brick wall them – do nothing and don’t communicate – if what I have said below seems too bothersome. They can’t sue you internationally. They’ll go away. They still chase me for money on new alleged violations of copyright and I simply delete their emails. Copytrack go away. They disappear which proves my point: Copytrack are reliant on recipients of their scam emails to feel threatened and pay up. Copytrack’s MO is to extort money with menaces. Ignore them and you’ll win without any work on your behalf.

Note: IF (see below) they prove that you have violated copyright (and you know that you have) and IF you want to negotiate a proper amount, do so, but don’t pay the exorbitant amounts that they claim (important: see below on this). Note 2: I am not saying you should violate copyright. Don’t do it. But also, don’t pay scammy amounts of money as demanded by this unscrupulous business. And demand that they PROVE that they are agents (act for) for the copyright holder and demand that the claimed person has copyright in a sworn statement (affidavit in the UK). Then offer $50. BUT PLEASE READ ON.

I would ask you to read the comments below to see what I am saying about the impracticality of enforcing copyright on single images used on the internet from time to time by independent website owners. If it is unviable to enforce image copyright, in effect copyright does not exist for that image.

Don’t forget to see the comments as there are some good examples of what is happening.

COPYTRACK
COPYTRACK can be beaten and should be beaten. Image: MikeB
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Google and Pinterest

For many years now, Google has been firmly against copyright being enforced by the copyright holder. They consider enforcing intellectual property rights to have a “chilling effect” on the Internet. They want the Internet to expand constantly and if people restrict that expansion by preventing the use of their images, they regarded it as bad news. I’ve learned that through personal interactions with Google on this matter.

This supports my view that people should fight COPYTRACK because it goes against the general modern trend on the use of Internet images.

Although, of course, all images are protected by copyright but the point is this: things are changing and things have changed. The Internet has changed the copyright landscape.

For instance, Pinterest, is based on copyright violations. That is its modus operandi! And Pinterest is engaged in hundreds of millions of copyright violations and they do this in full knowledge of what they are doing.

Fair use

A defence when using someone else’s image without permission is to claim fair use. If for example you are using the image to educate people and the image you use does not undermine the copyright holder’s ability to earn money from that image and further, if the image is quite small, a claim for fair use is, in my view, a good defence.

COPYTRACK won’t sue you. Here’s why

COPYTRACK won’t sue you if you don’t live in Germany (they are based in Berlin). They have to rely on fear. They make you frightened that you are going to be sued but you won’t be. They might even, as a last resort, ask a law firm to write to you but they still won’t sue you. Why can’t they sue you?

The amount of money they ask for copyright infringements are inflated, grossly inflated (I deal with this further below). However, if they want to sue you because you refuse to pay their demand they would often have to sue internationally and in the Small Claims Court of the country where the defendant lives i.e. you.

In the Small Claims Court, you normally won’t receive a court order that the other side pays your costs when you win. Therefore, all the money that COPYTRACK puts into suing somebody cannot be recovered after the litigation.

The costs of running an international small claims action (if it’s viable at all) will far outweigh the amount of money that they are claiming in compensation. Therefore, COPYTRACK will suffer a net financial loss. I repeat: if they sue somebody, they will lose money. They will be out of pocket.

Therefore, it is financially unviable to sue. Therefore, they can’t sue.

International element

There is a big question mark over whether anyone can sue somebody internationally in the Small Claims Court. If you sue in the higher courts internationally you can claim costs. But COPYTRACK would not sue in the higher courts because the court fee which accompanies the application is going to be more than the amount they are claiming. The financial risks are far too high.

And I mention the international context of this. COPYTRACK is based in Berlin. The picture on this page is from Google Maps of what I believe is of their office block. It is nearby.

Copytrack offices
Copytrack offices or they are nearby. Image: Google Maps.

They send out their demands to everybody in the world wherever they live. Therefore, very often, they will have to sue somebody internationally which is a big challenge. It is an insurmountable challenge for a business like COPYTRACK. Note: if you live in Germany this section does not apply but the remainder of the points do still apply.

Claims are inflated. The use fear of the unknown as leverage

They have to scare you into paying up. They demand huge sums of money, well above the normal licence fees. You go to Getty Images and see what they charge for a perpetual licence fee. It might be £50 or $50 for a single image. And Getty are not the cheapest.

The point is that COPYTRACK is making inflated demands with menaces. They can’t be called a scam in the classic sense. But they are scammers in one sense in that they are operating on fear firstly and the fact that most people don’t know the law about copyright and neither do they know about litigation and the cost of litigation. They play on this weakness to force people to pay up. This is unscrupulous behavior and unethical.

People do not want to be involved with lawyers and litigation. It is frightening for them. As stated, they play on this fear and that’s a very important thing to state in this article. They don’t frighten me though.

It is equally important for the recipient of a COPYTRACK email to stay calm and not succumb to this fear. You’ve got to be solid and brave and see them off. You’ve got to beat them at their game.

RELATED: Definition of copyright – does copyright of images still apply to the Internet?

No one sues for copyright infringements on the internet

Almost nobody sues (has anyone?) for copyright infringement on the internet as it happens hundreds of millions of times annually. To all intents and purposes copyright is as good as dead in the context of published photos on the internet.

What to do

I beat them on two occasions. Knowing what I have stated above, you can simply do nothing at all. Create a brick wall. Wait to see what they do. There is a 99% chance that they will eventually give up.

You could communicate with them if you want to buy making demands of your own on them. Turn the tables. Go on the offensive.

Firstly, you can ask for evidence that they represent the person they say they represent AND that the person they represent is the true copyright holder of the image concerned. Challenge them on this. Ask for documentary (written) evidence.

Don’t admit anything

DON’T admit guilt. Don’t admit that you have infringed copyright. And on all correspondence with them start off with “Without Prejudice”. This means that it can’t be used against you if you say something wrong.

More ammunition

You can then tell them that your website doesn’t make any money. This is probably true because the vast majority of website don’t make any money when you factor in the author/creators unpaid work. In fact, they make a loss. You can also tell them that you give to charities some of the money that the website makes. That would make your website a non-profit business although it won’t be registered but that is beside the point in this argument.

Ask who they represent

Sometimes they say they act for a particular person when the photograph concerned is on one of the major image websites such as Shutterstock. If they do that you could challenge them by asking them whether they represent Shutterstock or the person they say they represent. You can ask for evidence as to who they represent. They cannot act on behalf of Shutterstock unless they represent them in an agreement between the two businesses.

Summary

These are some examples of how you can challenge them and beat them. My personal view is that you should not negotiate to pay any money at all as some websites have stated. Stand up and beat them. They are nasty people in my opinion. They run a nasty business because it is entirely based upon YOUR FEAR. Don’t be frightened. Stay calm. And remember they have one enormous weakness which gives you one enormous strength: they can’t sue you in court for the money they are demanding because it is financially unviable to do so.

Ask a question in a comment and I’ll be pleased to help if I can.

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62 thoughts on “COPYTRACK – How to beat them and not pay a penny (review)”

  1. I got a Copytrack threat letter today. It is an image I have properly licensed around 2015, 2016 with Fotolia (now Adobe Stock). The offending use according to them was in 2018 on my blog. I was thinking of replying with my proof. But why should I? I’ll give your “ignore them” a go. I’m in the US. To those saying here we all did wrong to get the letter, no way, Jose. I’ve paid for 100’s of images over the years, and now I am exclusively creating my own with AI. And the pics are marvelous. I think photographers are running scared of AI. So be it. Technology trundles on…

    Reply
    • Connie, please take my advice as I’ll guarantee that it will work! Don’t waste time feeding them with correspondence. It’ll only make them greedier. Brick wall them. The best way. Thanks for commenting and the best of luck for 2024.

      Reply
  2. Good reading

    I run an international news website. So manufacturers send me press releases occasionally with stock images and yes, I make money via advertising on the site, but the news is for information. I received a letter today and was a bit worried.

    The news article is a couple of years old and I used the Adobe Stock image they used to accompany it on their website. They send me press releases often, and occasionally with stock images they most likely bought being a massive blue chip.

    I have reached out to the company to get them to confirm they own the licence, but it’s difficult getting a response from such a big firm.

    I’ve also downloaded the image via Adobe Stock, albeit 2 years after the post.

    Should I just ignore this claim and company…as I’m in the UK?

    Reply
    • Hi John, definitely ignore them. Brick-wall them. Don’t engage in correspondence as it feeds the dispute. The matter regards a stock photo used on license by a manufacturer and by you. My guess is the license would cost less than £50 for unlimited use. If you are in violation of copyright (debateable) and if Copytrack have the right to sue on behalf of the supplier of the stock photo (are they instructed? Debateable) then Copytrack would have to spend a hundred times more than £50 to recover £50 with no order for costs. Financially it is completely unviable and therefore you should ignore them as described. I have always brick-walled Copytrack with success. Take care.

      Reply
      • Thanks, will do. I’ve actually found the Newswire release with the photo available for use, that the manufacturer issued for release/publication, so yes it’s debatable that they would issue it it without a license and when I downloaded the same image from Adobe Stock, even the standard license says it can be used commercially…so I’ll ignore and not bother my legal insurance with a claim

        Reply
        • Well done. You know, I don’t think Copytrack obtain the instructions of the copyright holder to seek compensation. They might do reverse image searches without the knowledge of the photographer. I might be wrong but if I am correct this alone precludes them from seeking damages.

          Reply
  3. Hello,

    first of all thank you for your great article!

    I have received letter from Copytrack with demands to my company. It is an ecommerce website based in Romania. It is about one image that from their evidence we have for 5 months on our website without license.

    We license every photo but this one was presented to us by one of our suppliers (Aliexpress chinese), as it is a product photo and we didn’t knew it need to be licensed.

    However Copytrack say that for the past 5 months we need to pay them 350 EUR and for future we need to pay 350 EUR a year to them or else they will sue us…

    I have deleted the photo, found it on a stock website and bought a valid license for it for 10 EUR. Then send it to COPYTRACK.

    Copytrack send me another letter that I need to pay for the compensation and this license is bought after they have contected me.

    I have told them that this is blackmailing since in the first email they said that they know about the picture for 5 months and they kept silenced on purpose just to extort me for compensations afterwars. Also I have told them that now I have a valid license for the photo and even now I will not use it ever again, so this license can be for my past usage.

    They continue to harass me and to send me threthning emails for lawsuits… 🙁

    Now, I know that I am also wrong that haven’t knew about the photo, but still I don’t know how to check for every photo of our suppliers if it is licensed…

    Do you think I should pay them or I should just ignore them and stop responding? What is the chance they sue me internationally for 1 photo with lifetime license cost 10EUR for commercial use?

    Thank you once again,
    Best Regards

    Reply
    • Hi Anthony, I am certain that you should NOT pay them. Please don’t. You have done more than enough already. The best course of action is to do nothing at all including not responding to their emails. They rely on one thing: fear. The fear of being sued but they never sue because it is financially unviable to sue. Believe me. Hold firm. Steel yourself and brick wall them – ignore them and they’ll go away.

      In answer to you question in the last paragraph: there is NO CHANCE. NONE. 🙂

      All the best.

      Reply
  4. I received an email from Copytrack about an image on my website. The website is a WordPress and the image is part of the demo content from a WordPress theme. I haven’t had a chance to update and change the demo content to my content, because I have been very sick. I thought that demo content can be used on a WordPress site for at least some time. I never knew it had to be replaced right away. Also I feel that the developers of the WordPress themes should be using licensed images for demo content so customers don’t have problems like these. I have deleted the image that copytrack is complaining about and even deleted the entire WordPress theme. I also contacted the developer who built this theme. What are your thoughts and should I pay for the use of the demo content image that was on my WordPress site?

    Reply
    • Hi Holly, in my honest view you have already done too much or more than enough. You could have simply ignored Copytrack’s demands with menaces (fear of being sued) and carried on as normal and nothing bad would have happened to you. Nothing at all. My advice remains as before in other comments I have made and in the article: brickwall Copytrack. Do nothing. Delete nothing and pay nothing. They go away. Their MO is to frighten people into paying extortionate amounts. Stay strong. Steel yourself and in your mind tell them to “F off!”

      Copytrack use algorithms to send many thousands of emails to people like you and me. It’s all automated and their MO is to force payment. They’ll never sue anyone. In conclusion: do no more. Carry on with your website. Put it out of your mind. That will be the end of this experience. It’ll become history, quickly.

      Reply
  5. Ugh. I accidentally posted my comment on someone else’s thread. Can you please delete it so I don’t look like a dummy posting this duplicate?

    I’m very happy to have found this article. I just checked my blog email account (which I rarely do) and found five emails from Copytrack going back to September 25 demanding I pay money by October 24, 2023 (which I didn’t even realize has passed, as I write this on the 27th…). They threatened that if I ignore their emails, I could be sued for up to 150k. I used an image of a celebrity, that I found on google, in a blog post where I wrote about my crush on him. Something so silly. I do have my site monetized, but I spend way more running it than I make. Pinterest DOES make things confusing. Facebook too. Why is it OK for me to post that same pic on Facebook (which is mega monetized!), but not on a silly blog post? Anyway, I removed the photo. Then panicked and removed the whole post. THEN I found this article which is hopefully going to help me sleep tonight. I’m happy I did not respond to them and I’m not going to. I think I’ll send them to spam so I don’t let them freak me out again. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Vix, I have deleted the superfluous comment as requested. I’m please I helped. If you can reinstate the article please do it. Copytrack go away if you ignore them. The best techunique is to entirely ignore them. Do absolutely nothing. They fade away. I think they use automated email systems to ping off demands to hundreds of thousands of recipients in the hope that 10 pay up. Something like that. Good luck and thanks for commenting.

      Reply
  6. Well done Michael, you hit the nail on the head with your Sage advice here.
    I received a demand from CopyTrack 4 days ago. For an image I paid for and own a license for 3 years ago. I am in Australia. . Naturally I replied seeking, evidence of relationships between the creator, and CopyTrack, including contract representing the creator, names address and contact details of signatories to the contracts, and all witnesses. Dates of when this agreement came into being, taxation records of the creator and and CopyTrack so I can confirm with the German Tax Office they are legitimate businesses. I also told Marcus to prepare to provide Bank Grade Biometric proof of his being a real person, and the creator being a real person, which I offered to pay for. To date I have had no BOT reply 🙂

    Reply
    • Fantastic. You did great. I love what you did. A man after my own heart. I have received several demands from them and now I just ignore their emails. I do nothing and they go away for the reasons I state in the article. They are horrible and they need to be shut down.

      Reply

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