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