This is an ongoing true story of how PicRights International Inc. is trying to threaten my clients Humble and Fred into giving them $950. Here is the initial email to Humble and Fred from PicRights International Inc.
Image License Validation for Reuters News & Media Inc - Reference Number: 4513-0570-7530
Dear Business Owner
As an introduction, PicRights ("PicRights") provides licensing compliance services to third-party content owners, including Reuters News & Media Inc. Please note that PicRights is not a law firm and I am not a lawyer. PicRights has noticed that imagery owned by Reuters News & Media Inc has been displayed on your website. Reuters News & Media Inc has been unable to find a license for this usage.
At the end of this message, we’ve attached a visual reference of the imagery and its use on your website.
Our goal in contacting you is to ascertain if you hold an active license for this use with Reuters News & Media Inc or with any other entity authorized by Reuters News & Media Inc to license and distribute the imagery:
If you do have an active license for the use of this imagery, we kindly ask you to send us your valid license / authorization, by visiting https://resolve.picrights.com/451305707530 and clicking the “I have a license…” link;
If you do not have an active license for the use of this imagery, we request that you remove the imagery from your website.
Please be aware that removal of the imagery alone will not resolve this issue. We also require payment of compensation in the amount of C$950.00 for the past unauthorized usage of the imagery.
Please contact us to resolve this matter at +1 437 887 2292 or email@example.com or by visiting: https://resolve.picrights.com/451305707530.
We would like to resolve this time-sensitive issue as soon as possible and request that you respond within 14 days from the date of this correspondence.
If you believe you have received this notice in error or have questions, please contact us with your reference number 4513-0570-7530 at +1 437 887 2292 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On behalf of PicRights and Reuters News & Media Inc, we thank you for your cooperation and look forward to assisting you in resolving this matter.
Ahmer Hussain, LL.B.
PicRights International Inc.
+1 437 887 2292
The two images in question were found by Fred via a quick search of Google Images for the terms "trump" and "oscars". Here's the photos attached to the above email from PicRights International Inc.
For a little context, Fred used to maintain a blog in which he'd post links to each episode of Humble and Fred. For the episode in which they talked about Donald Trump (which is every episode these days), he added the above picture of Donald Trump. For the episode in which they talked about the Academy Awards, he added the picture of the Oscar statue. Fred found the images via a search of Google Images and had no idea they needed to be licensed.
This site has been offline for some time, so when Humble and Fred received the email above, they replied with a simple "Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We got these images from another site and didn't realize they belonged to you. We just deleted them."
The emails have continued and letters have been mailed to the Humble and Fred studio, here's the reply to Humble and Fred's reply.
While we appreciate the removal of the infringing imagery from your website, the prior unauthorized use of the image is still considered copyright infringement. Settlement of this matter is two-fold: (1) removal of the imagery from the website; and (2) payment of the applicable settlement amount. Absent the appropriate licenses surrounding the specific use of the imagery in question, the settlement amount of $950.00 as presented represents what Reuters News & Media Inc. (RNM) would expect to receive in a matter such as this for this unauthorized use. Had the infringement not occurred, RNM would not have had to deploy the additional resources needed to pursue this matter with respect to the infringing website. Please understand that our purpose is to protect our photographers from copyright infringement, even if that infringement was unintentional.
Kindly go to the secure PicRights Resolution website to settle the matter at: https://resolve.picrights.com/4513-0570-7530.
There you will find additional information in support of our claim and may pay the applicable settlement fee by credit card or PayPal.
Since copyright infringement already occurred, RNM is seeking fees for the past use. We act on behalf of our represented photographers/artists who are entitled to compensation for the use of their intellectual property. Please understand we stand to protect our photographers from copyright infringement even if it was unintentional. Absent proof that a valid license was secured prior to the start of use for the imagery in question, RNM's position in this case will remain unchanged. We will not be able to waive this, nor will it go away if not properly addressed.
I am not a lawyer, but the volume of emails and letters demanding $950 doesn't sit right with me. We're talking about a picture of Donald Trump and the Oscar statues that were used for a short time on a defunct blog. There was no malicious intent, no desire to ignore copyright, and no profit from use.
From what I can tell, PicRights International Inc. is neither the rights holder nor a legal firm. But the emails and letters continue... and I suspect they'll escalate unless $950 is paid via credit card or PayPal.
It feels like a shakedown.