Image copyright question... first post:)

Hi, this is my first post… thank you all for your help : )

I was hired in to manage a web development company in late 2008. The previous manager wasn’t really doing a stellar job if you know what I mean…

Anyway, one of our old clients received a letter from a Canadian stock photo company stating that an image was stolen from them and they want over $2200 compensation.

The image in question is a 100px by 100px picture of a globe on the contact page of a site of the clients site.

I did some research trying to find out where the client got the image from. It didn’t have a watermark, so I knew it was taken from another site… I dug around and found the exact same image (including the same cropping lines and degradation).

The site that it came from is an outdated actors website. The site has absolutely no copyright/privacy statements anywhere on its 10 pages. There is a link to a web developer that is no longer in business. Absolutely nothing to indicate that the picture is reserved. In fact the picture is so rough and pixelated, I have reason to believe that they originally copied it from a thumbnail… then my client decided that he wanted the same distorted image on his site. :rolleyes:

Of course, we have promptly removed the image…

I did some research and found this:

Removal of infringing material is also an element of a 1998 law establishing that an Internet Service Provider (ISP, a company that provides Internet access to individuals and businesses) can avoid liability by following certain rules including speedy removal of infringing material.

This was written by on copyright and fair use of the internet

Can anyone give me some advice on how to approach this issue. I’ve taken extreme caution as a developer when asking permission for images… it seems my predecessor did not :frowning: Even so, the image was originally stolen by another company… and we have removed the image immediately, does that protect my client at all?

Thanks again

Any image on the web unless clearly labelled as being in the public domain is almost certainly copyright to someone. Lack of a copyright notice doesn’t imply that there is no copyright.

Asking for permission is not taking extreme caution - it is the first step that everyone should always take since if you have permission from the copyright owner you are not breaching their copyright and if you ask and are refused permission then you can be fairly certain that if you’d taken without asking that you’d have been sued.

A hosting provider doesn’t have full control over what is placed on their hosting. Their removing illegal material when it is brought to their attention protects them from liability. It doesn’t protect the site owner from liability as they were the ones who uploaded the material and so they could have decided at the start not to steal it whereas the hosting provider may not have been aware that the material was stolen until they are advised.

Stealing from a thief doesn’t give you any more right to something than stealing from the owner.

Immediate removal will minimise the end result of any action. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the owner can’t still claim for the period of time that their property was displayed without their permission though. If you hadn’t removed it immediately then they could increase their asking price to cover whatever additional time it was displayed for after their original request.

Thank you for your reply

So what would be the best course of action? The clients website is from a template, I can’t tell whether the client supplied the picture, or we put it on the site. Ultimately, we were the ones who uploaded it.

So as far as I can tell, your saying that even though the image was pulled from 3rd party site, my client is still guilty of infringing on the original author.

At this point, I guess the best course of action is to write to the company offering to buy rights to the original picture for $154 and stating that the developer that added the image is no longer in business might be the best course of action.

Did I mention they want $2500 for this 100 by 100 pixel image? It was on the contact page of a site that gets less than 100 visitors per month. I don’t understand how that actually found it… but that doesn’t really matter now.

IANAL however, As far as responsibility goes, it’s firmly upon the individual who made the material available on the Internet (you), it’s your responsibility to ensure that all material used within your contractual obligations were legitimately used (as it’s both in yours and the clients best interests). Your client would be guilty of stealing the image from that website, and you by association would be guilty of assisting the theft and abetting the copyright infringement.

If your contract has ended with your client you could send an email of apology to the owner of the image saying that retrospectively you weren’t aware that your client had included stolen properties, however upon their notification the image has been removed (in all it’s instances). If they insist on being paid compensation (which they are legally entitled to do) upon reply (if any is given) you should pay the money - or negotiate with them on an amount (as your partly to blame - though they may ask for the full amount) and use it as a lesson to be careful what you upload in the future. However upon payment of the money you could indeed then proceed to demand the money from the client as a cost incurred due to them violating copyright law, though it could reflect badly on you as a business for allowing it to get through - so it’s really up to weighing the cost of the simple fix, or dragging it out in a messy fashion - I would probably just bite the bullet and pay the money.