Copyright Trolls seem to be getting more aggressive in the last few months. Maybe it’s because they are getting nervous that extortion schemes are about to get significantly more difficult to continue? If any of the proposed patent/copyright laws get through Congress, I suspect the troll problem will decrease significantly (but will still be far from solved).
Today, we have a man that took a picture of a sky-line in Indianapolis. The man says the picture is worth $1,500. Where does he get that number? He never says. Just came up with it out of thin air.
Instead of contacting people who post the picture online and asking them to take it down, he simply files lawsuits and then tells those people that if he doesn’t get several hundreds dollars from them by the end of the day, the price will go up.
“The essence of it is they called me a digital extortionist,” Bell said, but he claims the law is on his side. His lawsuits allege not just copyright infringement and unfair competition, but also theft.
So, they are correct in calling you an extortionist.
“Defendants have realized and continue to realize profits and other benefits rightfully belonging to Plaintiff,” Bell asserts in his suits that seek treble damages and attorney fees.
Except, we are not seeing anyone using this photo for financial gain. The example given in the article cites a woman simply looking for a stock photo of the Indianapolis skyline. At no point was the site using the photo to specifically get any monetary gain. When she found the picture, she looked for any trademark or copyright information along with the metadata of the picture and found no reason to think that it was protected.
When the woman received a letter from the troll, the woman called him and said she would take the photo down. She also wanted to see proof of ownership. The troll told her that because the picture was found on his own web-site, the woman should just accept that as proof enough.
In fact, up until this point, the woman has not been given a SINGLE DOCUMENT SHOWING PROOF.
He justifies his litigation and tactics by invoking the 1970s Fram Oil Filter TV commercial – “You can pay me now, or pay me later.”
Thankfully, more people are seeing how these extortion tactics work with the increased coverage of these types of events.
The fact that someone can take a generic picture, put no copyright mark or medadata on the photo, refuse to simply ask people to pull the picture down, and refuse to show any proof of ownership….yet still receive money legally from the people he has threatened….is shocking.