Recently a number of our customers have received a threatening notice through the contact forms on their website.
It begins “Your website or a website that your company hosts is infringing on a copyright-protected images owned by myself,” and goes on to threaten statutory damage of $150,000.
It even says “I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner.”
What should you do?
DISREGARD THIS NOTICE ENTIRELY. ESPECIALLY, DO NOT CLICK ON ANY LINK PROVIDED IN THE NOTICE.
This is a scam. You have not actually violated any copyright. There is nothing factual, accurate, or true about this scam. DO NOT RESPOND.
In our 22 years of service at Chroma Marketing, we have seen a handful of real copyright infringement notices, but this is certainly not one of them. To learn more about real notices, continue reading below.
Is it possible to stop these scammers from completing your contact form? Much like the many “extended car warranty” calls you probably get, the answer is “no, not really.”
Most of our clients have re-CAPTCHA or even the latest reCAPTCHA v3 from Google on their contact forms, which is fairly effective at blocking robot spam, but if a human scammer completes your form, it’s almost impossible to stop them just because they have something annoying to say.
It’s also a matter of reasonably addressing the situation. At worst, so far, we’ve had reports of customers getting 1, 2, or 3 of these notices. Ignoring them is free. Taking special effort to block them may cost several hundred dollars, if possible at all.
What’s your judgment?
All images and text on the Internet are considered copyrighted by the originator, whether or not a copyright notice is applied. That said, when someone tries to take legal action to enforce copyright, the burden of proof gets more complicated.
While not required by law, the highest demonstration of ownership rights to your website are secured by registering for an official copyright through the U.S. Copyright Office. (Very few websites indeed officially register for copyright.)
TO BE LEGAL, you should never simply take pictures, graphics, or videos off the Internet or from other sources to use on your website. NEVER copy text from other websites or from news articles to put on your website.
YOU CAN use pictures that you have taken yourself or graphics and videos that have been prepared for you by a professional service. With professional work, copyright and attribution will depend on your contract with the service provider.
YOU CAN use licensed stock images and videos on your website from sources such as Shutterstock, iStock, and Can Stock Photo.
Especially in these days when you can update your own website, it’s possible you might have an employee or an intern make a mistake and use an image or text that belongs to someone else. Young and inexperienced web editors may simply have no idea of copyright law.
In these cases, a usual first step is that you may receive a “cease and desist” notice, possibly from a company or their attorney seeking to enforce copyright.
If you or your webmaster can determine the complaint is legitimate, then do remove the images or content that is in violation and notify the company making the complaint that you have removed the offending material.
IF THE COMPANY OR ENTITY MAKING THE COMPLAINT WANTS MONEY, in ALL SUCH CASES, refer the complaint to your attorney.
Even complaints that may have a margin of truth can still be unreasonable and frivolous.
Let your attorney decide how to handle it.
No matter how threatening a copyright infringement notice may sound, don’t panic, and don’t respond before checking the matter out thoroughly with your own webmaster and your own legal counsel.
Interested in learning more? Give Chroma-Marketing a call at 724-523-3001 or Contact Us today. We’re eager to help you advance the success of your business online.