Content Company Doesn’t Understand Copyright (Oops!)

A Canadian copywriting firm has gotten into trouble for using copyrighted images.

In fact, until a vigilant photographer noticed his photo had appeared on one of WebCopyPlus’s client’s sites, WebCopyPlus was just sucking photos off Google willy-nilly.

The photographer, speaking through a lawyer to the client, requested the image be removed immediately and a payment of $4,000 be remitted to his account. (The photographer was based in the U.S., and under the DMCA, apparently you can seek up to $30,000 in damages per infringement.)

The company says:

“While we considered the lawyer’s demands abusive, the fact remained that our client was trapped in the ordeal, and it was costing him time and causing him grief. Plus, he’d be the one to get subpoenaed. So we opted to settle for $4,000….It’s an expensive lesson on copyright laws that we wish to share with other marketers, so you don’t make the same mistake.”

The mistake, WebCopyPlus says, was this:

“Our web copywriters were under the impression that images on the Web without any copyright notices were “public domain” and therefore free to use. Naive? Yes. A notion limited to our copywriting firm? Definitely not. It likely has to do with the fact that works no longer need a copyright notice to have copyright protection.” That’s because of the Berne Convention, which the U.S. adopted in 1988. But Canada….adopted the Berne Convention in the 1920s.