January 10, 2011
Filed under: Tip of the Day
With pirated designs proliferating around the Internet, it’s very easy to unknowingly use a pirated design or have someone use it on your behalf, such as a Web developer building your website. However, avoiding use of those images is in some ways just as easy. “Check to make sure the people you’re doing the work for are truly licensed to use a copyrighted image,” says Ed Levy, owner of Digitize4U, a Pennsylvania-based digitizer. That means requesting documents showing the person who provided the image either created it or has a contract to reproduce it.
Levy learned the hard way to ensure that he had that documentation. In 1996, authorities raided his business in Miami because it didn’t ensure it had a sublicense. Charges were eventually dropped because there was clearly no intent to abuse copyright, Levy says.
If you receive letters from someone claiming you misused a copyright, make sure to check that the letters are legitimate. In recent months, at least one apparent scam has proliferated in the form of a settlement demand letter ostensibly written by a female lawyer from Texas, but that clearly uses spellings of words consistent with Great Britain, not the U.S.
Oscar Michelen, an attorney and instructor at New York Law School who has handled numerous digital copyright cases involving settlement demand letters, says many such letters have questionable legal standing. He says many people simply outlast their pursuers by ignoring them, but that comes after quite a bit of pressure, including sending debt collectors to secure settlements from alleged copyright infringers.
“They’ll find your phone number and e-mail and step up contact,” Michelen says. “They’ll send it to a lawyer. If you’re willing to hold on through all of that, you’ll get through.” But if you have the image in question on a website somewhere, there’s one other key step. “We advise all our clients to just take it down,” Michelen says. “Even if you’re right, just take it down.