Discover One Easy Way For a Design Blogger To Get Into Legal Trouble

freaking-out-over-your-paint-colors

***important note***

WARNING! SATIRICAL RANT ALERT!

The language in this post below the green italic print is NOT family friendly (whatever that is…) if it offends you, I apologize. Please do not read below the italic green print. This is not how the vast majority of my posts are, but there’s a war going on! The reason I’m writing this is to help other designers, bloggers and to spread the word about the smarmy underbelly of being a design blogger in 2015.

Obviously, this is personal. What has kept me afloat in recent weeks more than ever is the immense kindness and support of so many, many good people. My faith has not shattered that most people are good, decent and fair. But, as you will soon read— definitely, not all.

PS: If you have recently had surgery, I cannot be held responsible if your sutures bust open, so please protect yourself with a pillow or something.

with fondest regards,

laurel

 

 

Bronxville monochromatic living room design blogger

photo and interior design UNCOPYRIGHT Laurel Bern Interiors – (thank you Maria Killam!) Please help yourself, just link directly back to my site and preferably this page.  thank you.

again, for those who are easily offended, do not read below this line.

**********

It goes like this…

One day, you decide that you want to share your knowledge or maybe just inspiration and love for design, focusing on interiors.

You get a wordpress.org account.

register your URL:  http://dumbbitchinteriors.com with your preferred web host. (I use Bluehost and no, that’s not an affiliate link. It should be but I’m not that smart.) :]

note: April 2018. OR you can click this link for Bluehost which IS an affiliate link, because in the 34 months since writing this post, I’ve gotten a LOT smarter. haha By the way. You pay the same for the service whether clicking on the first or second link. But the second one helps me to keep things running.

Then, you start blogging… you post a lot of pretty pictures and talk about them. Someone told you that you must attribute to the ORIGINAL SOURCE. Okay, yes, that is the right thing to do. You read over and over that the proper way to do this is with a link directly back to their website, (not pinterest and definitely not google.) Internet juice, it’s called. Links back from other high authority websites make our website greater. Win/win. So, you spend endless hours trying to find the designer of the beautiful room. Once in a while, you can find who took the photo and you give them a little link luv too.

Then, one day, you blissfully open up your mail with no return address. (Oh good, someone is sending me $) :] but then instead of a check you  start reading something like this:

 

DOUCHEBAG
ARCHIVE

somewhere in Seattle, WA –

One Extortion Troll Circle

all have the EXACT SAME address.

[email protected]  phone +1 (in case you’re from mars)

Date: Every 5 days or so until you capitulate into giving us thousands of dollars

Case number: UR-A-TWIT-00OOo0O0Oo0

Dumb Bitch Interiors, Inc.

1 Main St

USA

Re: Unauthorized Use of Douchebag Archive’s Imagery – Case# URATWIT-00OOo0O0Oo0 (ref. ###)

DOUCHEBAG, a global provider of digital imagery, has noticed its represented imagery being used on your company’s website. According to DOUCHEBAG’S records, no valid license has been issued to your company for this useage.

Using imagery of DOUCHEBAG without a valid license is considered COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT and entitles DOUCHEBAG to seek compensation for infringing uses (copyright Act, Title 17 United States Code).

At the end of this letter we have attached a visual and hidden the rest, on our website so that we can screw you over later on if you don’t pony up $3,485.56.

For all details go to https://STALKER.douchebagarchive.com/URATWIT-00OOo0O0Oo0

TO RESOLVE THIS MATTER, YOUR ACTION IS NEEDED WITHIN 5 BUSINESS DAYS

  • send us a license which we already know you don’t have so that we can further torment you
  • REMIT A SETTLEMENT PAYMENT ONLINE https://STALKER.douchebagarchive.com/URATWIT-00OOo0O0Oo0
  • CEASE USING THE IMAGERY IMMEDIATELY

We are willing to offer you, ex gratia, a 20% discount off the settlement payment, lower it to $3,485.56 after discount, for 4 worthless images, provided you submit the $3,485.56 payment within FIVE business days of the date of this letter. Failure to do will result in the settlement amount being returned to its original amount.

DOUCHEBAG is committed to protecting the interests, intellectual property, and livelihoods of its contributors.
For any question, or if you believe you have mistakenly received this letter please contact us by email at [email protected] or by phone at +1 – gotchahehe

Sincerely,

DOUCHEBAG, LICENSE COMPLIANCE SERVICES. [not really a person, is it?]

on the back is a photo of a hallway on a very old dumb post that was taken down THREE MONTHS before I received the letter– because it was a dumb post that no one was reading. The size of the image was 500kb x 500kb. (low res– not a professional grade photo which would be at least 5 times that size file!)

REMITTANCE PAYMENT OPTIONS

STALKER, PIGSCOUT, INC.

same address as above.

please include the confusing reference number with your check.

 

IMPORTANT NOTES

  • Ceasing use of the imagery does not release your company of its responsibility to pay for the imagery already used. As the unauthorized use has already occurred, payment for that benefit is necessary.
  • You may have been unaware that this imagery was subject to license. However, copyright infringement can occur regardless of knowledge or intent. While being unaware of license requirements is unfortunate, it does not change liability.

**********************************************************

Sooooo, there’s me and there are thousands of other design bloggers who post photos that we did not take. And yes, I’ve received a barrage of these harassing disgusting letters. To a lay person, it sounds like you are being sued.

No. it’s not a lawsuit. For that, you need a file stamped document from a courthouse, usually served by a sheriff. It’s just a NASTY LAWYER LETTER.

Is this copyright infringement?

Yes, it is:

  • if you are using it as if it’s yours. (actually that’s plagiarism)
  • if using it to advertise yourself (as in a business card, brochure or even on a website home page)
  • if you are using the image to make money (as in putting it on a coffee mug and selling it or just selling the image)
  • if you are devaluing the work by posting it on your site

it is NOT infringement if:

  • you are using a very small portion of the work
  • you are using it for teaching, purposes, parody, reporting
  • you have written permission from the CREATOR of the image.
  • you are not using the images to make money from
  • you have not devalued the work

DOUCHEBAG ARCHIVE left out a whole bunch of stuff that doesn’t benefit them. There is a FAIR USE CLAUSE, which provides for teachers, bloggers, comedians, etc. a way to extol our creative energy and enrich society as a whole. Without the Fair Use Clause, the world would be mighty dull.

Fair Use is decided on a case by case situation. There is a line that cannot be crossed.

For instance, if I had someone’s photo up on my homepage that is not fair use.

Having a post where I share images depicting 20 great shades of white paint— where I have not used more than a small amount of any one body of work, where the work has been credited, is educational, presented in a beautiful way, enriching to society… well, you get it… THIS IS FAIR USE.

According to the Fair Use Doctrine, even an image under copyright is actually not copyrighted. No permission is required. No attribution is even required. This is the law. I’m not making this up.

17 U.S.C.§ 107

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 17 U.S.C. § 106 and 17 U.S.C. § 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.[3]

***

The vast majority of blogs fall under this fair use clause.

BUT THERE’S MORE.

In the three years that I’ve been blogging, I search and search and SEARCH for the ORIGINAL SOURCE of any image I post for demonstration, inspiration and learning purposes on my blog. However, I have NEVER ever found any information about DOUCHEBAG ARCHIVE. Never heard of them, until I got their disgusting letters.

Certainly, if one could actually get this information, it would be most helpful. No? But they obviously and purposefully make themselves impossible to find. Now, I wonder why they would do that? (rhetorical question)

Now, am I totally in the right here?

No, but it is only because of ignorance, not willful arrogance. It has come to light that most images one finds and most of mine were published  in a magazine and have a license with the PHOTOGRAPHER, not the designer who hired them. I did not realize this until only two weeks ago.

I spoke with three professional photographers. One was more or less an asshole. The second was verrry nice and helpful and the third is a friend who of course is very nice and helpful.

My friend doesn’t work this way. If someone like me hires him, the person that hires him gets the photos. The second photographer usually owns the photos but he EXPECTS that bloggers will use them on their blogs as I do. This is a dude who’s had work published in all of the big shelter mags.

The important caveat is that the photos he posts online are not large enough to SELL. Sometimes, a magazine in Europe will sublicense a GROUP of images and he will get a hefty additional royalty. He would prefer to be asked permission and he absolutely does want the link back.

Understood and agree completely. Therefore, some of you more astute people might’ve noticed with this post I did last week include most of the photographers names. I did ask permission. Everyone got back to me and all were very happy for me to use their images with a link back.

Yesterday, I did the same thing and no one got back to me. Does that mean it’s okay? They’re too busy to notice, they’re high on hashish? I don’t know. But what I do know is that even if ***I*** ask and am granted permission, this is a public blog and all of my images have a pin it button. Therefore, the images then become the responsibility of the next dumb bitch who pins them.

Did You know This Important Fact?

And tell me… What is the difference between sharing on pinterest, twitter and facebook and sharing with commentary on a blog? In addition, this important fact. When you post on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, LINKEDIN, etc have a policy that THEY CAN DO WHATEVER THEY WISH WITH YOUR IMAGE. And so can anyone else who downloads that image—even IF you take it down! Did you know that?

Here:

Sharing Your Content and Information

[directly copied from FB’s terms which no one reads]

You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:

  1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License).This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
  2. When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).

 

In other words… Folks… it’s all effed up.

Please be aware that I am all for protecting ones intellectual property. I have had my content stolen and scraped and used in ways that DO HURT ME! Duplicate content is a big no no with google. These are advertising sites that lift an entire post, remove ALL links, any reference to me, change the url and then put up a whole mess of google ads! This happens to me all the time. I have had numerous companies link to my number one post with bad links. It’s legal, but unethical.

However, just yesterday, I was reading on beautiful Maria Killam’s blog and found her uncopyright policy. It’s brilliant and beautiful and I’ve decided to well…. COPY HER! Except that I can’t. Not really. Maria is Maria and Laurel is Laurel.

In the meantime, if you are a design blogger, here are some helpful things I’ve learned recently.

  • One, there is a website where you can easily put your images into to see if they are licensed. Yes, they also do some smarmy things, but for the time being, I’m happy that at least I can find the offending images and take them down. I found many more than they did and am removing them little by little. It’s a shame.
  • The site is picscout.com
  • In addition, please know that these bullies DO pick on small businesses like me in the hopes that they can extort thousands of dollars. The images in the size files I use are worthless because of the size and because they already proliferate on the internet! If they had asked for $25 for each image, I would’ve paid that. That would be fair. What would really be fair is for them to simply ask me to remove them. And asking me to pay thousands for images that aren’t even up and weren’t up when I got the letters is patently absurd.
  • Sorry, long-winded way of saying, that they very rarely actually sue anyone who’s using the images as I am.
  • I found the most amazing attorney who sends out her Nasty Lawyer Letter and that usually calls off their dogs. If you would like her contact info, please write me privately.

FINALLY, is there a solution for people who DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES WANT THEIR IMAGES USED ON BLOGS?

Yes, and I’m not going to say don’t put them up on the internet.

But if they do go up on the internet they should have this information.

  • A small watermark (although, some don’t want to do this which is understandable)
  • Embedded information as to who the owner is, rights info, etc.
  • Right clicking disabled. That’s a clear sign to stay away.
  • If it’s a designer who has photos on their website, but does not actually own the rights to the photos, wouldn’t it be nice if they had information on their website indicating who the rights holder is, contact info, etc? In fact, it behooves them. Magazines might want to use the pics or bloggers with thousands of followers. :]

After all, free publicity is like money in the bank. I am happy to promote other designers. I feel that it elevates our entire profession. I am honored when someone posts my work. Why can’t we help each other instead of tearing others down only for our own benefit!

Does this mean that there will be fewer beautiful photos on my blog? I am trying to take more of my own. Some of them are alright and a lot are with my cell phone. However, it’s not always possible. I cannot possibly convey everything I want to with only my images.

Stock images. They suck the big petunia when it comes to interior design. Creative Commons. It’s next to impossible to find stuff and it’s still unclear whether it’s okay or not. Anyone can post a copyrighted image on there and say it’s okay to use— until you get a nasty letter or 20.

I have given this a great deal of thought… Believe me.

I think it’s wrong for bloggers to not credit–anyone and way too many do that. Now, that I know that many of these images are owned by the photographers, when possible, I am going to credit them and attempt to get permission. Of course, anyone wanting me to take something down. No problem. BTW, no one has ever asked. Conversely, many have thanked me.

However, what the so-called “copyright” trolls are doing is far, far worse. I know several talented designers who’ve been so traumatized by these letters that they went into a deep depression and some of them even stopped blogging altogether. I think that’s wrong and it makes me sad and angry. I think it’s wrong for the copyright trolls to set a trap by hiding the information that’s needed in order to stay out of legal trouble. I feel it’s wrong to terrorize people who are only trying to make the world a more beautiful place. I think it’s wrong to extort thousands of dollars from people and not even tell the photographers. They don’t know according to one of the photographers I spoke with. He knew nothing about any of this. That means that DOUCHEBAG ARCHIVE keeps the funds for themselves. So much for them “protecting” the intellectual property rights!

It’s mean and it’s a scam and I will not cowtow to such corrupt, inhumane tactics. Ever.

xo,

laurel

5th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2018 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • Toni T - June 13, 2015 - 6:09 PM

    I am so sad to read what you have gone through. I do enjoy your blog and hope are not too disheartened. Sometimes the “bumps” in life make us even stronger. I want to encourage you. You are a JOY to read!!! Hang in there.. you have lots of people here who love you and treasure you.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 14, 2015 - 8:23 PM

      Hi Toni, Thank you so much! I know I keep saying that, but I try to respond to everyone who’s taken the time to send such heartwarming comments which is 99.9% of you! I’m very blessed!ReplyCancel

  • Kathy - June 11, 2015 - 7:03 PM

    Good grief! Thank you for enlightening us … and for fighting the good fight for pretty sake! xoxoReplyCancel

  • SHERYL - June 11, 2015 - 1:25 PM

    You go Girl! Nothing like trying to provide a service and talent to others only to be bushwacked. What time spent when good things could have been done. Stick up for yourself and those of us who are naive. Always enjoy your heartfelt posts!ReplyCancel

  • Holley Johnson - June 11, 2015 - 12:33 PM

    You are absolutely right to shine light on this. The scumbags who make money by extortion would be happy for this to be hushed up and kept in the dark. Shame on them! I love the beautiful photos you share because that is the only way to convey your ideas. Decorating is awfully hard to explain in words alone. Glad you found a good reasonable lawyer who is willing to fight off the scumbags.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 11, 2015 - 1:30 PM

      Thank you so much Holley. Some people do only use their own photos, but they are usually more of the DIY/tutorial type of blog or, like my friend Loi Thai own an exquisite antique store, two gorgeous homes complete with the most amazing gardens, plus their own clients and travels around the world. Plus, he only posts 2 or 3 times a month. ReplyCancel

  • Reanee - June 11, 2015 - 10:45 AM

    Laurel, I too am pretty new to your blog but adore you. Thank you for all your efforts to make our lives more beautiful. Someone always has to rain on your parade. Hang it there. Your readers really appreciate your hard work.

    Best Regards from Texas,
    ReaneeReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 11, 2015 - 1:24 PM

      Hi Reanee,

      and welcome! I am so grateful for so many kind well wishers such as yourself!ReplyCancel

  • Susan - June 11, 2015 - 8:33 AM

    Dear Laurel, I’ve just recently discovered your blog, and while I’m not a designer (beyond my own home), I have vast appreciation for your professional talent and the time it takes you to put your thoughts out to the world. That said, I too have a blog, albeit not as regularly posted to as yours is! Because I am in a very different field, I choose not to use the beautiful images that can be found elsewhere.
    That being said…
    Photography is not the ONLY thing that these “legal representatives” use as tools to garner their “ransom” fees.
    They are everywhere: software code (very prevalent), training curricula, literally, you name it!
    I follow copyright issues and apparently there is quite a bit of action going on in government to reform the “troll practices.”
    I’d like to suggest that you contact your senator/representative and let them know that you’ll be following them to see where they stand on copyright troll issues. The Copyright Office is in dire need of the assistance to end this practice, and only Congress can give them that assistance.
    Please know that you and your efforts are much appreciated, by me and apparently many others!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 11, 2015 - 9:00 AM

      Yeah… and as I think I mentioned, I’ve been ripped off royally. There are content scrapers who will lift your entire blog, remove the links, change any vestige of the original author and then put it up with a ton of ads.

      I love your suggestion and will look into it. Thanks so much!ReplyCancel

  • Dave ( Silverbackpacker ) - June 11, 2015 - 8:09 AM

    Very interesting and well written post.Food for thought.

    I came across this from the BBC website last week……… which shows that coptright and everything surrounding it is just one big farcical game.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-32965494ReplyCancel

  • Michelle Holland - June 11, 2015 - 7:52 AM

    Laurel, so sorry about what you are experiencing! I am new to your blog (about two weeks!) and I just love it! My daughter has just purchased a new home and we are going to test the colors in your “no-fail” post! I have been inspired and have gleaned much color knowledge through your blog and do look forward to Much more! And this too shall pass!
    Blessings, Michelle,ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 11, 2015 - 8:58 AM

      Hi Michelle,

      and welcome. As you can see, if you’ve read any of the other comments, lots of badass people here! So glad the color posts are helpful. And yes, there will more coming up soon!ReplyCancel

  • Patricia Freeman - June 11, 2015 - 7:22 AM

    Keep posting…..Inspired by your posts and by your intellect…ReplyCancel

  • Eileen Lonergan - June 11, 2015 - 6:15 AM

    Thank you for your detailed research and sense of humor. Part of the problem with figuring out how to do the right thing when it comes to image use is that the verbiage is so dang difficult to decode. I am sharing this with everyone.ReplyCancel

  • Valarie Edwards - June 11, 2015 - 5:02 AM

    As my old Jewish grandma used to say, that’s fah kah kah! If what they’re saying is true, Pinterest would be shut down. I’ve got your back. If you want to open a can of designer whop ass, let me know when and where. Seriously though … this too shall pass.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 11, 2015 - 8:55 AM

      lol and yes, some of my so-called violations have been pinned on pinterest 100s if not 1000s of times! ReplyCancel

  • sophy - June 10, 2015 - 11:29 PM

    Good for you, Laurel! You are right – these are trolls, who make their living by 21st century blackmail and scare tactics. Just the sort that give lawyers a bad name (I am a recovering [that is, retired] lawyer who had to deal with trash like this on behalf of the computer companies I worked for.

    Now, if only there was some way we could all send them a message at the same time and crash their server…ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 11, 2015 - 12:21 AM

      Oh, thank you Sophy. I have to say, that I actually TRIED to read the Title 17 thingy and nearly crashed my own server. I wrote something and if you see this, you’ll laugh, I’m sure.

      Here it is:

      the person in I-a [8 paragraphs back], the exception in paragraph III-b but only if he does a. b. c but not if the person in II-c does… except for the person in I-d including the situation in I-f that is if… lol ReplyCancel

  • Christine - June 10, 2015 - 11:07 PM

    You got it right when you called them Trolls. Extortionists Trolls. Don’t stop doing what you do. Now that would be criminal.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 11, 2015 - 12:16 AM

      oh, thank you Christine. That is such a kind thing to say! Much appreciated!ReplyCancel

  • Loribeth - June 10, 2015 - 11:03 PM

    I had the same experience happen to me last month, except they just found one picture and asked for $600, and discounted it 30%.

    I did not pay them. Instead I contacted Houzz, because I used and embedding code from Houzz for the picture to put it on my blog. Houzz contacted the troll and told them they needed to follow the copyright infringement policy on Houzz since the picture was posted on their site, and not to contact me.

    The thing is, they provided a copy of the image and a screen shot from my blog as “proof” that they had a right to claim they had a right to collect on the copyright infringement claim. There was no mention of the their “client’s” name or link that proved anything.

    I actually shut down my blog and started a new one. The web address of my old blog brings you to the new one, so there is no way for them to get to the old one. I’ve been blogging for a long time, and there are picture on the old blog that didn’t have proper attribution from when I first started out. Too much work to try to find them all, so I shut the whole thing down. Then I brought over posts that only had pictures that I took myself.

    I’m not worried about them coming after me. It would cost them more to sue me than they’d get, because they’d have to come to Michigan.

    Anyway…long way to say I feel your pain. You outlined the whole Fair Use clause wonderfully!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 11, 2015 - 12:16 AM

      Thank you so much Loribeth,

      I thought it was only one image too because that is all they sent me. And even on their website after I was able to figure out that would looked like 0 was really a O, I only saw the one photo but then noticed something else and I clicked on it and out popped another photo. And two more.

      I’ve come too far now to shut this thing down. You can redirect old posts (if you have wordpress, not sure about other platforms) and I might be doing that.

      Oh DAMN! I forgot about the WAY BACK MACHINE! Yes, indeedy. Some people started it as a record of the internet. But the douchebags use it to see if you EVER had a photo of “theirs” up. Even if you had it up for 2 weeks and took it down three years ago, they claim they can still come after you. And if they find the image on your server, even if you haven’t posted it anywhere, they will still come after you. It’s just beyond the beyond.

      And yeah… I called those way back people and told them to cease and desist. lolReplyCancel

      • Loribeth - June 11, 2015 - 1:01 AM

        If you put a robot.txt code on your site, the wayback machine will not crawl your site. I did that a long time ago, so no wayback record for my site.
        I lost around 250 posts when I shut down the old blog. I’m still moving some posts over, and probably will be for a few months. It’s also giving me a chance to rework some old posts and update them, so I’m trying to look at this whole thing as a positive.
        It really sucks that these trolls can do this kind of thing to those of us with small businesses. What’s sad is some bloggers will take them at face value and just pay them.ReplyCancel

      • Loribeth - June 11, 2015 - 1:01 AM

        If you put a robot.txt code on your site, the wayback machine will not crawl your site. I did that a long time ago, so no wayback record for my site.
        I lost around 250 posts when I shut down the old blog. I’m still moving some posts over, and probably will be for a few months. It’s also giving me a chance to rework some old posts and update them, so I’m trying to look at this whole thing as a positive.
        It really sucks that these trolls can do this kind of thing to those of us with small businesses. What’s sad is some bloggers will take them at face value and just pay them.ReplyCancel

        • John Stacey - June 11, 2015 - 9:06 AM

          Robots can ignore your tag. Especially malware robots that scan the web for security vulnerabilities and email address harvesters used by spammers will pay no attention. The ‘NOFOLLOW’ directive only applies to links on the page. also, it’s entirely likely that a robot might find the same links on some other page or site without a ‘NOFOLLOW’ and so still arrives at your undesired page.ReplyCancel

          • Laurel Bern - June 11, 2015 - 1:22 PM

            right again you are John. I have blocked entire countries who are known to have a high number of spammers. Sad, situation, but I guess it’s always been like this in some form or other.

        • Laurel Bern - June 11, 2015 - 8:54 AM

          Hi Loribeth,
          Thanks so much for your lovely comment!
          I looked into that and it felt to complicated and then I read that the bots often ignore it anyway. I do have the ability to block IP addresses and IP ranges and also entire countries.ReplyCancel

  • Susan Mayer - June 10, 2015 - 10:55 PM

    I know exactly who sent you this, because they “caught” our non-profit organization using one of their photos. They evidently have web crawlers just cruising for their “property.” They only wanted $400 from us (for one photo), and we offered them $200, which they accepted. They haven’t bothered us since. (The lawyer on our Board of Directors suggested that we just settle up with them.) Good luck. I can’t see their name anywhere without feeling totally disgusted.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 11, 2015 - 12:10 AM

      yep… and I can see their creepy crawlers with a plugin I have called wordfence. It allows me to block IP addresses too. The only thing is I’m afraid of blocking the good guys. Yes, it’s Getty and their clones. Getty gave themselves such a bad name, but their clones are getting known now too. Trunk Archive and Otto. Strange business model terrorizing small businesses. That’s just it. They don’t go after the big guns because they could very well lose their shirt! But if there’s a lawyer involved, they generally back off. Don’t want to tempt the fates too much.ReplyCancel

  • Ann Fitzgerald - June 10, 2015 - 10:39 PM

    Laurel, I feel as if a friend has been hurt. Most people don’t realize how much time it takes to produce a wonderful, informative blog like yours. I have learned so much from your writing, and the beautiful pictures you post, which always are given credit. Stay strong. Keep blogging. Love and prayers from Texas.
    AnniebReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 11, 2015 - 12:04 AM

      oh Ann, you’re so sweet! And yes, most posts take between 10-15 hours to produce. Sometimes I’ll look at it when it’s finished and go… really? A lot of it is research. The attributions are about a third of that time— at least! Oh, how easy it would be to just put up the images without the links, But again, I don’t think that’s right either. I think that the designer should get credit. As for the photographer. There would be no photo if the designer hadn’t done the room. Yes, this is my ignorance, but I just assumed that the photog got paid for taking someone’s pics and that was it. Some do, but not all.

      And then there are the magazines. The big ones have their watermarks on them, so does that mean that they own the photos? I tried to find that out too. Nope. Dead end there with Architectural Digest. But… they all have SHARING buttons. So, it’s okay to share on social media but not on a blog? I asked the A-hole photog what was the difference and he couldn’t give me an answer. ReplyCancel

  • Maxine - June 10, 2015 - 9:36 PM

    I was just about to call it a night when this popped into my email. I immediately reached for the pillows, even before I finished the italic green bits!! Not for too long though, because what you are going through is terrible. I was glad to read you won’t cowtow. I sense that they are messin’ with the wrong girl and I’m glad because I’ve only just discovered your wonderful blog – you can’t stop now! My heart goes out to your friends that did stop. I hope they find their way again.
    Much luck to you – You are fighting for many I suppose.
    MaxineReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 10, 2015 - 10:00 PM

      Hi Maxine,

      Yes, the wrong girl. And you know the axiom… Do a good job for someone and they’ll tell one other. Do a bad job and they’ll tell 20. With social media, one can tell millions. I do not understand a business model where this kind of behavior is the MO.

      In more civilized worlds, the protocol for alleged copyright infringement is a cease and desist and then if they don’t comply… that’s a different matter. And again, there are many legal issues here including whether these bozos have a FILED COPYRIGHT. That is required for litigation and it needs to have been filed before the letters were sent.

      I can guarantee you they don’t have it. My lawyer asked them for it and they said that they didn’t have to produce it. Ridiculous!ReplyCancel

  • Val - June 10, 2015 - 9:26 PM

    I’m don’t have a blog but I appreciate you and the information you post. I’ve learned a lot today. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 10, 2015 - 9:50 PM

      Hi Val, I’ve learned a lot from me too. lol. Truly, it’s been one of the most rewarding aspects of having this blog! Thanks so much!ReplyCancel

  • John Stacey - June 10, 2015 - 9:21 PM

    Bravo! An Irishman once told me an individual could topple “City Hall”. And he personally proved it to me! It’s a shame there are so many scam artists in the USA, the home of all scams. Not China, not Russia, not India, not Nigeria, they just copycat the USA originals. McAfee made a world map of internet abusers and the 2 huge hotspots were Detroit (perhaps understandable)and Houston, Texas (?). And the internet is a gift from scammer’s heaven to them. Strange thing is that they work harder at scamming than they would if they had regular jobs. It’s a shame such a wonderful medium available for good purposes is being so abused by such self-propelled garbage.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 10, 2015 - 9:49 PM

      Hi John, That is so funny. Actually, I’ve had a lot of practice advocating for my son with autism.
      Basically, I just didn’t take no for an answer. This is all under the umbrella of Getty Images. They have
      spawned two clones. Like I said, all at the same address and picscout is their goon. Although, I am happy that I can at least use picscout to see if any images I’m interested in using are licensed by them. They hold most of the licenses of ID images and maybe all higher end photography images. Thanks for stopping by!ReplyCancel

      • John Stacey - June 11, 2015 - 8:45 AM

        Thanks Laurel. A huge subject. Reused pics on web myself without thinking about infringement on source rights (on a very small scale). Never experienced any problems. (Perhaps just lucky, or always acknowledged credit.) So does Getty and PicScout take screen shots of your own site on a regular basis without any regard to your own rights! So they themselves are breaking the law on a regular basis! Lots of advice on subject on net like “ELI Forums”. I get stuff every day, especially those beautiful Power Point picture ones that am sure contain some infringements. Some say anything one puts up on web then belongs to all so perhaps source has forfeited all copy-write protection after that point? Then what remains to discuss? I dunno and fortunately don’t have to worry about it myself, but guess web authors like you do need to be especially well informed (about your own rights as well as that of others).ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - June 11, 2015 - 8:52 AM

          Bingo John on them committing copyright infringement. However, as of this time, copyright as it is written is nor forfeited if put online. In addition, I credit my photos and it makes no difference to the trolls. The only time I don’t credit are for the few used as bad examples of something or parody for a few posts. Or, if I’ve exhausted all possibilities and all I can find is the image pinned to pinterest 500 times!

          Yes, I know about ELI Forums and that is where I’ve gotten a lot of my info or at least info to take me to the next step.

          Thanks so much for your wonderful comment!ReplyCancel

  • Veronica - June 10, 2015 - 9:15 PM

    I sent that last message before I was done. Lol. I was saying that I do a lot of room tours of my own work and offer tips based on design solutions I brought to my clients’ challenges. It is a sad sad day when they try to stifle creativity like this. I understand when abuse occurs with other people’s pictures, but if you are beautifully portraying their work and crediting them for it, to me that’s a win/win. I know you will continue to put out great posts and I look forward to continue reading themReplyCancel

  • Suzanne Tractenberg - June 10, 2015 - 9:15 PM

    You go, Girl………there is no shortage of assholes in the world. And you have addressed the matter brilliantly. I’m so sorry you were attacked by them.
    Keep on Blogging in your beautiful way!
    Suzanne in San DiegoReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 10, 2015 - 9:44 PM

      Thank you so much Suzanne. I really appreciate the support. As soon as I contacted the lawyer who is charging me next to nothing (at least so far) I felt so much better.ReplyCancel

  • Veronica - June 10, 2015 - 9:09 PM

    Oh Laurel, I agree with you wholeheartedly! These scum suckers are horrible for pretending to be protecting the rights of their contributors. I have gotten two of the lawyer letters and I have totally ignored them. They send me at least one a month, each demanding $600. They can piss off!! I have only been posting my own work or those that I’ve gotten permission for. I now craft my posts around my own pictures. I do slot of roomReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 10, 2015 - 9:42 PM

      oh wow! Veronica. $600, you got off light. :/ My bill with the discount LOLOLOLOL is nearly 6k for 8 images. The irony is that going through my blog and only one page of blog posts so far, they missed at least 12 of them. They have their slimy bots all over my site!ReplyCancel

  • TKraft Art & Interiors - June 10, 2015 - 9:07 PM

    Laurel you had me laughing with the green type warning… Thanks for bringing this issue to light too so many of us bloggers and blog readers. This problem is prevalent on all the social medias and even in hard copy published print. Everywhere you look today people are re-posting and sharing photos and their followers are thinking they’re the creators or the designer. And don’t get me started on copywriting, it’s hard to find native copy anywhere, everything is recycled and re-posted without proper credit, besides reading the same thing over-and-over on multiple sites – like you said it’s hard to follow the paper trail back to the original owner of the post or photo. BUT YOU UNLIKE MOST clearly wrote in your post that you did not know the original image source and therefore you did not take credit for that photo. Dang the DOUCHEBAG – it’s a new scam.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 10, 2015 - 9:40 PM

      thank you so much and I went in and fixed the typo. I hate that and do it all the time and it’s frustrating because
      I know that it’s hear not here! That sort of thing! Yes, the content scrapers are another breed of disgusting animal. Actually, this post was relatively fast. My average post takes me 10-15 hours to produce! Although, I have to admit, if I count all of the hours of research, this one is about 40 hours! I really wanted to be thoroughly informed about this topic.ReplyCancel

    • TKraft Art & Interiors - June 10, 2015 - 9:28 PM

      ugh can you please fix my typo
      BUT YOU UNLIKE MOST – and not – BUY YOU UNLIKE MOST
      (is there a way to fix it on my end?)ReplyCancel

  • Mimi - June 10, 2015 - 9:02 PM

    What a fantastic article. So sorry you had to go thru this. I’ve had this happen to several people. You are always welcome to use any of mine you come across :))) But I have to ask – Did you have to pay???? I thought I read the entire article, but I may have missed that part. Great post!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 10, 2015 - 9:07 PM

      oh, I left that out.

      DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES GIVE THEM MONEY! if you do, they will forever hound you! And they do NOT have no matter what they say a legal right to get your money! They are law maker, judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one. Not very democratic, is it?

      And thank you for the offer! I wish there was a library of great images but it would be difficult to put together perhaps.ReplyCancel

      • Molly - June 12, 2015 - 1:05 PM

        Agreed. Not-a-lawyer-but…giving them money is like an admission of owing the money in the first place, so if they ever actually pursued the matter in court, it would look bad for you.

        This reminds me of the parking ticket I got from a city I’ve never been to, for a car I sold years before.ReplyCancel