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

***important note***


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,




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 account.

register your URL: 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:



somewhere in Seattle, WA –

One Extortion Troll Circle

all have the EXACT SAME address.  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


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


  • send us a license which we already know you don’t have so that we can further torment you

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 or by phone at +1 – gotchahehe


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!)



same address as above.

please include the confusing reference number with your check.



  • 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.


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?


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
  • 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.


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.



Welcome To Laurel Home!


Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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