Beware of the Copyright Troll!!!

For the last five years many people have received letters alleging they infringed another party’s copyrights.  The story for these people is almost always the same.  They found an image they liked on the internet, noticed it wasn’t marked with a copyright notice, assumed it was free to use, and copied the image.  What they didn’t know is that almost every image on the internet has copyright protection.

In the United States, copyrighted works are not required to be marked with a copyright notice.  As such, the public is often unaware that copying an image on the internet often constitutes copyright infringement.  This has left many people vulnerable to copyright trolls who discover the infringement.  Copyright infringement can be extremely costly for infringers.  For example, in some situations a copyright infringer can be on the hook for damages which range from $750 - $30,000 for each act of infringement.  In addition, copyright laws in the United States also allow a court to award attorney fees to a prevailing party if the infringement is litigated in a court of law and the work was registered with the copyright office.  These fees can range from thousands to millions of dollars.

In view of the above, it is strongly recommended to never copy and repost an image from the internet unless it is clear that doing so is not a violation of the image owner’s copyrights.  If you do receive a cease and desist letter it is strongly recommended you settle this matter as quickly as possible noting that most copyright trolls settle for far less than they ask for in their demand letter.  Of course, there is no substitute for good legal advice.  Thus, it is highly recommended an intellectual property attorney be consulted when dealing with copyright trolls.