If you own a business or administer a site for other types of organizations, you need to know that at the present time there are a number of large US companies that are monitoring Canadian websites to "mine your content for profit". These companies are using legal tactics to extract hundreds of millions of dollars in payments for alleged "copyright infringements" for images they claim they own, that are being used on Canadian sites. The onus is on you to prove you have the right to display the image, so unfortunately, many businesses are unable to produce proper documentation to defend themselves from what may turn out to be an unfounded allegation.
Typically what happens is a business will receive a letter detailing the copyright infringement, with an invoice for a large sum of money, and demand for immediate payment from the corporation's legal department. Pay up or face the consequences!
Copyrighted material of course needs to be protected. However there are a number of problems relating to this "Wallstreet raiding".
- Unless you personally took the pictures and did the artwork yourself, you would have no clue where the artwork came from. The source of your online images provided by your web developer or some other third party could not verify the images are legally yours to use. Unless specific copyright agreements are kept on file, you have no defence if you are accused of unlawfully using copyrighted material,
- A new legal jungle is opening up for lawyers to generate huge profits in copyright law. In the jungle, the big guerilla wins, even if you are innocent. The internet has generated many stories of small companies defending themselves from legal harassment, only to go bankrupt in spite of innocence. Justice is often available only to those with deep pockets,
- The profits of some of these corporate raiders are being heavily reinvested in buying up independent photo stock sites, then searching the internet for websites using their newly purchased photo database. This means you may have purchased a photo, then at a later date be harassed by the new photo owner for a copyright violation!
- There are many "Free" photo sites that encourage downloads for what you assume to be free content, but in fact the copyright agreement does not live up to the title. People who are downloading these images are doing so at great risk as some of these sites are set up to entrap unwary consumers
- Finally, what is most troubling of all is even if the image you display on your website bears no resemblance to the copyrighted image, a piece of the copyrighted image may be part of your image file, a fact that is not visible to the eye, but is detected by surveillance "bots" which are roaming the internet 24/7. You would have no way of knowing this, yet it may cost you thousands of dollars!
So what to do?
It's not a bad idea to have a site analysis performed to detect any copyright infringement issues. For a small fee this can be done to give you peace of mind, and protect you from unreasonable demands from foreign corporate interests. For more information on protecting yourself, please click here.