Intellectual Property Law

How To Respond To a Stock Image Company Demand Letter

Let’s take a look at some of the basic steps you should take when responding to a stock image company demand letter.

If you have ever received a stock image company demand letter, then you likely know the stress and anxiety that comes with it. Infringing on copyrights can be a financially hefty offense even if it wasn’t your intention to copyright in the first place. So exactly how do you respond to a stock image company demand letter? Let’s take a look at some of the basic steps you need to keep in mind. 

1. Don’t Ignore It

When you receive a letter of copyright infringement, the first thing you need to do is acknowledge it. Pretending like it doesn’t exist and putting it off to the side will only increase the gravity of the situation. In most cases, a stock company demand letter will ask you to stop using the copyrighted work and may ask you to pay back the original licensing fee. If you don’t respond to the demand letter and ignore it, the accusatory party could follow up with additional action. In a worst case scenario, a cease and desist letter that goes unanswered can result in a lawsuit that will eventually become public record and could damage your business’s reputation down the road.

In extreme cases, damages can go up to $150,000 per copyrighted work that is infringed upon. While the reality is that courts typically don’t impose the highest penalty possible, court and attorney fees do add up. The best way to avoid this headache is by responding to the letter so that it does not get to that point. 

2. Do Some Background Research

With a stock image company demand letter, knowledge is power. You need to understand who is sending you the demand letter, what they are accusing you of, and what they would like you to do. Knowing this information will allow you to move forward. 

You can start by looking at the attorney who has contacted you and do some background information to see if they specialize in copyright infringement or if they are a general attorney. This is also a good time to do some research on the photographer working with the stock company to understand what type of photographer they are. Doing some digging on the photographer or stock company can be helpful to understanding who you are working with because you can look into their past claims history to see if they have a habit of filing photography infringement claims against others. 

If you have indeed violated their copyrights, then it’s important to look up the price of their work or their commercial licensing fee to get a gauge of how much it sells for. This will allow you to assess whether or not the damages they are seeking (if any) are reasonable and need to be counter offered. 

3. Look Into Their Copyright Registration

As part of your research, you should look into whether or not their copyright is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. While copyright protections are offered automatically whenever a work is in a fixed form, a copyright has to be registered in order for legal action to take place.

The U.S. Copyright Office serves as a records office and you will be able to help you look into whether the copyrighted work in question is registered or not. You should also keep tabs on whether or not the copyright gets registered as well because this will allow you to determine whether or not the stock image company may be seeking legal recourse. 

4. Respond To The Letter

Doing basic background research is your first step in responding to a stock image company demand letter. Once you have done your research, it’s time to address the demand letter. Depending on your situation, you may want to start by asking for proof that copyright infringement actually occurred. By asking for proof, you can ensure that copyright infringement has actually happened and that the entity is not simply seeking a quick payout from you. 

In some instances with stock image companies such as flicker, it is worth it to check to see if you have gotten permission from the copyrighted work’s owner. Whether it’s through the terms of service agreements from the stock image company, or an advertising agreement, you may be able to avoid being the individual held responsible for the copyright infringement or you may be able to shift the blame. 

You don’t have to view the demand letter as a one way form of communication. The demand letter should serve as the first step in what should be open and cordial communication to resolving the issue. If you have infringed on the copyrights, then the more open you can be in communication, the better your outcome will be.

5. Invest In a Copyright Lawyer

Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to resolve the stock image company demand letter on your own without legal representation if the infringement is minor. In the best case scenario, all you would need to do is remove the copyrighted work from your digital platform or give proper credit. However, in more extreme circumstances, you may be finding yourself faced with a letter demanding excessive damages due to multiple copyright infringement. In this case, having a copyright lawyer on your side to respond to the stock image company demand letter could set you up for success in avoiding the hefty damages that come along with copyright infringement cases. You will need to make the call on whether or not you should seek legal representation, even if it is just hiring a copyrights attorney to help you draft a response letter. 

Conclusion

It can be overwhelming dealing with a stock image company demand letter. No matter what the letter entails, you should always seek to resolve the issue by responding in a timely, professional manner. In most instances, these issues can be resolved with little to no monetary recourse from your end, especially if the infringement was an honest one.

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