Understanding Image Copyright Infringement Scams

Image copyright infringement scams rank among the most deceptive schemes prevalent on the web. It is important to understand how scammers use copyright infringement accusations to target individuals and businesses in order to avoid becoming the victim of one of these numerous scams.  There are ways you can protect yourself and deal with these accusations if you receive them.

Definition of Copyright Infringement Scam

A copyright infringement scam begins when an accusation is made by a third party, often posing as a legal entity such as a lawyer representing the rightful owner of an image featured on your website.  This individual or firm will assert that you have breached copyright laws by utilizing an image without authorization. Typically, they initiate contact through emails or website contact forms, alleging that your use of the image is illicit. These communications usually contain intricate legal jargon implying that removing the image does not resolve the issue.  The goal of the scam is revealed in their demand for compensation for damages incurred.  Often, they will propose a settlement offer outside of court in exchange for a significant sum of money.

Copyright Scam Variations and Tactics

Multiple iterations of copyright infringement scams have come to light over time. Some attempts appear more legitimate than others, with a few even originating from established law firms. Others are crude and may employ automated bots. Certain scams serve as vehicles for disseminating malware, posing an imminent threat to your computer or your entire system.

Notably, certain scams employ contact forms on websites to execute their fraudulent activities. Schemes like these are often easy to spot if you know how to look for the telltale signs of deception, such as subpar language quality, conspicuous misspellings, and the presence of dubious links. Clicking on these links could result in malware infiltration, which could lead to hacking of your computer system.  It is very important for businesses to understand how to avoid the consequences of falling prey to such tactics, as hackers cost companies billions of dollars each year.

Copyright Infringement Settlement Demand Scams

Alternative approaches involve more sophisticated and ostensibly legitimate tactics. In some cases, scammers leverage professional-looking correspondence to instill a false sense of credibility in the reader. By furnishing detailed information regarding the image in question, including its location on the website, screenshots, and purported case details, scammers are sometimes able to compel unsuspecting victims into settling the issue privately and remitting payments for image usage.  After all, who does not fear a lawsuit?  In some of the worst examples, companies have essentially been blackmailed with threats to “go public” with information on how the company is violating “ethics” by using “stolen” images.

Navigating Copyright Law

The first and best way to avoid a copyright scam is to ensure that you and your workers are always following copyright law.  To avoid infringing upon copyright laws, organizations must exercise caution when sourcing and utilizing images for websites and marketing materials. Opting for royalty-free images, such as those available on platforms like Adobe Stock, is a cost-effective and legally compliant choice. Educating staff members on the risks associated with using unauthorized images and ensuring proper sourcing of visual content are pivotal steps in safeguarding against potential infringements.

It is also important to understand what is meant by “fair use.”  While fair use provisions allow for limited usage of copyrighted material without explicit permission under specific circumstances, adhering to licensing agreements and seeking authorization from content creators remains the safest approach.  It is always better to pay a small fee for use of an image than to risk copyright infringement.

Responding to Copyright Infringement Emails

Once you have ensured that your website is compliant with copyright law on each and every page, it is important to know how to handle an attempted copyright infringement scam.  If you receive emails alleging copyright infringements, it is important that you exercise caution and skepticism at first. Ignoring unsolicited correspondence and refraining from clicking on suspicious links is usually the best way to ward off future problems. If you are worried about a copyright infringement claim, seek clarification from legal professionals, web designers, or relevant personnel.  This can help you verify the legitimacy of claims and mitigate potential risks associated with fraudulent schemes.

By remaining vigilant and adhering to best practices in image usage and copyright compliance, organizations can shield themselves from falling victim to copyright infringement scams. Staying informed, conducting due diligence, and seeking expert guidance when necessary are crucial elements in safeguarding your company against deceptive schemes designed to hurt you and take your money.

At Caldiatech, we work with businesses to ensure that their websites are safe and comply with copyright law.  Give us a call today for a free consultation and website checkup.