Today I’m once again blogging over at Writer Unboxed.
If you’re a writer who’s serious about a career, you probably have some form of online presence: a website, a blog, an Instagram account. You may make use of images and/or videos created by others–to add visual interest to your blog posts or newsletters, decorate your website, and/or engage your readers and followers. For example, the header image at the top of this post.
If you use images online, you need to be aware of copyright trolls.
What’s a Copyright Troll?
Wikipedia defines a copyright troll thus:
A copyright troll is a party (person or company) that enforces copyrights it owns for purposes of making money through strategic litigation, in a manner considered unduly aggressive or opportunistic[.]
This kind of copyright troll creates and registers copyright to content that they then make widely available online, to increase the possibility that people will re-post it without permission. Using search technology, they find infringers and use threats of litigation to shake them down for cash settlements.
More indirectly, some companies and law firms specialize in copyright threats on behalf of third parties, seeking out infringers (and often roping in non-infringers as well), filing or threatening to file suit, and demanding large fees (in many cases, far exceeding the actual value of the intellectual property) to close the claim.
A major pioneer of this strategy was a company called Righthaven, which licensed rights to news articles and then used the threat of lawsuits to coerce people who posted the articles—or evens snippets of them—into paying thousands of dollars in settlements. Another notorious practitioner was former lawyer Richard Liebowitz, who employed a similar M.O. on behalf of photographers.
Karma did eventually bite back: Righthaven was sued out of existence, and Liebowitz was suspended from the practice of law in New York State. But copyright trolling is alive and well, and if you post images online, you may become a target—as I did a few months ago.
My CopyTrack Adventure
Like many people favored with attention from copyright trolls, I was a bit freaked out when I received an email from CopyTrack,…
Read the rest at Writer Unboxed