Copyright Trolls Lurk Under a Bridge of Best Practices

Aug 1, 2022

Do you remember the tale of the Three Billy Goats Gruff?

Neither do copyright trolls. They’re too busy busting business owners’ chops for inadvertent Internet offenses.

But the titular goats – on a journey to greener pastures – were repeatedly tormented by a greedy monster lurking in the shadows under a bridge.

Copyright trolls are every bit as greedy and sinister. They scour the World Wide Web looking for images that have been used without a license by companies who had the misfortune of typing “free stock photos” into Google and believing the results. Then they lay in wait in the shadows to strike.

If a copyright troll has targeted you, it won’t be long until the threats start rolling in. These correspondences are frequently carried out on behalf of third parties. Emails, or in some cases even printed letters, demand proof of ownership for a debated image – and often monetary compensation for the alleged offense.

They’ll be quick to inform you that simply removing the problematic image from your site does not guarantee absolution from copyright infringement and that failure to follow up with them could lead to costly litigation or more.

So, what to do?

There are a couple of schools of thought.

Some companies believe they can call a copyright troll’s bluff. But keep in mind – if you decide to do nothing at all, you’re taking a significant risk. For whatever reason, copyright trolls have some powerful tools of pursuit at their disposal.

Our recommendations:

When dealing with trolls, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  • We are in no way offering legal advice, but your lawyer can. If you receive a threatening email, it may be wise to reach out to them before taking any other action.
  • Confirm that the email or letter has been sent by a company that has been authorized to seek damages for the debated image. (We hesitate to use the word “legitimate,” here. Still, take care to make certain you are not responding to a phishing scam.) Ask for proof of ownership.
  • If you have inadvertently used a copyrighted image or photo, promptly remove it from your site.
  • Moving forward, be certain you have the necessary permissions before adding new images to your site.
  • Use only royalty-free images sourced from legitimate vendors. If your budget does not allow you to purchase licensed stock photos, sites like Pixabay.com, which specializes in royalty-free stock media, can be helpful.
  • HOWEVER, if you DO have a license and necessary permissions, state your case, and take all necessary steps to dispute the troll’s claim.
  • If you have any doubts, contact your marketing partner. They can help you get to the bottom of things.

As always, the best way to ward off Internet parasites is by making certain your digital marketing is done right in the first place. We can help with that.

Lisa Brousseau

Digital Marketing Specialist

IMPACT Marketing & Public Relations, LLC

IMPACT Marketing & Public Relations, LLC

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