Higbee & Associates PicRights Copyright Trolls – Part 2
Have you received an email or letter recently accusing you of Copyright Infringement? The copyright trolls are back, and they have been harassing businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. The Law firm of Higbee & Associates has been targeting businesses of all kinds. They send out threatening messages to businesses, accusing them of copyright infringement and stealing imagery.
What Is a Copyright?
To better understand copyright trolling, it is beneficial to have an understanding of what copyright and intellectual property are. Copyright is a type of intellectual property that gives the creator an exclusive right to make copies of a creative work. There is usually a limited amount of time that a copyright lasts. Creatives works include a variety of mediums – literature, art, photos. These copyrights are intended to protect the original integrity of the work.
Copyrights do have limitations, which are based on public interest considerations. Copyrights are granted by public law of a certain state. They are considered “territorial rights”, which means that copyrights granted by the law of a certain state, do not go beyond the territory of that jurisdiction. Typically, the legal duration of a copyright lasts between 50 to 100 years after the creator dies. When copyrights expire, it enters the public domain.
How Copyright Trolls Target You
“Copyright Trolls” like Higbee & Associates are incredibly duplicitous. These trolls are third-party companies that try to enforce copyrights it owns. This is usually done for the sole purpose of making money through litigation, usually done in an opportunistic and aggressive manner.
There has been a recent uptick of “copyright trolling” by a handful of law firms, including Higbee & Associates and PicRights. These look for unsuspecting victims everywhere. They browse images on the Internet, and visit YouTube and Facebook to look for potential “copyright infringement”. Copyright infringement is a legitimate issue. However, these trolls go after fleeting or short-lived infraction. For instance, they will go after a company for using one photo eight years ago or using a few seconds of a song in a video that was viewed by 30 people. Even worse, they might outright lie about an infraction that never happened.
This is why it’s important to understand the source of the images on your website, marketing, and promotional materials.
Case Study: Cosmetic Surgery Company vs. Higbee & Associates
One of our clients has fallen victim to copyright trolling from Higbee & Associates. They had sent her a very legitimate-looking letter, with a seal and letterhead that was straight from the United States Copyright office.
Our clients requested that they show them the actual copyright information since they were rightfully skeptical. However, Higbee & Associates simply told her that the “US Copyright registration” was already mailed to them. They never sent our client the actual copyright information. Rather, they sent them a very threatening letter with vague information. Out of the little information they provided, you only see the supposed photographer’s name and contact information. Granted, that is even the photographer whose work was allegedly stolen and not a lie crafted by the copyright trolls.Click here to open lightbox
Click here to open lightbox
Case Study: Amtek Signs
Another target of Higbee & Associates was Amtek Signs. This law firm sent them a threatening letter. The law firm requested them to pay $2100 to settle the matter. Take note, there is no copyright information on this letter from the Library of Congress or the US Copyright Office. The irony is that they wrote a long and wordy letter. However, they did not include the information needed to actually prove that there is potential copyright infringement occurring.
“The moment I received a letter from Higbee & Associates – a law firm that supposedly defends against copyright infringement, I did what I thought I was supposed to do and that was to remove the image in question from my website and immediately notified them. I then received an email the next day asking that I pay $2500 to avoid court and a larger settlement. It was curious that their initial email contact with me was not a cease & decease letter, but a demand for payment along with a link to pay. I went into research and found an article about this copyright trolling firm from Faceless Marketing.
I contacted these guys along with an attorney, who said that for a flat fee of $700, the demand for payment could possibly be reduced for $900. Something didn’t sit well about this offer, so I waited for Faceless Mktg and I eventually connected with Jason, who gave me some awesome advice on how to deal with this scam firm. I asked the Higbee to provide me with copyright registration, to which they responded that they copyright images after the fact and again a demand for payment. Higbee has not reached out to me in 2 days and I’m thrilled this headache is over. If it weren’t for FM I probably would paid the scam in full…thanks!” See review here
Legitimate Copyright Sites and Fake Copyright Sites
Scammers and copyright trolls are evolving, and they are constantly looking for new ways to fool their victims. They have reached a point where they are now able to gain access to .gov sites and pass them off as legitimate. Copyright trolls use these fake .gov sites in their emails, letters, and official communications. They know that even the individual with average intelligence will put their trust into an official .gov site, and not question its inception.
As a reference, these are the URLs of the legitimate .gov copyright sites and the fake .gov copyright sites that Higbee & Associates uses. If you are curious about a specific copyright, you can look it up on the legitimate websites for the Library of Congress and the US Copyright Office.
Real .gov Copyright Sites
Fake .gov Copyright Sites (Do not visit)
Spot Copyright Trolls Before They Spot You
You don’t have to be a legal professional. However, you should have a baseline understanding of copyright law, especially when it pertains to the images on your website and marketing materials. Make sure that you review your website, social media or marketing pages. Check that there are no copyrighted images or music.
Request More Information
Make sure that they have the authority to actually defend the person who owns the work. In order to sue you, they will need a specific registration covering the specific work in order to sue you. If they cannot provide the proper documentation, than they will not have a case. Always ask for official records – the actual copyright information from the US Government.
Reverse Image Search
You can use reverse image search to check for copyrighted images. Right-click on the image and select “copy image address”. Then paste this into Google Images or a site dedicated to reverse image search, like TinEye. This will show you where the source of the image. You will know where it has come from. You can also install plugins for Firefox and Chrome to easily reverse search images.
Copyright trolls or scams are common on the internet and in your physical mail. If you want to protect your presence, brand, and wallet then you don’t want to ignore these letters. We know how you can defend yourself.
- Try to look up the image on the copyright website https://copyright.gov/ if you have more information on the image. Email firstname.lastname@example.org about your “case” # along with the information or details that they sent you about your “case”. Ask them for the specific copyright information, associated with the specific image, from the U.S. Copyright Office. In most cases they will not be able to do this but they will email you back and inform you that they will copyright the image and get back to you. This is in fact illegal.
- You can email them back to let them know that you have contacted the U.S. Copyright Office and that this is where you found no copyright on the image.
“Dear #, We have contacted the US copyright office and that is where we found there was NO copyright on the image.
- You can tell them that the info they provided you is incorrect and that you require valid information in order to move forward. There is no record of the copyright through the proper channels.
- If they attempt to use either of these sites https://publicrecords.copyright.gov/ to justify their claim, these are not the correct websites or databases. The real database https://www.copyright.gov/ and if you read these URL’s you can see the difference.
- Did you receive the real copyright information from the real U.S. Copyright Office or is what they sent you meant to mislead?
Unless they can provide you with legitimate copyright information, about the image, from the U.S. Copyright Office, then you should be fine.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have trouble with this. If you have been contacted by Higbee & Associates or other copyright trolls and aren’t sure what to do, are suspicious, or simply don’t want to battle them alone please call us at tel:1-800-357-1299 and see how we can help.
Protect Your Online Presence and Reputation
It can be overwhelming to deal with threatening emails and letters, especially with the threat of a lawsuit. Especially lawsuits that demand thousands of dollars. If you are in need of assistance on how to handle this issue, our staff can help. Reach out to Faceless Marketing for a consultation. Additionally, our team has extensive experience with copyright laws, online visibility and reputation management. We have already assisted several clients who have been targeted by Higbee & Associates. Call 1-800-357-1299 or send us a Message Here.