PUBLIC WARNING: Fightback and the copyright trolls

Readers of the Fightback website might have noticed a slight change in its appearance. Well, not a slight change. The disappearance of almost all images.

During the Christmas-New Year period, the Fightback editorial board was contacted by a “Copyright Protection” agency based out of Denmark, claiming that three images from very old posts on this website – stemming back to 2012-14 – had been reproduced without permission from a major press agency. These images were:

  • a 2014 image of a demonstration in Venezuela;
  • a 2013 image of three atheist writers (of which only one image was claimed to be copyrighted: that of Christopher Hitchens!)
  • a 2012 image of a woman voting in Egyptian elections.

Rather than simply asking them to be taken down – as we are always willing to do for any image, out of goodwill – we were presented with what’s called a “speculative invoice”, totalling more than $NZ750 in “retrospective licence fees”. This fee, we were told, would apply no matter if the images were taken down or not.

This form of “copyright trolling” is well known overseas, for example from the “PicRights” organisation. Such organisations – either hired by major intellectual property owners, or acting on their own initiative – use powerful “reverse image search” engines to find images which match those to which they think they can establish copyright. This is quite often not enough evidence to stand up in court – but that doesn’t matter, as it rarely gets that far. People targeted thus – quite often private individual bloggers or non-profit organisations, like Fightback – are simply unwilling or too intimidated to fight, especially if the copyright trolls escalate to actual legal threats. They are far more likely to simply pay up – or to negotiate a lower payment – to make the whole mess go away.

The Fightback editorial board have decided, therefore, to simply pull all the images from our website, re-adding only those which we can guarantee we have the rights to use, or are in the public domain. We have no wish to continue to get letters every day or so presenting a bill for $250+ for an image posted up to a decade ago that everyone’s forgotten about. We are also seeking legal opinions about whether these demands for money can be enforced in the New Zealand court system.

We publish this warning, not only as an apology to our readers for the hopefully temporary loss of visual quality on our website, but to a warning to other small publications in Aotearoa/New Zealand, and also to private bloggers. These people may come after you next. Forewarned is forearmed.

Comments

  1. I would be interested to hear of any further developments in this matter – e.g. what your legal advice says about how enforceable these demands might be in NZ. It seems to be a new and lucrative ‘legal’ form of scamming.

    • We gather that as the organisation do not themselves have the right to the images, this could be considered extortion if they are not actually representing rights-holders. They would also need to demonstrate damages if they took it to court. We are continuing to ignore them as they have not brought a case.

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