Buyer Beware|

After I posted the following note, attorney Dave Ratner of Denver’s Creative Law Network responded with some great information! See his response below to my “problem”. So you know those scams that target people? Well I recently got caught in one AGAIN. Being fully aware of copyright laws, a German “company” called CopyTrack dinged me for $292 for use of a photo of Ed Sheeran in 2021 (taken from his Facebook page) for our newsletter and website. This has happened before. Of course, after I’d sent the money via wire transfer (my money, not COMBO’s), all of the board members said I’d been scammed. The bank even questioned me about the legitimacy of the claim but entering the website came up with a pretty real looking business.

The second time around, the manager at the bank decided just to do a “Google” search and guess what popped up???!!! Complaints about CopyTrack being a scam! The bank reported the transaction to the police and I filled out a report. The police even called asking if I would like to join in some counseling on how to spot a scam. That was very nice of them. So the point of this story is – besides the prospect of losing your hard-earned money – to not go to just their website but to do a search on the company to see if anyone else has had a problem with them before you send them money they may not have a right to. Lesson learned – the hard way.

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So sorry to hear about this scam… It’s a great lesson for COMBO Members and newsletter readers. We want to be very careful to NOT [emphasis added] use photos (or music or video or text) without permission. But we also want to do our due diligence when someone claims infringement.

I also saw this line in the COMBO post: “is it “fair use” if you are a not-for-profit educational organization.” This is not true. Nonprofits do not get a blanket fair use exception. That would allow every nonprofit to infringe at will! The nature and character of the use are part of a fair use evaluation. So the nonprofit aspect of the use is relevant. But it is not a free pass.

Just thought I’d share this in case it helps avoid future troubles!

~ Dave

Barb replied:

Thank you, Dave, for your input. That’s the problem I’ve been running into.

It’s hard to get permission from the photographers when they are not listed, especially on Facebook. Some of those people have HUNDREDS of uncredited photos and that was the issue with the photo of Ed Sheeran. I took it from his Facebook page which did not list a photographer. You would think that a photo posted on Facebook would have “open permission” to post elsewhere.

I have also since been told by someone else to ask the “collection company” to provide the name and contact info of the person who is claiming copyright, which they cannot usually do. The two that really got me was using a logo for a company who is based in London (Spotify), and the album cover for an artist from Nigeria. You would have thought he would have LOVED to have had the free promotion for his album! And if the photo is used on the album, what is to say that I had not bought the album and taken my own photo of the cover art?

~ Barb

Dave wrote back:

I know these situations can be confusing and confounding. It’s important to know that an image (or song or video) being on social media doesn’t mean that it is free to use. The owner of those rights has granted a license to the social media platform (e.g., Facebook) but that license doesn’t extend to the platform’s users (you). Also remember that the owner of a copyright has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, display, perform, and create derivatives of the copyright. So the owner of the album art owns these exclusive rights. It means the owner of that art is the only person who can reproduce it so you taking a picture of that art and distributing it could be a violation of the owner’s exclusive copyright.

Again, I know this can be complicated. Here is a YouTube video of a presentation I offered on the topic. If you want to share this information with COMBO members, maybe share the video link?

Happy to help you get good information out there!

~ Dave

Dave Ratner
Creative Law Network, LLC
5280 Top Lawyer: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024

(Photo of Austin Ross by Barb Dye)

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