Copyright compliance for online image

We had an intern last year who wrote a blog post and put some pictures in it from the web. That was published on the company website. The person who was supposed to supervise the intern was pregnant at that time and clearly was not 100% able to check all details.

We now have received an email from a stock photography company claiming that the image is theirs and we have to remove it from the website and will also have to pay a settlement. We have looked online to see this is rife practice from the company. The image in question is on their website and has a watermark on it; but the one our intern used did not have any.

We are a small company and clearly do not have resources to spend thousands to fight this. What would you advise?

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Alasdair Taylor's Answer

If you haven’t done so already, you should consider quickly removing the image from your website.

The intern could have obtained the image from a website that bought a licence from the stock photography company. The lack of a watermark on the image on your website is not likely to be material.

The stock photo companies are often very aggressive in enforcing their rights, but I don’t know how often they take claims to court.

Some options are:

  • capitulate and pay the amount claimed;
  • negotiate for a lower amount (perhaps in “without prejudice” communications);
  • ignore them (not usually advisable);
  • try to attack their legal case and claimed amount with arguments, but you may need legal advice to do this, and the end result may be capitulation.

I can’t really say which option is best, without knowing all the facts.

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