A letter recently arrived by postal mail, telling me that I had a copyrighted image on my Web site. Many companies and individuals use images on Web sites that they find online. Adding a caption that attributed the image to its source was not enough.
Today it was followed up by an email, below. I write analysis about the use of watermarks and fingerprinting to detect the use of copyrighted content, which I imagine was used in my case; so this incident brought it all home! Despite having taken the image down after receiving the initial letter, I still had to pay a license fee.
The moral of the story: Make sure you have clear rights (and license) before you use someone else’s content. Come to think of it, I would expect the same if it were my content.
October 5, 2016
Via physical mail and email
Advanced Media Strategies LLC
P.O. Box: 717
Ravensdale, Washington 98051
Unauthorized Use of (Name of the copyright holder) – Reference Number: XXX
(Our agency) provides copyright compliance services to third party content owners, including (the copyright holder). We recently sent you a notice that imagery represented by (copyright holder) was being used on your company’s website; however this matter remains unresolved.
According to (copyright holder’s) records, there is no valid license issued to your company for the use of that imagery.
Use of imagery managed by (this copyright holder) without a valid license is considered copyright infringement and entitles (copyright holder) to seek compensation for infringing uses (Copyright Act, Title 17, United States Code). The cost of settlement for past usage of the imagery on your company’s website is $xxx.
To Resolve This Matter – (Reference Number):
You are requested to take one of the following actions within 14 days of the date of this correspondence, as follows:
- If your company possesses a valid license … (and) the matter will be closed.
- If your company does not hold a valid license or other authorization for the use of the imagery, please remove the imagery referenced at the end of this correspondence and remit the settlement payment of $xxx.
Please be aware that removal of the imagery alone will not resolve this issue; we require payment of a settlement for past usage even after you have removed the image.
You may have been unaware that this imagery was subject to copyright. However, copyright infringement can occur regardless of knowledge or intent. Being unaware of license requirements does not change liability….”
(Further reference information followed, with a link to the offending image).
Aereo, the Barry Diller startup that was delivering local over-the-air TV programming to online and mobile app users, has been deemed illegal by the United States Supreme Court. The Court’s majority opinion was that Aereo is similar to cable TV, and is therefore subject to the same copyright obligations. We should have seen it coming: Chief Justice John Roberts had earlier said that Aereo’s entire model was to circumvent copyright law.
- TV broadcast networks
- Local TV stations owned and operated by the TV broadcast networks
- Local independent broadcast stations
- Consumers, who now lose the option to access local programming online unless they subscribe to an operator, or receive programming over the air
- Aereo, which would have to pay retransmission fees and presumably pass the cost on to consumers, be shut down, or devise some other work-around that keeps it in service
Aereo rents dedicated over-the-air TV antennas to each end user, and converts the live TV signal from each antenna to IP video for unicast (which, Aereo argued, constitutes ‘private performance’ that is not subject to copyright rules). Aereo also hosts a cloud-DVR service that stores recorded programming for later unicast access by subscribers.
If Aereo had won this case, the power of content owner to charge retransmission fees would have diminished, reducing pressure on operators to raise prices to the consumer. Aereo would have continued its expansion toward national coverage. With this decision, retransmission fees are likely to increase, supplementing existing revenue streams from TV advertising.
Aereo’s loss also opens the door for Dyle.tv, a joint venture of NBC, Fox, Pearl Mobile DTV and Ion; which currently offers over-the-air receivers to mobile device owners. Dyle’s Web site states that the company intends to offer “…encrypted broadcasts … to authenticated MVPD (pay TV) subscribers through a variety of apps, possibly those developed by TV networks, stations or cable/satellite companies.”
Online TV certainly isn’t going away. Earlier this month, Leightman Research Group said that almost half of U.S. households already subscribe to an online premium video service, such as Hulu, Netflix or Amazon Prime. The TV networks simply want to boost revenue by participating in the same opportunity. Adding to what they already make from advertising.
Also, the range of available TV programming continues to expand on all the major streaming video device platforms. No question that the content world sees online video as a viable channel of distribution. It just has to be on its terms, and subject to copyright law (agree or not about the Aereo decision).