A new intellectual property troll has popped up. This one is different from the recent copyright troll that threatened legal action against individuals who copied protected images off the Internet and used them on company websites. The latest variation on this theme is perpetrated by certain websites that advertise “free images,” for instance FreePik.com. While in truth there is no cost to download the images for commercial use, many if not all of these images are covered by the Creative Commons License, a fact that is buried in the fine print. This license requires attribution, meaning if you download and use any image, then you must give appropriate credit to the author of the image and provide a link to the license. If you do not comply with either of these requirements, then you breach the license and as such violate the author’s copyrights.
Businesses that unknowingly download and use these licensed images as part of their websites are starting to receive letters from law firms demanding thousands of dollars as payment for breaching the attribution requirements in the Creative Commons License. Further, it is no defense to argue that the business did not know of the attribution requirement or even that the business’ website was created by a third party developer because it is the business that is using the image. Because defending a copyright infringement action can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, businesses are finding that it is cheaper to pay to settle the dispute rather than defend.
We strongly recommend that all of our clients review every image on their websites and determine if they have full rights to use the images.
The contents of this Alert are for informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact the Shulman Rogers attorney with whom you regularly work or a member of the Shulman Rogers Intellectual Property Group.
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