If you own a blog or website, chances are you have received an email or letter from a law firm or photo agency demanding payment for a copyrighted photo you posted years ago and long since forgotten about.
These emails/letters are being sent en masse by a new breed of online predator known as the "Copyright Troll." Copyright Trolls extort money from bloggers and website owners by threatening legal action if you do not "settle" their copyright violation claims.
Thanks to a loophole in the copyright law, shady law firms and photo agencies are going after bloggers with demands for payments of $3,000 to $4,000 per image to make their problems go away.
The law firms and photo agencies usually go after small website owners and bloggers who will quickly pay their extortion demands without fighting back.
Copyright Trolls exploit a loophole in the law that leaves bloggers and website owners open to harassment and legal threats.
Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Safe Harbor provision, ISPs (and bloggers) are protected from threats of lawsuits if they remove the copyrighted material after being sent a cease & desist take down notice.
In order to take advantage of the safe harbor law under the DMCA, the ISP must be registered with the US Copyright office as the agent designated to receive the cease & desist take down notices.
Most bloggers are not registered as designated agents of their blogs. This is the loophole that the trolls are exploiting.
Under the DMCA safe harbor law, copyright holders must give you 72 hours to remove the image(s) from your server before they can sue.
Copyright Trolls use the loophole to sidestep sending C&D take down notices.
Unfortunately for Copyright Trolls, federal judges around the country are catching on to their racketeering game.
Racketeering is defined loosely as fraudulently offering to solve a problem through extortion (demands for money).
If you are a blogger or website owner who has received an email or letter from a law firm or photo agency threatening legal action for using copyrighted photos on your blog, you should contact an attorney who is familiar with Intellectual property rights laws.
If you can't afford an attorney, contact the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). They will put you in touch with a lawyer in your area who specializes in dealing with copyright trolls.
Do not contact the trolls before speaking to an attorney.
The best way to stop these trolls in their tracks is to let them drag you into court and prove their bogus claims.
They don't want to go to court and litigate these cases, they want quick settlements to line their pockets.
Paying the Trolls to go away only makes it harder for smaller website owners and bloggers who can't afford to fight back.
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