PicRights LTD Copyright Letters Making Noise In The US

 

PicRights LTD has recently come on as one of the most active enforcers of copyright for photos.   They operate out of Canada but appear to send a large volume of copyright enforcement emails to the US in effort to collect payments for their clients.  

 

They do not own the copyrights and they are not a law firm.    They, like ImageRights, CopyTrack, CopyPants, and Pixsy seem to be operating as a form of license enforcement agent— all of which, except ImageRights, operate from outside the US.   PicRights is making more noise than the others in this group, probably a result of the large size of their clients and number of claims they pursue, which based on information from letters and complaints on other forums, include:  The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, StockFood America and many others very large photo agencies.

 

PICRIGHTS COPYRIGHT ENFORCEMENT TACTICS

 

Their copyright enforcement efforts seem to be purely by email and to be very scripted.   They send unsuspecting users of photos notices via email along with instructions on how to pay online with a credit card.    The email also contains screenshots showing their client’s original image with the purported infringing use. Many of their claims involve images that have not been registered with the US Copyright office.   While registration is not required for them to enforce the rights, the copyright owner will need to register the image before actually bringing a lawsuit in the US.

 

PicRights is also not a law firm.  So, they cannot sue you. However, they refer claims to law firms.    Higbee & Associates seems to be the main step-up for claims that PicRights do not settle.   

 

IS PICRIGHTS LTD LEGITIMATE OR A SCAM?

 

PicRights is a real company based in Canada.  They have very big clients. They work with real law firms.    They are members of respected organizations such as the US based Digital Media Licensing Association (http://www.digitalmedialicensing.org/memberdirectory.shtml) and the EU based CEPIC (http://cepic.org/member/directory).    By all objective standards, PicRights is a legitimate company.    

 

That does not mean everything thing they do is legitimate.  There have been a couple of complaints on other forums from people who claim to have received demand letters for images that they properly licensed or for images that did not actually match the image they used on their website.   Their approach to fighting copyright infringement might be unsavory (or at sometimes sloppy), but PicRights is not a scam.

 

WHAT TO DO IF YOU RECEIVE A LETTER FROM PICRIGHTS

 

Start by doing the obvious.  Make sure you actually used the image they claimed you used.   If you did, then see if you have a license to use it. If you have a license that covers the type of use, let them know.  If you think you bought a license and cannot find records of the purchase, contact the licensing agent for the photo and have them check to see if you or your web developer purchased a license.

 

If not, consider a fair use defense.  If you used the picture in a way that provides commentary, criticism or news about the photo, it may be fair use.  About the photo means about the photo itself, and not the subject matter of the photo. Read more about fair use at: https://www.lib.umn.edu/copyright/fairuse

 

Check to see if the image is in the public domain.  If the image was published prior to 1978 without copyright notices, it could have become public domain, which means not enforcement action can be brought based on a copyright violation.

 

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE LIABLE FOR COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT?

 

Like many business decisions, there is no perfect answer to this question.  The path you choose will come down to your risk tolerance. Here are some options:

 

Ignore It And Hope It Goes Away –    Pros:  This may result in you paying nothing.  Cons:  Knowing there is a potential claim that could escalate into something more serous can be stressful.   Copyright claims can last for 3 years or more.   You could end up paying way more to settle it in court, not to mention the cost of hiring an attorney.

 

Pay And Move On –  Pros:  Quickly puts the matter behind you without the stress of negotiating.   Eliminates the risk of the claim escalating and getting more expensive. Cons:  Costs you the full amount they are demanding.  

 

Negotiate for A Lower Payment – Pros:  If they accept a lower offer, you save money and get the security and peace-of-mind of knowing the matter is behind you.  Cons:  You are paying money.  Requires negotiating, which some people find stressful.

 

Should You Hire An Attorney to Assist with A PicRights Claim?

 

Most of the PicRights claims we have seen are for amounts that are far less than it would cost to hire an attorney.   However, if the dollar amount they are requesting is substantial enough or if there are discrete issues, such as you believe it is not an infringement, you may wish to hire an attorney.     The amount of bad information that can be found on blogs and user forums is substantial, so make sure to only take advice from licensed attorneys.

 

If you have questions, comments or information about PicRights that you think others will find useful, post them below.

 

The Following Are or Were Known Clients of PicRights LTD

 

  • Agence France-Presse
  • The Associated Press
  • Aurora Photos
  • Design Pics Inc.
  • Warren Photographic
  • Science Source
  • Science Photo Library
  • CartoonStock Ltd
  • StockFood America

Please let us know if you discover others that should be added to the PicRights client list.

 

60 thoughts on “PicRights LTD Copyright Letters Making Noise In The US”

  1. First it was PicRights, now I am getting pursued by Higbee and Agence France Presse for the use of a photo of Obama that I found on Google. They are asking $2,200. Does not seem right to have to pay for a photo if it is of a politician and it is on Google. Thankfully, my neighbor is a lawyer.

    1. It appears that Higbee & Associates is the main recipient of claims that get escalated from PicRights. Google does warn that images in its search results may be protected by copyright, but you would not be the first person to make that mistake. Hopefully, your neighbor is experienced with copyright law and knows how to negotiate these claims. Make sure he or she knows that $2,200 is an opening offer and there is almost always room to counter, especially early on in the process and if you have some sort of defense.

  2. Trying to charge people hundreds of dollars for images that can be grabbed for free on the internet seems to be quite a scam. The fact that judges and the law allows this is crazy. People should get a warning or some notice. Even the Nigerian email scams give you some clue that by saying they are from Nigeria. It does not make sense for me to hire an attorney. Do they take payment plans?

  3. I received a letter from them because I used a picture I found online that they say belongs to AGence France Presse. I immediately removed the photo but I have not answered PicRights email. Was it a mistake to remove the photo because now they know I saw the email they sent.

  4. CTownCH – I did the same thing and took the pic down immediately. I have received another email and a letter that arrived from Wichita, KS (still PicRights) since then. Trying to decide next steps…keep ignoring or negotiate. I’m a small business and no one even saw the blog post I accidentally used the AFP pic on. What are you going to do?

  5. I have read comments on other sites that lead me to think that Agence France Presse does not pursue blogs unless they are a business or “commercial”. Was your blog personal or commercial? If the latter, you may want to let PicRights know.

  6. The position I am at is if you wait long enough they will send you to Higbee(Law Firm) and the link PicRights (Geoff Beal) will then show a legal surcharge of $700+. I was able to talk them down from $158 to $148, which made it seem suspect that they can do that so I never answered them after demanding documentation which looks like someone just scanned a signature from AFP and put it on the forms. I just received something in the mail from Higbee, but have not opened it.

    1. I am confused. What was $700 and what was $148? I imagine the amount Higbee that Higbee is asking is significantly more. I am very curious to hear what the new demand amount is.

  7. How do you say PicRights is not a scam when they are asking me to pay $950 for an image that I could have paid $50 to use? That seems like the definition of a scam. BTW, this is the second time PicRights has tried to hit me up in 3 years.

  8. Like the article said, one can dislike their practice of demanding that someone pay more for a picture after they get caught using it without a license, but charging more when someone does it wrong is a common practice in many industries, and the courts encourage it. The definition of a scam is a “dishonest scheme or fraud.” If you have evidence of them doing anything dishonest or fraudulent, we would love to see it.

    What happened the first time they hit you up?

  9. It seems like fraud to me (even if not provably so) because the request for compensation is implying that the courts would likely award a higher amount in damages, when in most cases there are no actual damages to the copyright holder, no profits realized by the infringer, and the work is not registered with the US Copyright Office and thus not eligible for statutory damages.

    https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/copyright-infringement-how-damages-determined.html

  10. @Katie. There are always some damages if the copyright holder charges for a license and the user does not pay for the license, because at a minimum, the copyright holder lost out of payment. The conflict usually comes down to the amount of damages, and, as you pointed out, whether or not statutory damages are available. Sometimes unregistered photos can be eligible for statutory damages under section 1202 if the user changes or removes authorship information. The user’s lack of profits may help the user as it might make it less likely that PicRights will want to take the claim to court.

  11. My understanding was that images lifted from the web could be used for educational purposes, i.e., an academic using the image in a lecture or in a lecture given for a non-profit organization. Is this not true?

  12. While the law does allow some uses for educational purposes under Fair Use, it is not as simple as being able to “lift” any image and attach it to something educational. The image must be the subject of the education, not simply illustrative of it. Simply put, if any other photo of the subject would have worked, it is probably not fair use and probably a violation of US copyright law.

  13. Picrights is claiming I need to pay $6900 for photos I used in a news brief for commentary, back in 2016, and those pics were made invisible for over 2 years so do not even appear on the siteI Can I just reply to them saying those pics were originally used for Fair Use and were taken down over 2 years ago and I never made any money from my news brief?

    1. Yes, you can claim fair use, but fair use is much narrower than it sounds. If you think the use is fair use because it is news reporting, the photos themselves (not the action in the photo) must be news. Regardless, PicRights might not know the difference. They are not a law firm.

  14. I am in the same boat as folks above. The last letter I received gave me 2 weeks to respond or they would escalate to an attorney. Again, it is France Presse. They want $700 and I am a small start-up business with a weekly blog that is mostly personal, just to drive traffic to the business website. $700 is a lot of advertising money for me and funds I don’t have as the business is still a TAX DEDUCTION and in NO WAY profitable. Not sure what to do but based on what I am reading here, I guess I had better negotiate it down as best I can? So frustrating and it really does feel like a scam…

  15. Pic Rights are contacting me regarding an image of my father I had posted on my blog when he and his cast mates won an Emmy several years ago. He would be furious to know that anyone is trying to make money off of an image of him. There’s been no license given to Pic Rights by the subjects in the image. Surely a red carpet shot is expected to be used for editorial?

    1. Yes, a photo on the Red Carpet is expected to be used for editorial. However, that does not mean the photographer does not need to be compensated for using the photo or that it cannot be copyrighted. You might have a problem on your hands. Congrats to your father, he sounds cool. 🙂

  16. Yes, you can claim fair use, but fair use is much narrower than it sounds. If you think the use is fair use because it is news reporting, the photos themselves (not the action in the photo) must be news. Regardless, PicRights might not know the difference. They are not a law firm.

  17. @Petra Yes, you can claim fair use, but fair use is much narrower than it sounds. If you think the use is fair use because it is news reporting, the photos themselves (not the action in the photo) must be news. Regardless, PicRights might not know the difference. They are not a law firm.

  18. i had a letter last year, unknown to me of any infringement, was a picture sent in 2007
    we took picture down immediately
    we now have a letter from a so called solicitor
    demanding £1500
    we bough picture from getty recently for £150
    this is extort money over the actual value
    what should i do

    1. Options might include:
      1. Make them an offer to settle (safe, small cost)
      2. Ignore them and hope they go away (some risk, could go well or become very costly)
      3. Hire your own solicitor to properly advise you on the matter (safe, but will get costly)

    1. PicRights is not a law firm or the copyright holder. So don’t expect them to sue you. That problem might arise if the matter gets escalated by the copyright holder to a law firm. Is your business in the US?

  19. I had been receiving monthly emails and letters for about 6 months for two pictures that had been shown on TV and on our family web page. The emails and letters demanded $750. These emails and letters came from the well known address in Canada. I ignored all of these. Then, one day I got a large envelope from a law office in California. On that same day, I also got a phone call from a “law office” in California.
    I told the person on the phone that I had received the pictures from the person in the pictures, and that the web page was a family site, not a corporation, and that we had zero money.
    The person on the phone said he would give those facts to his client, and hung up.
    I have not heard from them in 4 months.

  20. I am going through all this same stuff; PicRights contacted me about a tiny image I used from a Google Images search, that I used in another image as a title for a page on my personal portfolio website. I ignored them and they sent it to Higbee’s who are now relentlessly trying to ruin my life. I am 44: single, made $9.75 an hour before I lost my job due to COVID-19. I live in employer provided housing (grown-up dorms) and drive my parents old car. I told the law firm this, and that my website was absolutely not making money. They said I was “advertising my work”, and I should make an offer to show good faith. I said $50, not a penny more for anything, fees, charges etc. They “respectfully declined”, and graciously offered me $1000. I said I would have to consult a lawyer. They said, “You can barely even afford to pay $50, how are you going to pay for a lawyer?” CLASSY, huh!!?? A very professional display of our legal system’s grace and humility. I don’t know what to do, and it is causing me so much stress I am making myself physically ill. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about right now.

  21. I just got a letter from PicRights claiming they are representing Reuters. I am Christian blogger and neither image was used for commercial purposes. One image I have a link to the Creative Commons license noted in my blog post. The other one I thought fell under fair use. They are asking for $1100

  22. I received an email from PicRights a few days ago stating that I used their client’s photos and if I had a license ,I needed to present it.

    They sent a screenshot claiming this was posted to my site in 2019. Here’s the thing, it was not. I didn’t have a blog then, I’m now building it.

    I did find the post they claimed I posted to my website, and it is two different posts that seem to be pasted together with these pictures added to the top.

    I am a new company, and hiring an attorney is not possible at this time.

    Any ideas on what I can do.

    1. Options might include:
      1. Make them an offer to settle (safe, small cost)
      2. Ignore them and hope they go away (some risk, could go well or become very costly)
      3. Hire your own attorney to properly advise you on the matter (safe, but may get costly)F

  23. The way they aggressively demanded payment of hundreds of dollars out of the blue smelled a little scammy to me. I tried to figure out what it was even for, having no clue. A thumbnail image of a tessellation that I labeled was available on a supposedly free site. I used it to define the word to my students via closed internet group instruction during this coronavirus pandemic. I just can’t believe how they are being about this.

    1. I have heard from other users that they tend to be more inclined to negotiate with non-profits, schools etc. You can consider starting with a low offer and see where it goes. You might also want to have an attorney evaluate your claim and see if there are any valid defenses.

  24. Options might include:
    1. Make them an offer to settle (safe, small cost)
    2. Ignore them and hope they go away (some risk, could go well or become very costly)
    3. Hire your own attorney to properly advise you on the matter (safe, but may get costly)

  25. The editor on this page does in fact sound like he is in deed from oicright himself. His frogs are always in the side of oicrighys and always has a subtitle scare thrown in it to persuade the posters in here to pay up. I say someone should investigate this blog just to bring suit against someone giving construed and desptive advice

    1. If you have better advice or insight, feel free to add comments. My advice is always the same, contact an attorney and make a smart business decision. The reality is that most people who are posting here have a serious legal problem, sometimes there are defenses (license, fair use, etc), but in most cases, the best option to contact an attorney and that often results in the decision to minimize risk by negotiating a settlement.

  26. This is nothing but extortion. An image that could be purchased for $50 gets used and they want thousands or they are going to sue.

    We have a salon with a blog and sometimes comment on hair cuts we see online. We happened to comment on the Royal family and clipped a news photo.

    Now they want more money than we make in a month for the use of a photo that was probably seen by 10 people.

    It’s not right.

    1. Call it what you want, the practice of asking someone who infringes a copyright to pay more than the licensing fee is authorized by federal law and is even encouraged by case law. I am not sure what you mean by clipped, but if your comment was about the actual photo as opposed to the about the royal family, it might be protected by fair use. You should consult an attorney.

  27. Early this morning I received an email from PicRights claiming they represent Reuters. They’re requesting $350 for an image that we enhanced/altered for site consistency and recognition purposes. We are a US-based sports business & have countless enhanced images on our site, though the one in question was of international likeness, dissimilar to the other NBA-specific images we use.

    I’m under the impression that PicRights has scanned our entire site for these images? It’s rather absurd they were able to locate the image in question given it had been significantly altered.

    1. If the image is significantly altered, there is a good chance that their system will not recognize it as a copy. Also, if there is enough changed, it might be protected under fair use. You should consult an attorney.

  28. Update on my previous message: We replied asking what their prices were for future use, and we received a reply with an unwarranted 20% reduction on their original request of $350 (so $280 now). We have until 6/25 to respond according to them.

  29. Hi, I am from Brazil and I have a literary Blog with absolutely no money envolved and very low views and visitors. Last week Pic Righst sent me an email asking a big amount of money for one photo of AFP and this week they sent a new email with more 4 photos. Last week I puted down all the photos of my Blog in order to check everyone and use photos only from Unslash com. I am bvery surprised and confuse because I never made money withthat, I am jobless in the moment trying hardly to survive the pandemie in Brazil. It would be a good try to contat AFP directly? Thank you very much.

    1. Unsplash is a great place to get free photos. Unfortunately, I don’t know what to tell you as I am not familiar with the law of Brazil.

  30. I received email correspondence from Higbee & Associates. The question I have is, what if they’re trying to sue an alias, and the address they claim to have doesn’t belong to me either. Don’t they also need to send a cease and desist letter before trying to request money. This is why it seems like a scam or a quick legal money grab I guess you could say.

  31. Hi, This is crazy! They are going after us for an image that looks similar. The image we used was cropped and has a very dark filter. It’s hard to see what the original image was. This was done a few years ago, so I don’t know where we got it. The image they claim is also on free websites, so I feel this is trolling. Do they have a case if the image was cropped and altered?

    1. If a image is transformed enough it may be considered fair use. The fair use analysis is a complex, you probably should seek an attorney. Also, if the image is cropped so much that it only uses a small and insignificant portion of the image, the use may be allowed as it is considered to be de minimis, again, you can research these defenses or hire an attorney .

  32. We had a free pic on our commercial website for 10 years, and it looks like the pic was uploaded to Adobe Stock by Reuters for editorial use only last year.
    They are asking for $1k. Any leeway with the fact that it was only recently uploaded to Adobe?

    1. I am not sure what you mean by a free pic. At the end of the day, the price you paid is irrelevant. What matters is if you had a license (or a reasonable basis to believe you properly acquired one) to use the photo. If your question about leeway is meant to ask about negotiability of the $1,000 price, it is safe to say that these type of things almost always have some room to negotiate. Good luck.

  33. By Free Pic, I mean it wasn’t originally on Adobe or any premium stock photo site to our knowledge. There was no need for a license when we first had the pic on our site. So we believe we were using it legally. But now they are asking for $1K because the photo is now on Adobe Stock for a premium license. Does this make more sense?

  34. My company wasn’t an actual LLC until years after the image they noted. I got if off of Flickr but don’t have any info to prove it. At the time it was a personal blog with various posts and that’s long gone but now they are coming after me through my LLC . What do I do?

  35. Karen, u have a letter from Burness Paull too. I can’t tell if it a scam or not. I rang them and was put through to someone’s mobile voicemail. Which, I find odd and somewhat unprofessional. I also don’t know what to make of the lack of info on the internet about people receiving letters from Burness Paull. I contacted PicRights and they refused to confirm what solicitors they use in the UK to enforce infringement. So I’m confused and worried as to how to proceed.

  36. We used a small image (a football) on our website which was is part of a much larger image. This small image was and still is copyrighted by Getty ( as is the larger image). PicRights are saying the image is copyrighted by AFB . The image was removed over a year ago and PicRights are now sending me Emails & letters again. Can several companies copyright an image or part of an image ?

  37. Editorial use (noncommercial) of Reuters pictures cost $175 per image. There are restrictions but basically if you have it on your blog that’s what it costs.

  38. Just wanted to hop on here and ask a similar question in regards to picrights.

    I was recently e-mailed about some photo of kanye west which was already edited/manipulated in photoshop and grabbed from somewhere else on the web.

    The photo was used as album art for a free mix. The website isn’t a business/commercial either.

  39. I received a letter same as other posters on this site. However, the images PicRights is claiming on my website are not there and were never on the site at all. The “Proof of Use” links went to the same webpage, which does exist, but there are no pictures there. Does anyone have experience with this situation?

  40. I used a photo of a person who said I could use the photo, and they’re still trying to extort money out of me. the problem I have is that person who gave me permission to use the photo is no longer running the camp and i had taken the photo down before they sent me the letter so guess i will see them in court because i would rather pay a $1000 to lawyer before i pay them $500 for something had permission for

    1. Often times the subject of the photo is not the owner of the photo. Only the owner of the rights of the photo can authorize someone else to use display the photo. You might be able to get a consultation with a lawyer for free or a couple of hundred dollars. If you do end up going to court, it will likely cost far more than $1,000.

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