Jan. 23 2013 09:03 AM

Our readers tell us what they think

As I was leaving the small-claims courthouse in regards to a copyright/contract issue with a very large law firm, I saw CityBeat and read your article, "Geek vs. Troll" ["News," Dec. 5]. As a very small photographer/stock agency that's dealing with multiple infringement issues as well as contract usage of my images, I found your article very one-sided.

It seems everybody who either looks at the copyright "DMCA" issue or comments on it says that people like me who are trying hard to protect our rights and just keep our businesses afloat are abusing a system. Not one article or comment that I have seen looks at the fact that everyone who takes an image without permission is stealing. There's really no excuse; if it doesn't belong to you, you must ask permission.

Copyright law is really very simple; it's not complicated like the rest of the legal system. In fact, it's one of the slowest at evolving. Most people who run afoul of it do it inadvertently, but quite a few do it very consciously. They know it's very time-consuming to find the infringement and expensive to enforce, with generally small awards compared with the cost to enforce, and a lot of people just shrug their shoulders and walk away instead of protecting their rights.

I'm having to go after multimillion-dollar law firms, Grammy-winning songwriters, multinational companies and other photographers, and the list gets longer. Every one of those people / organizations have legal staffs or are involved in copyrights themselves. Nowhere in your article do you even mention that some of the biggest infringers are the corporations who feel that they do not have to abide by the rules.

I understand the wild, wild west of the Internet, but let me ask you a question—if you had your car stolen from your driveway and lost your job because of it, would you want the person who did that punished? Or if you had an article that you wrote taken, reworked in a minor way, resubmitted and a Pulitzer was awarded to that other individual, would you want that person prosecuted or at least you compensated for your loss? It really is no different; once an image is stolen, it's passed around from infringer to infringer and all value of the image is lost. I lose the ability to license that image, which, in essence, puts me out of business.

Some of the worst are people who write blogs—your "citizen journalists." If they want to be a journalist, they need to follow the same rules as any journalist and get permission to use an image or someone else's work, not cut out the copyrights to enhance their credibility or avoid paying a small fee for the usage. They feel that because they saw it on the Internet, it's free. I'd bet if it were a valuable object to them, they'd have a different opinion.

Normally, to get a take-down notice from web agencies, someone has to complain to Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn or any of the other bloghosting sites or web companies. They're required to provide some sort of proof that whomever they are complaining about violated their copyrights. I have done takedown notices to some of the above-mentioned organizations, and I'm required to substantiate my request with quite a bit of proof. Some on both sides abuse that avenue, but to receive a DMCA notice is something totally different, and to equate the two is doing a disservice to your readers. It also gives a false impression to those who infringe that their rights are being restrained when, in fact, they could really be in quite a bit of trouble.

Art Neill gives the impression that receiving one of those notices is an extortion attempt, but I would like you to ask him if the person who infringed, cut out the copyrights and placed the infringed material into a blog or website without the copyright owner's permission is violating any provision of U.S.C. Title 17 Copyright Act, and if the person is violating the copyright act, does the copyright owner have the right to protect his property in any and all means provided by the law? Mr. Neill also states that they are there to protect the little guy from large media companies and copyright holders. Is he insinuating that copyright holders have no rights? For that matter, are you?

K.E. Pack, Ramona

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