FAQ: I have been invoiced by, or am being sued by Aerial West LLC for unauthorized use of Aerial West LLCs’ footage or images (Intellectual Property). What is happening?
We found you using our image without permission. To use it, you must have permission in the form of a license. We usually are invoicing you for use, and can offer terms for continuing use if both parties agree. We might love to work with you! But, for now though, we have to sort this infringement first.
Q. Why are you invoicing and/or suing me?
Don’t take it personally. The reality of the situation is that it is much more time consuming and costly to deal with cease and desist notices, and in the past those have been ignored, so the lawsuit invariably comes after anyways. As you can imagine, this amount of time builds up, and this can hurt productivity for actual paying clients.
Put simply, I can’t waste too much of my time on your infringements or hope you’ll cease and desist, and frankly, you already got the value from my work, so it is fair that you compensate.
Q. Is this for real? Will you take legal action if I do not respond to letters/invoices/etc?
Yes, absolutely. We have already had to do this in excess of 100k+. You may wish to consult with an attorney to evaluate your situation.
Q. You have made a mistake! I do have a license for the image!
I am so sorry. Please forward the license to us immediately, and we will discount your license for the trouble.
Q. Why are you asking so much? Your site lists uses starting at $750.
Unfortunately simply paying the fee does not cover the time it took to discover the infringement, pay a lawyer, and initiate whatever action we’re taking. Infringements also much cost more than a normal license, otherwise there is no deterrent from infringing. Typically that is 3X.
We’d much rather have had you license the video or image, trust me. But here we are.
Q. It’s just a video/photo! Surely it can’t be worth that much.
It is not “just a video/photo.” Cinematography and Photography is our business and how we support ourselves and families. What we create is our lifeblood.
Q. But I have found a lot of other companies using the video/image, too! You can’t single me out.
Many companies license my work to display on their websites without a distracting copyright mark. You may have seen them on one of my client’s sites.
Also, copyright enforcement is nonexistent in many developing countries. I have no way of dealing with infringements on the part of Vietnamese companies, for example, but they are still visible via Google.
Q. Why aren’t you answering my messages?
In legal disputes it is bad form to speak to the defendant. Once you have settled your invoice or any the issue with the lawyers, then we can talk. Again, it’s not personal.
Q. People receiving Getty’s notorious demand letters just ignored them, and most of them were fine.
I am not Getty and my lawyers are not Getty’s lawyers. Considerably more effort and attention went into researching and vetting your case than went into Getty’s ham-handed, largely automated process.
Q. Why didn’t you just contact me directly? I would have removed the image.
There are dozens of you every month. I don’t have that kind of time.
Q. What if I just remove the image?
Since you already used the image, you owe license fees. Plus, I’ve already incurred legal costs and I would like those back.
I probably shouldn’t tell you this, since it is legal-ish advice and I’m not a lawyer, and since it is against my financial interests to tell you, but if you plan to deal with the letter by ignoring it, you may be best off not removing the image at all. If you remove it after receiving notice, then the legal team knows you’ve read the notice and have knowingly chosen to duck the fees. Should we end up in court, a willful infringement may put you on the hook for substantially more damages than you would face from a blissfully ignorant infringement.
Q. How do you decide to enforce a case?
If the infringement appears on a personal blog, Facebook, Instagram, forum, or web page, corporate or organizational webpage, product, broadcast, or similar, even if it is just a small internal image, I generally can’t legally ignore it. If you are a 501(c)(3) charity I will ask you license it for free, so we at least have an agreement so i am protected. But I generally reward good charity work, even if you were breaking the law.
Q. I am hiring my own lawyer, so there.
All the better. Lawyers are trained to deal with these situations. They can explain to you exactly what the law is. Things will go more smoothly with lawyers. I already pay mine.
Q. You are a horrible person, and I will tell everyone how horrible you are for this.
I suppose you could. A reputation for aggression deters future infringements, and that will save me a great deal of trouble going forward. Just tell the truth; libel and slander are whole ‘nother thing.