Dante,Thank you for your follow-up. I do appreciate the trust you have put into my information. One comment, if I may--I cannot advise you on what to do as I am not your attorney. While I can answer your questions and I can explain options, I cannot make a decision for you.Having said that:There is no obligation under US law that a victim of copyright infringement first send a cease and desist letter. If the violation is real, it is up to the copyright holder to enforce his own rights in this instance. He could file suit for damages otherwise and seek fines of up to $30,000 for each infringement, and if he can prove that the infringement was intentional, the fine can be increased up to $150,000 per each event. This is in addition to filing fees, court costs, attorney fees, and direct damages if any. This is why for most, paying the fee is much cheaper because getting attorneys involved for defense will invariably be more expensive (a decent intellectual property attorney will charge $400-$450 an hour, which would eat up that fine quite quickly). The defense that you had no idea the image was not protected is not a valid defense--the courts do not accept claims that are based on ignorance in this instance. Please understand that I cannot tell you what to do, but at least in terms of costs, typically paying the fine is the cheapest outcome available.Good luck.
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