Intellectual Property Law

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We just received a letter from an attorney saying that an…

Customer Question
We just received a...

We just received a letter from an attorney saying that an image on our non-profit media website infringed on one of his clients' copyright. The image was taken from a Youtube video and modified by us. The Youtube video does not state where the image is from.

Lawyer's Assistant: What written documentation do you have?

The attorney is asking for $6750 I have the letter from the attorney

Lawyer's Assistant: Have you talked to a local attorney? Has anything been filed in court?

Nothing has been filed in court

Lawyer's Assistant: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?

That's it

Submitted: 5 months ago.Category: Intellectual Property Law
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Answered in 1 minute by:
12/19/2017
IP Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 5 months ago
Legal Eagle
Legal Eagle, Lawyer
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 11,275
Experience: Licensed to practice before state and federal court
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Hello! I am a licensed attorney, admitted to practice in state and federal court. I have a nearly 100% satisfaction rating (click here for more info) so all that means is that you can count on me to help today. Because I want to provide you with the most accurate answer possible, do you mind if I take a moment to review your question?

Please keep in mind that our conversation does not include an attorney-client relationship and this is for general information purposes only.

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
Hi. Please let me know if you have any other questions.
IP Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 5 months ago

you bet. Thanks for your patience. Generally, there is a copyright violation when one party uses another's valid copyright. A work becomes a new work when there are substantial changes to that copyright. If you modified the video and added it to a new piece of work, then it is not a copyright violation. As far as responding to the attorney, you may want to explain to them that you in fact have a copyright on this new work and that you are not violating any copyright laws by having used that image because you altered it in a manner that it would not infringe on their client's rights to enjoy the copyright. It's similar to using the beat from a song and added trumpets and a violin. It may have the same melody, but if it's new work, it creates a new copyright. You could always work on just settling as well if you don't want to battle with them. I would offer them something like $3,000 and have them promise they will not sue or contact you again. I have to step away from my CPU momentarily; however, I will be back if you have additional questions.

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
Just to be clear, we took an image in a Youtube video, then added a separate image on top for use in a news article on our website. What is the definition of substantial change? How much is substantial enough to make it a new piece of work with a new copyright? I think this attorney is a copyright troll. What's the typical discount to seek? Is it 50% or can it be lower?
IP Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 5 months ago
Thanks for the clarification. There is no specific definition of a substantial change. It's really just a matter of fact and only a judge or a jury could say for certain. I would do some research on that attorney to find out if they have filed lawsuits in your state claiming copyright violations. If they found your YouTube channel, then it is likely that they are looking for any kind of a violation. Typically, I would offer the 50% just as a good-faith way to settle the dispute and write it off as a cost of doing business. If they do not like that, then the ball is going to be in their Court to decide whether they are going to bring a lawsuit or just let it die.
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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
The attorney is Higbee and Associates. They are all the way in CA and we're in NY. I think their practice just scours the Internet for copyright infringement of photos. What can we do to protect ourselves or identify what kind of Photoshop work is allowed?
IP Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 5 months ago

Typically, I advise my own clients is to look at altering the copyright of someone else as like a sliding scale. The more altered it is, the less likely any court would find them to be in violation of the copyright act. Also, the more you put your own personal spin on the image, the more likely a court would find in your favor as well. You can't perfectly protect against trolls; however, you can protect against verdicts against you in most cases. Did you have other questions for me?

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