UKC

Copyright law - FB admin responsibilities

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 ablackett 05 Oct 2021

I got a FB message today from an outdoor photographer, which suggested that because someone had posted his copyright protected images on a FB group which I am admin for, his legal team could send me a letter requesting legal and admin fees, which could be very expensive.

I know the chap who sent me the message, and I believe him that he has a company sending out such letters.

It feels to me like there would be no way such a claim would go through court and rule against me, but if I was faced with such a letter it could be very tempting to pay up and avoid the hassle.

Is there any legal basis to FB admins being liable for stuff posted on their groups?

The group is about running, not a place which is primarily for the purpose of breaching copyright - just for absolute clarity.

In reply to ablackett:

Well, I'm not sure if he can take action against you, but someone has posted copyright images without permission, so you, as group admin, should remove them, thank the copyright owner for bringing it to your attention, and apologise.

Probably worth adding a note to the group info, asking people not to post images without permission; it's just polite, really.

Post edited at 21:58
In reply to ablackett:

At the end of the day your FB group is posting copyright images without payment and permission.

People in my running club do the same thing, and I can see how it pisses off someone who earns their living as a professional photographer.

In our case we got a polite email from the photographer (a local bloke most of us know) asking people in the club to refrain from posting copyright images. I've long since deleted the email, but I think a lot of photographers now pay a small fee to some agency or other who deal with these matters independently of the photographer. Sounds like you've had similar.

I'd encourage your group to cough up a couple of quid if they like the photos so much.

 wintertree 05 Oct 2021
In reply to ablackett:

Sounds to me like a legitimate beef but a massive over reach in effectively trying to bully/intimidate you into doing what is actually FB’s duty - because they know (statistically speaking) that you’re the legal soft touch.

I’d delete the photo, message the poster to explain why, message the complainant to tell them the photo is gone and the poster informed on why. I’d not mention fees.

I’d consider spending some money with a solicitor to reflect the attitude of the complainant on them.  I have no time for implied legal threats being used to coerce or bully people beyond actual authority/responsibility.

It’s hard to protect revenue as a digital photographer; I have a lot of sympathy.  Conversely I have no time for scumbag intermediary legal scum writing carefully phrased letters to scare/bully people into taking the correct actions for the wrong reasons.  They could have just explained it was copyright and asked you to delete it.  They chose to intimidate you, a random unpaid community volunteer, because they judged it cheaper than engaging with FB.

In reply to wintertree:

I agree there's more than a whiff of intimidation going on; not sure exactly who, or what motivation is behind it.

In reply to captain paranoia:

> I agree there's more than a whiff of intimidation going on; not sure exactly who, or what motivation is behind it.

I'm trying to remember the exact wording the photographer used in our clubs case, but it was pretty much along the lines of having to engage a 'no win, no fee' scumbag legal intermediary (as wintertree so eloquently put it) in the hope of offsetting the losses in earnings. 

 mondite 05 Oct 2021
In reply to Ridge:

> I'm trying to remember the exact wording the photographer used in our clubs case

Wouldnt the logical escalation be them taking on facebook as to why things were deleted quickly enough as opposed to why the admin didnt,

In which case good luck to their lawyers against facebook.

 ablackett 06 Oct 2021
In reply to ablackett:

I’ve asked him if I can post links to his site, and sent a screen shot of an example where I did so and FB inserted the watermarked image under the link. He informed me that

‘It's the large watermark, it shows images are screen shot from the site. The legal bods just scan social media and other outlets and the watermark algorithm gets picked up. When that happens its out of my hands as part of the reduced annual premiums I pay. They have upped their game for catching people. The first I know us when I get the £3.99 payment for an image after they have got their fees. I've have close friends get caught. So in answer to your question you'd get caught out.’

Ive replied thanking him for the education and saying that I have previously posted links and encouraged folk to buy images, however in future I will be more careful.

 spenser 06 Oct 2021
In reply to ablackett:

So the guy is an idiot and telling you not to encourage people to buy his images? Big brain move there! 

In reply to spenser:

Indeed, if he has someone taking people to court for sharing links to his own website then he needs to have a serious word with them. Although I find it hard to believe that they’ve ever actually managed to win a case like that. 

 deepsoup 06 Oct 2021
In reply to Stuart Williams:

>  Although I find it hard to believe that they’ve ever actually managed to win a case like that. 

There's no need for them to even try if their business model is to intimidate as many people as possible and just take the money from the ones who pay up.

 ablackett 06 Oct 2021
In reply to spenser:

> So the guy is an idiot and telling you not to encourage people to buy his images? Big brain move there! 

That's exactly what he has said, if I (or someone in the group) shares a link to an individual photo i'm allowing the photo to be on FB so it's my responsibility.  I'm absolutely blow away by this, we're not talking someone here who does the occasional bit of outdoor photography, he's a big and popular figure.  He's pissed me off to a level it's hard to convey on here and I'll make sure I tell everyone who will listen about his business model.

In reply to ablackett:

Surely his first approach should be to ask you to remove the photos? Nice and simple.

 ablackett 06 Oct 2021
In reply to Currently Resting:

He did, but at the same time he said his legal bods might pursue me, and if they did there was nothing he could do about it.

In reply to ablackett:

This sounds rather like a parking shyster and a company that has appointed one.

In reply to ablackett:

> He did, but at the same time he said his legal bods might pursue me, and if they did there was nothing he could do about it.

I know this all seems a bit brusque and over the top but I have some sympathy with the photographer.

It sounds as if he's signed up to have a law firm monitor unauthorised use of his photographs and enforce a licence.  Seems like a perfectly sensible thing for a professional photographer to do, if he isn't a lawyer and doesn't want to spend his life trawling the internet for examples of people using his work. 

The law firm will contact infringers and suggest that they need a licence.  They should probably also suggest that they stop infringing and that there may be legal consequences if they don't, but perhaps they are being a little heavy handed, possibly based on their experience of people ignoring anything less than at least an implied threat.

I doubt that anyone is likely to be sued over a trivial, low level, non-commercial infringement; apart from anything else, they have an obligation to show they've tried to reach an amicable settlement before resorting to the courts.   

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 ablackett 06 Oct 2021

> The law firm will contact infringers and suggest that they need a licence.  They should probably also suggest that they stop infringing and that there may be legal consequences if they don’t 

> I doubt that anyone is likely to be sued over a trivial, low level, non-commercial infringement; apart from anything else, they have an obligation to show they've tried to reach an amicable settlement before resorting to the courts.   

 

He has said they will charge me admin and legal fees if they contact me, that’s the bit which has pissed me off. I wasn’t aware of the images as they had only gone up that afternoon and I was at work.

The attitude of ‘nothing to do with me, if the legal bods charge you then that’s not my fault’ draws no sympathy from me whatsoever. He has employed the legal firm, if they chose to pursue the person who posted the images I would have no complaints, but as an unpaid volunteer to threaten to charge me or take me to court or whatever with absolutely no legal precedent is morally repugnant from both the photographer and law firm.

In reply to ablackett:

> FB inserted the watermarked image under the link. 

Now i understand; a link to his website was posted, and FB, 'helpful' as ever, has trawled that website and inserted an image from it. That puts a very different light on it to my original comment.

Does seem to be:

a) FB's fault

b) pretty stupid of the photographer or his legal agent to take steps that will prevent traffic to his website, presumably a shop front.

c) probably a good idea to optimise his website so the image FB finds when his website is referenced is not marked, assuming he wants business. I'm sure FB will have advice on this.

d) he needs to give better instruction to his legal agent, assuming he wants people to link to his web shop via social media.

Post edited at 15:57
In reply to captain paranoia:

One way to deal with this sort of thing is to make the Facebook group closed (or whatever the term is now), so only those who are members can see what's in it.

 Tringa 06 Oct 2021
In reply to ablackett:

I found this -

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland/consumer/copyright1/the-internet-filesharing-and-copyright/calculating-financial-compensation-for-online-copyright-infringement-s/

- which might be useful if there is any claim for compensation.

Speaking as a layman it doesn't appear much, if any, compensation, would be due as it doesn't look as if the owner of the photos has lost anything by the use of them on the FB page and also it would be hard to claim the FB group had made any profit out of the use of the photos.

Dave

 deepsoup 06 Oct 2021
In reply to captain paranoia:

> a) FB's fault

I'm all for blaming them for many things, but nope.  All they do is illustrate the link with a snapshot of the page the link leads to.  There's no 'trawling' involved.

> b) pretty stupid of the photographer or his legal agent to take steps that will prevent traffic to his website, presumably a shop front.

Yep.  But the 'legal agent' doesn't give a shit - they just want the money, and if they're driving the photographer's customers and potential customers away that isn't their problem.

> c) probably a good idea to optimise his website so the image FB finds when his website is referenced is not marked, assuming he wants business. I'm sure FB will have advice on this.

The whole point of watermarking an image (and making it relatively low resolution) is so that you can share it freely online.  If people then want to buy it, the idea is that they'll pay for a high-res non-watermarked version.  (Ideally a print, maybe in a nice frame - all of which is 'added value' to improve the photographer's profit margin.)

> d) he needs to give better instruction to his legal agent, assuming he wants people to link to his web shop via social media.

I don't think better instruction is going to help - I agree with the comment above that they seem very much like 'Parking Eye' or similar.  They don't give a shit about the photographer's business, they're just looking to extract as much money out of as many people as they can, whether they've got a legal leg to stand on or not.

1
 steveriley 06 Oct 2021
In reply to ablackett:

Weird sort of Catch-22. I'd see our club or race page getting into exactly the same sort of mess. We have a couple of photogs who are super generous sharing stuff. I'd always encourage people to spend a few quid on legit images they like. People posted watermark stuff occasionally, it happens. Sounds like the people he's employed need to adjust their strategy, but I don't know how you'd do that?

In reply to deepsoup:

> All they do is illustrate the link with a snapshot of the page the link leads to.  There's no 'trawling' involved.

I don't think it is just a snapshot. If you link to a story, say on itv.com (one I've just found on my FB feed), it posts the link text (which is the full URL to the ITV page), pulls out a picture, and presents a pale grey banner underneath with the headline. This isn't a simple rendering of the page; it is actively extracting information. Now, it may be that the web page is constructed with tags to tell social media sites what the title and image should be. If so, that's what the photographer should do with their website.

b) and d) are related. Yes, I agree the 'legal firm' doesn't give a shit; no doubt they are claiming a lot more than the £3.99 they pass on to the photographer. But the photographer needs to instruct them not to behave that way, or tell them to piss off and stop acting 'on his behalf'.

> The whole point of watermarking an image (and making it relatively low resolution) is so that you can share it freely online.

In this case, the point of watermarking images is so that they can be traced back to the source, and copyright fees or extortionate legal fees be claimed for violation of copyright. It is not to allow the image to be shared, but to trace when the image has be shared in an unauthorised manner.

Post edited at 19:39
 deepsoup 06 Oct 2021
In reply to captain paranoia:

> I don't think it is just a snapshot.

I do.  Not literally perhaps, as if I looked at their page on my phone and then posted a screenshot of what I was seeing.  But what they're constructing is a kind of 'thumbnail' of what you can expect to see if you click on the link.

> But the photographer needs to instruct them not to behave that way, or tell them to piss off and stop acting 'on his behalf'.

Couldn't agree more. 

And reading the link that Tringa posted above, given that the OP (and Facebook) gain nothing financially by the photo appearing on FB, and the photographer loses nothing (indeed actually gains something, given that the whole point of him putting the photo on his own website in the first place is to display it in a 'shop window') - I think the OP should be referring the photographer and his legal team to the case of Arkell vs Pressdram (1971)*.

> In this case, the point of watermarking images is so that they can be traced back to the source, and copyright fees or extortionate legal fees be claimed for violation of copyright.

Apparently so.  But that's not why a reputable photographer does it.  It's usually to allow them to display their photographs publicly without inadvertently giving them away.  You can hardly sell a picture without letting prospective customers look at it.

Edit:
Oops - forgot the "Arkell v Pressdram" link.  Best exchange of legal letters ever!
https://lettersofnote.com/2013/08/07/arkell-v-pressdram/

Post edited at 20:27
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In reply to deepsoup:

> Not literally perhaps, as if I looked at their page on my phone and then posted a screenshot of what I was seeing

It isn't. I've just given you an example of how it presents a lunk to itv.com. The thumbnail looks nothing like a rendering of the web page.

 deepsoup 06 Oct 2021
In reply to captain paranoia:

> It isn't.

I agree.  It isn't literally a 'snapshot' - poor choice of words on my part.  It's a representation of what you can expect to see if you click the link.

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In reply to deepsoup:

It is an extract of text and a thumbnail of either first image it finds on page or special text and an image that can be marked up for FB to find. It certainly isn’t a rendering of the page but an extract of some content from the page.  How it is rendered in FB has bugger all to how it’s rendered on the website.  FB does not extract the style sheets from the page. Which it would need to do to achieve such an aim.

Post edited at 21:29
 deepsoup 06 Oct 2021
In reply to Currently Resting:

Yes, it's a kind of thumbnail type thing. And as such is broadly representative of the content you can expect to see if you click the link.  Was that not what I said?

Now, may I just refer you to the reply given in the case of Arkell v Pressdram?

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 ThunderCat 07 Oct 2021
In reply to deepsoup:

> Oops - forgot the "Arkell v Pressdram" link.  Best exchange of legal letters ever!https://lettersofnote.com/2013/08/07/arkell-v-pressdram/

Liked that.  forgot I was in the office for a second and laughed out loud.

 Duncan Bourne 07 Oct 2021
In reply to ablackett:

I'm just trying to understand the context here.

In the intial act that brought the complaint did someone in the group you administer a) post a watermarked picture belonging to this chap without permission/acknowledgement of the creator or b) did someone in your group post a link to this persons website which came loaded with an image (ie how FB normally does it)?

If a) then there has been copyright infringement and a polite request to take it down should suffice. Pursuing for money would be futile unless you continued to leave it up or had been making money out it yourself.

If b) and the intention is to advertise (by which I mean advertise the website of the creator so others can link to it, not use the picture to provide a nice backdrop with the tag line "If I use your picture for free it will be good advertising for you".) then I would say that comes under fair use. It would be like Disney trying to sue you for posting a link to the little mermaid showing on your local cinema

 ablackett 07 Oct 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

> I'm just trying to understand the context here.

> In the intial act that brought the complaint did someone in the group you administer a) post a watermarked picture belonging to this chap without permission/acknowledgement of the creator or b) did someone in your group post a link to this persons website which came loaded with an image (ie how FB normally does it)?

It was initially (a) someone in the group downloaded a watermarked image and posted it, that afternoon I (the admin) got a threatening message saying their legal bods might charge me expenses and legal fees.  The initial poster took it down.

then I looked back through the group and found that I had previously posted links to his watermarked images, with a comment along the lines of "why is everyone else smiling when i'm not".  I asked the photographer about this post and he said that his legal bods would treat that as if I had posted the image as I was "allowing it to be up there" so they could come after me and if they did there was nothing he (the photographer) could do about it.

 

 Duncan Bourne 07 Oct 2021
In reply to ablackett:

So technically copyright breach. However having taken it down I would think any further approach to be heavy handed and possibly counter productive. The nothing I can do about it is bollocks are his "legal bods" working for him or he them?

In reply to deepsoup:

It’s a single image and a very short bit of text. It can’t be broadly representative by definition.   It’s a bit like me grabbing the first image and some text from a news paper. Then you knowing what the rest of the content on the newspaper page will be, based on that.

Post edited at 18:00
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

> The nothing I can do about it is bollocks are his "legal bods" working for him or he them?

I think we have decided they're probably working for themselves, really, just using their 'clients' as a means to excuse their business model.

In reply to ablackett:

I doubt you count as the publisher, that would be facebook, esp if it's facebooks functionality that is generating the image. If a magazine publishes a copy writed photo, the holder would go after the magazine not the editor personally. Point them in the direction of facebook, make the group private, and kick them out.

(I am not a lawyer!)

Post edited at 14:04

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