Be careful what you take online.

In this world of interconnected computers, you have to be super careful about what you THINK is free to use. Even if you ARE careful as I try to be you can get burned.

Case in point.

I found an image a couple of years ago which on my searches for weekly images for my picture fiction CLAIMED to be royalty free – at least where I found it, I wouldn’t have used it otherwise. Well about a year later I get this weird email from someone claiming that they are:

a) not a lawyer and

b) representing the owner of an image on my site for which they wanted a bunch of money.

According to them, I could just pay them over a thousand dollars for my supposed copyright infringement. Yeah, right, I’ve seen phishing scams before. You claim to represent someone with no visible proof and some idiot pays you and off you go, rich from the moron who fell for your scam.

I blew them off but still removed the image – just in case it was copyrighted and not free as where I found it said.

Another year passes and now I’m getting emails from an actual law firm (I checked them out and they’re real, even if they only have a 2-star rating from the Better Business Bureau) shouting cease and desist and demanding $1,200 in payment for royalties.

So I’ve been going back and forth with them dickering over how much the request should be for and attempting to prove that if I did indeed take their copyrighted image it was without malice or knowledge that it WAS copyrighted and not free as advertised. They don’t care, I guess when you’re a 2-star all you care about is finally making some money not the fact that you’re trying to prosecute someone who had no illegal intent nor inkling that what they were told about said product was a lie.

I’m now waiting to see if they’ll accept my lower offer – I’m willing to bite a (much smaller) bullet and pay some fines for my stupid use of their product without realizing it was protected.  The lesson here is definitely to make sure you are on an ACTUAL legit site with royalty free products before you use them. Don’t just trust Google to serve us valid free image sites.  I’m also going to take screenshots of the page with images I grab in this way so I can show the website where I got it rather than trying to convince someone I wasn’t a pirate myself.

I’ve learned a hard lesson; you’ve been warned.

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