An Imagined Response to a Copyright Thief

I take copyright protection of my photos seriously. My photos are my livelihood. And protecting my livelihood is paramount to keeping a roof over my head, my dogs and cats fed and my spouse happy.

To enforce my copyright, I use Pixsy, which I’ve written about before. I recently engaged them to seek resolution regarding a local boutique that helped themselves to one of my photos.

When Pixsy pursues a case, they reach out to the infringer and ask for a licensing fee. In this case, they sent a request for a $1200 licensing fee (if the thief had only licensed directly, it would’ve been a lot cheaper…though they’re getting off easy for that amount…U.S. copyright law allows for over $100,000 per violation.

Occasionally, upon receiving the documentation from Pixsy, the infringer will reach out directly to me to try to settle. Unfortunately, at this point, that ship has sailed, as I’m legally-obligated to a) utilized only Pixsy to resolve these issues and b) not communicate with the infringer, as this could harm the case.

Look, I know it sucks to receive a legal document asking you for money. But you know what also sucks? People using your work without permission. Sure, it might be a photo you could’ve take yourself with your iPhone, but you didn’t. You Googled “whatever”, downloaded the first decent search result, pasted it into your website and called it a day.

My copyright statement is clearly listed on my site. Google Image Search results clearly show my copyright:

I use this plugin to surface licensing schema:

As mentioned, occasionally, the infringer will email me directly. For this recent thievery, I received this email:

Hi Matt,

I sent this same note to your Instagram DMs but I’m emailing just to make sure you see it..

This is [REDACTED] with [REDACTED]/ We are a 4 person company (my in-laws, my pregnant wife and myself). We are based in prosper and unintentionally used one of your copyrighted images (prosper silos). We never used it with a product, it was just at the bottom of our homepage. My point is we truly did not use it to profit and removed it the minute Pixsy reached out. I apologize that we used your image without permission, but they are trying to get $1200 from us, which would be a pretty big hit… given that we have north of 2k followers and really like your work, would you be open to us giving you a shoutout post and story as an apology? Would mean a lot if we could avoid the fee. Or could we just pay the cost of the photo on your website?

Would appreciate your understanding here – thanks man 

Call if you’d like to discuss [REDACTED]


Unfortunately, since I’m contractually-obligated to not communicate, I’m only able to come up with this imagined response:

Dear criminal,

While you might be a 4 person company, I am but a one-person company and though my wife is not pregnant, if she were, I’d realized that that’s not relevant.

Unfortunately, copyright theft is still, as you can image, “theft”. And, also unfortunately, “a shout out post and an apology” isn’t accepted by my mortgage-holder as legal tender. By your logic, I could wander into your store, steal a few items and just post an apology to Instagram and get off scot-free. However, I imagine that if I were to come into your place of business and steal an item, you’d immediately call the police and have me arrested, prosecuting me to the fullest-extent of the law.

See, these situations are not that different. Copyright violation is a crime and is theft and I, as a fellow small business owner, should be free to pursue any legal remedies available to me, just as you’d have any shoplifter arrested.


Questions? Comments? Concerns?