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I violated copyright law. Now what?

Anonymous Coward writes | more than 7 years ago

The Courts

An anonymous reader writes "I am US-based and have recently been doing part-time subcontracting work for a friend in the UK who runs her own small marketing firm. She sells a complete branding/identity plan and if that includes a web site refresh, she calls me. The clients do not know who or where I am, or even that the work is being subbed. Like many designers, I often use Corbis and other photo merchants to mock up layouts for review. It is legal to download images ("comps") from Corbis to use offline for the this purpose. If the client likes the design/images, I get a quote from the photo vendor and the client has the option to purchase. If the price is too high, which it often is with Corbis, I turn to less expensive or free alternatives.

One of her clients, for whom I recently designed a site, just received a $25,000 invoice from a law firm in London representing Corbis, who claimed their content was on the client's site. The client of course was frantic when they received the bill and called my marketing friend, who called me. I investigated and sure enough, there were images on the site that were rightfully the property of Corbis, which I put there. In this instance I neglected to swap out the comps with legal images I purchased for the client from another online source before I made the site live. As a designer I respect content rights and did not, would not, maliciuosly steal images. The client and my friend had no idea.

I moved quickly to correct the situation — scrubbed the site and looked through other clients' sites to make sure nothing else had gotten through. I called Corbis and told their legal department what happened and they told me I would have to deal with the law firm, who handles "all our overseas affairs." I then sent a certified letter to the law firm telling them what happened in an attempt to exonerate the client, and by default, my friend. That was today.

I quoted the images in question on the Corbis site and the total would have been about $800. I did my due-googling and in the spectrum of copyright infringement, I want to believe I'm closer to the speeder than I am the serial-killer. Other photo houses (Getty) send out cease and desist letter and it's done. There is mention of similar situations on some forums, especially in the UK, but I can't seem to find any precedent as to what my fate might be. Does anyone have any idea? I made about $1,000 for the site about a year ago, and as much as it would pain me, would be willing to give that up to make this go away. But something tells me this is going to get ugly."

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