Why I no longer use Art Work in my Active Rain Blogs

Mortgage and Lending with Mortgage Magic

The letter was not friendly. It said, "Pay us $5,000 and we won't sue you."

The letter was from a law firm in Los Angeles and the attorney represented an artist who artwork we used in a blog. The letter explained that we had used the artwork with out the permission of the artist.

We got the artwork from an online site that stated everything on the site was free and could be used.

I visited my attorneys office with our IT person who was really enraged over the request for the money and wanted to "do battle til death" (OK he's French) The attorney we were assigned to is a specialist in Copy-write Law and she simply told us to pay the money. She explained that even thought we took the art from a 'free' site that how did we know that the artist gave permission to the site to post his artwork.

I guess if the suit were for $30,000 or $40,000 that we would try to fight and would investigate whether we were wrong or being wronged. But at $5,000 our attorney encouraged us to pay the ransom. We did and I no longer  use artwork from the Internet - even if it says "free" or even if they will pay me !


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  1. Ginger Harper 02/12/2018 01:34 PM
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Sandra Paulow
Aspen Properties, Inc. - Pinetop Lakeside, AZ
REALTOR, Associate Broker, GRI, SFR

I got a demand letter a few years ago.  I contacted NAR and they told me this was a huge scam and they were working on putting a stop to it, however it was one of those things that was very hard to track down.  They even sent the letter to my broker.  It is a scare tactic to extort money from agents. 

That said however, I am very careful now what images I use and where I get them. 

Feb 13, 2018 07:44 AM #37
Suzanne Cochrane

I received a similar letter. It contained an image I supposedly used without permission. The problem (for the sender) was that I had never used that image for anything. The first time they contacted me I responded. They contacted me a few more times but I ignored them. Then it stopped. It's definitely a scam.

Feb 13, 2018 07:54 AM #38
Raymond Denton
Academy Mortgage Corporation - Irvine, CA
Simple Man

Happened to some friends of mine also, Doug.  But it was a Graphic, instead of Artwork.  They paid too.

Feb 13, 2018 08:49 AM #39
Matt Brady
Skyline Home Loans - Del Mar, CA
Lending With Competence And Character

Hmmm, first they should only charge you for the damages. What they would have charged to license a single use. You would have won this in small claims court for maybe a couple hundred bucks.

Feb 13, 2018 09:19 AM #40
Jim Lee
RE/MAX Shoreline - Portsmouth, NH
Portsmouth NH Realtor, Portsmouth, NH

That's why only use photos we've taken personally or, in the case of our professional headshots, paid the photographer and gotten  a written release to use. them. 

Getty Images are notorious abusers of copyright laws and too many unsuspecgin just pay up instead of taking action. 

Feb 13, 2018 10:02 AM #41
Dora Griffin
D A Griffin Financial.LLC - Fort Thomas, KY
NMLS 6380


Feb 13, 2018 10:03 AM #42
Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi
NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656 - New Lenox, IL
708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience

Thank you for sharing your experience, Doug Jones ... you cement my belief in paying for the right to use any artwork/photo included in my posts or marketing.  Your post provides a timely and important warning to us all ...


Feb 13, 2018 11:19 AM #43
Sybil Campbell
Long and Foster REALTORS® 5234 Monticello Ave Williamsburg, Virginia - Williamsburg, VA
REALTOR® ABR, SFR, SRES Williamsburg, Virginia

That was a hard and very expensive lesson Doug. I'm sorry that happened.

Feb 13, 2018 12:27 PM #44
Ann Nguyen
eXp Realty - Truckee, CA
Lake Tahoe Truckee Homes For Sale

That is really unfortunale...I will stop using the art work from the free sites and only use mine from now on. Sorry Doug!

Feb 13, 2018 01:38 PM #45
Anna Banana Kruchten CRB, CRS, Broker
Phoenix Property Shoppe - Phoenix, AZ
Arizona's Top Banana of Real Estate!

Doug I learned early on to only use our photos or purchased photos. Just yesterday day  a guy that suggested a free site to me - not a chance  am I pulling from a free site. Great post to remind everyone to not think free sites are really free. Bummer for you for sure.

Feb 13, 2018 03:07 PM #46
San Mateo County Broker Associate Mayra Espinosa
Realty ONE Group Alliance| Call 650-996-8961 - San Mateo, CA
Helping Families Buy & Sell Homes San Mateo County

What I will do if I use any photos or artwork is to put a link going back to the source. I understand the issue and will try to avoid using pictures form free websites. It's better to take your own photo to prevent this kind of problems. In the past, I have used a lot of images from free sources. Thank you for sharing!

Feb 13, 2018 05:00 PM #47
Margaret Rome, Baltimore Maryland
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

Taking your own pictures and making your own graphics eliminates this completely.


Feb 13, 2018 07:04 PM #48
Jerry Lucas
ABC Legal Docs LLC - Colorado Springs, CO
Mobile Notary Colorado Springs, CO Notary Training

If a copyright is registered with the US Copyright Office, the owner can sue for actual damages or statutory damages up to $150,000 for intentional infringement, as provided by federal law. But if the infringement was not willful, the court may reduce the amount to $200.

If the copyright was not registered, the owner can sue for actual damages (lost profits or license fees) or the unjust profits earned by the infringer from the use of the copyrighted work.

The copyright law for calculating damages is at 17 US Code Section 504(c).

There is an educational article at Copyright Infringement How are Damages Determined

Search the Copyright Office catalog for registered copyrights by title, owner name, keywords, or registration number. Narrow search results to item type "Visual Materials" in search limits for photos, images, logos.

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and this information is not legal advice.

Feb 13, 2018 07:18 PM #49
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg IL Area Real Estate

I just don't believe it. I think that you (or someone in your posse) snatched a photo off the internet & are now caught. I would just file it under 'lesson learned' & another good warning to the rest of us here. 

Feb 14, 2018 05:32 AM #50
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

There is no end to the ways one can make and take money...Find what works

Feb 14, 2018 07:42 AM #51
Jim Crawford
RE/MAX Paramount Properties - Atlanta, GA
Jim Crawford Atlanta Best Listing Agents & REALTOR

I only use clip art or something or photo I took myself.

Feb 14, 2018 10:16 AM #53
Mike Bjork
American Pacific Mortgage - Redondo Beach, CA

Sorry to hear that happen to you Doug!  Wonder if it's some type of new scam or shakedown that's happening.  Figuring that $5k is a good chunk of change, but it would cost more to do battle in court, so most will pay the ransome.  Was it even possible to just remove the art from the post and not pay anything?  Seems like most give you an option, either remove the work or pay the fine(?).

Feb 14, 2018 10:45 AM #54
Zurple Marketing Team
Zurple - San Diego, CA
Zurple, Client Generation Software for Agents

We are so sorry to hear that! Do you mind sharing the "free site" you got it from? You can message us this if you like. We try to recommend sites for agents to find royalty free stock photos and want to make sure the site is one we are not recommending.

Feb 15, 2018 08:37 AM #55
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Wow!  Sorry to hear that, but I guess that's a lesson for all of us.  Thank you for sharing your story. Time to create your own art!  

Feb 15, 2018 02:31 PM #56
Frank Spencer

Hi Doug,
Sorry, that happened to you. I use Adobe Stock. It is a subscription base and it comes with a nominal cost. But it gives you both Vector and JPEG images which are specifically licensed to you (and anyone else who subscribes). It is a great service

Mar 27, 2018 04:50 PM #57
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Doug Jones

Mortgage Broker - NMLS 286668
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