Copyright Infringement – A Rise In Spam Scams

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Copyright infringement is no joke and should be taken seriously by all businesses, but what happens when you receive an email stating that you’re violating copyright, that doesn’t look 100% real?

We’ve seen a rise in our clients receiving spam emails regarding image copyright usage, but they can often be tricky to identify if they are real or spam.

A quick reminder to never, ever, ever click links in emails or contact form submissions from unsolicited sources. We know you know, but a reminder never hurts hey?

Copyright Infringement Spam

In the last two years, we’ve had a number of clients reach out to us after receiving emails from people posing as photographers or lawyers, stating that our clients are using images that infringe on copyright law.

These emails go on to ask for proper credit and payment for the image usage, often using wording such as ‘I am a Trademark Attorney of Simpson Turner Legal Services’. They may also quote the law, for example ‘This letter is an official notification under Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). If this is unresolved immediately we’ll have to proceed with filing a DMCA legal case’. 

The email will then include a link to view proof or make payment. Scammers are typically looking to make a quick buck from worried website owners but these links could even contain a virus or trojan.

How to Identify Scam Emails

Although it can be a scary email to receive, before you go into panic mode read the offending email closely and review these points to identify if the email is real or spam:

  • Is it vague? Spam emails will usually be vague and won’t link to your website pages (again, do not click on any links)
  • Does the solicitor’s/lawyer’s website exist? Type into Google the name of the business that has supposedly sent the email and see if they exist
  • Do they have a last name? The person that is signing off the email should have a last name if the enquiry is real
  • Is there a time sensitive threat? If so, it’s likely a scam. Authentic solicitors will not usually include a specific date in their first exchange with you
  • Is it through a website comment or contact form submission? Legitimate legal threats and genuine firms are more likely to send a letter by recorded mail

Chances are, if you’re not sure on any of the above then it will be spam.

Copyright Identical Images

A couple of years ago, we found ourselves in a genuine copyright infringement kerfuffle – we were told that an image we were using was infringing copyright. It was only after Alison looked very closely that she noticed the image we had used, and the one we were told we were infringing on, were taken from slightly different angles and were from different sites (with different licenses) – meaning we had indeed used the correct image that had been sourced legally. 

How to Avoid Copyright Infringement

Copyright is everybody’s responsibility – if you’re using images on your website, social posts etc, you need to ensure that you source licensed images. Note that photos have different licences (editorial, royalty free, public domain) so check which images can be used for your marketing activity.

Here are a few websites that you can source images from:

  • Unsplash
  • iStock
  • Shutter Stock
  • Adobe Stock

If you need help with your website content creation, contact us today to see how we can help.

Headshot of Rebecca young new team member


Rebecca helps to keep the team organised and supports all of our clients with day to day activities and content. She also runs all of Ballyhoo's internal marketing.