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Artist Defense Photo Copyright overview

Posted by Steve Vondran | Jul 07, 2017 | 0 Comments

Photo Infringement Lawyer – The high cost of using unlicensed photos on your website, blog or social media accounts.


If you are located in the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) and you receive a notice of copyright infringement from a photo rights agency such as Getty Images or Artist Defense this blog will help you understand what you might be in for.  This is important public information because many people are not aware that using images, gifs, jpeg's, tiffs, etc. on your website or blog without permission of the photographer or author of the photo could be deemed copyright infringement.  Also, some clients believe these letters are a “scam” (and decide to ignore them not thinking this is a real legal issue) and in many cases the letters in fact are real, and the threat of litigation is also potentially real as may be noted in their letters.  This blog therefore is general legal information to help you make an informed decision as to how you might need to respond and defend yourself or your company.  Our copyright defense firm helps people facing these legal situations in the United States.

Who is Artist Defense?

According to their website:

“Copyright Claims Resolution – ArtistDefense is dedicated to copyright enforcement and claims resolution. Our goal is to resolve copyright infringements quickly, fairly and without resorting to the courts.  Their website references that they represent different rights holders such as:

They appear to be a company located in Canada but individuals or companies in the United States could be subject to receiving a letter.  Just where a potential lawsuit would be filed is unknown.  Here is a breakdown of their stated “infringement fees.”  As you can see, they can demand high fees to settle these cases.  If you don't pay, according to their website:

“If we're unable to resolve claims through our internal personnel, ArtistDefense engages external legal counsel in the USA and Canada who specialize in copyright claims resolution.”

They may also inform you in a letter that “ArtistDefense Inc. is owned by Masterfile Corporation, and was created in 2016 to provide photographers, illustrators and licensors of intellectual property around the world experienced and effective copyright protection. Masterfile has been actively protecting the copyright of its contributing photographers and illustrators for over 35 years and Masterfile is now extending its copyright enforcement and claims resolution services to other companies and individuals through ArtistDefense.”

Does Masterfile sue in federal Court for Copyright Infringement?

VIDEO:  Click on the photo above to hear Attorney Steve discuss this topic.  If you have received a demand letter you have to take it serious because there is some background evidence that Masterfile does in fact file a couple lawsuits per year.  Make sure to SUBSCRIBE to our popular growing legal channel.

Sample potential response from ArtistDefense

Here is some sample language you might encounter if you care faced with a photo rights issue that comes from this copyright enforcement group:

Re: Notice of Rescinding of Retroactive License


ArtistDefense has already contacted you with instructions to cease and desist using our client, Masterfile's, image in all instances. Included in the cease and desist letter was a proposal to settle this claim amicably, on a without prejudice basis, prior to litigation, conditioned upon;

(a) ceasing and desisting from any and all uses of the image;


(b) paying the retroactive license fee of $XXX USD.

Although you have removed the image from your website, ArtistDefense has not received payment for the claims that were attached to our letter. As explained in our letter, failure to pay the claim amount would cause us to rescind that retroactive license and seek instructions to initiate a legal action for copyright infringement.

The letter goes on to get even more aggressive:

“Regrettably, your failure to respect our client's copyright has left us with no alternative. Please note that pursuant to the Copyright Act, civil remedies for this infringement include compensatory, statutory and punitive damages, injunctive relief, delivery of destruction of infringing copies, and if litigation is involved, recovery of legal costs.

Copyright infringements are subject to statutory damages up to $30,000 per work infringed and $150,000 if the infringement is found to be willful. If you intend to resolve this matter prior to litigation, you must pay the amount noted in the claim attached to our previous letter. We expect payment to be made payable to “ArtistDefense Inc.” immediately. If you do not comply within five business days from the date of this letter, ArtistDefense will withdraw this proposal and refer this matter to outside legal counsel to proceed with a lawsuit for copyright infringement without further notice to you.

letters, cease and desist letters, subpoenas are more.  Call (877) 276-5084

Here is a list of some documentation you might want to request from the compliance group representative as part of your own counter-piracy investigation

Here are some general considerations to think of if you received a notice of infringement:

  1. Proof of copyright registration for the alleged infringed photo (if they have not copyrighted the photo, perhaps they are not really that serious about it).  Failure to register could also impact your legal rights.
  2. Proof of legal authority to represent the alleged copyright holder (do they have a power of attorney they can send you)?
  3. A lifetime sales history of the image in question (have they sold a ton of these?  Is there really a market for the image)?
  4. Is the picture, illustration, photo or artwork really original?  Copyright law protects “original works of authorship.”
  5. Ask for a basis on how they are calculating infringement damages
  6. Request all proof of infringement
  7. Look the company up on Pacer Federal Court Search.  Have they filed copyright lawsuits?  If not, perhaps there is more bark than bite.

These are some of the main things to consider, but is not an exclusive list.

Discuss your case with a copywrite infringement attorney

As you can see, this is important news for the public as they are not playing around, and some clients tend not to believe these letters are real and throw them away or ignore them which could lead to a lawsuit being filed.  So if you are in doubt whether or not a letter alleging photo infringement is real (ex. a letter from Getty images) call us and we will help you review the letter and the claims being made.  There is no charge for the initial call.

We handle cases of copyright infringement in the United States and we have helped many companies both large and small settle copyright infringement matters from software (ex. Microsoft or Autodesk audits with the Business Software Alliance), illegal movie downloads on torrents, DMCA take down letters, cease and desist letters, subpoenas are more.  Call (877) 276-5084.

About the Author

Steve Vondran

Thank you for viewing our blogs, videos and podcasts. As noted, all information on this website is Attorney Advertising. Decisions to hire an attorney should never be based on advertising alone. Any past results discussed herein do not guarantee or predict any future results. All blogs are written by Steve Vondran, Esq. unless otherwise indicated. Our firm handles a wide variety of intellectual property and entertainment law cases from music and video law, Youtube disputes, DMCA litigation, copyright infringement cases involving software licensing disputes (ex. BSA, SIIA, Siemens, Autodesk, Vero, CNC, VB Conversion and others), torrent internet file-sharing (Strike 3 and Malibu Media), California right of publicity, TV Signal Piracy, and many other types of IP, piracy, technology, and social media disputes. Call us at (877) 276-5084. AZ Bar Lic. #025911 CA. Bar Lic. #232337


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