You may have noticed that I’ve taken down many of the images accompanying my articles. Well, as you might imagine, there’s a story behind that.
…One day a guy calls me up and asks if I’ve read his email. He has a harried tone. Somewhat breathless, much like a 12 year old tasked with a critical assignment from dad.
No, I had not read his email. Nothing personal, I had not even received it but here he is hours later in a panick, clearly following up on the most important email in the history of mankind.
“What’s up, let’s talk”, I offer. I’m a decent guy and he’s chased me down through several disconnected hoops to actually call me at work. I don’t even know my office number, but this guy does. But no, he doesn’t want to talk. A curious reason to call, I think. He issues a vague threat and says that I need to read his email and respond ASAP.
The email arrives and it doesn’t take long to see that it’s a threat, and a joke. Clearly this guy – my opinion – is an ass and he’s threatening me with language I’m not sure he even understands. He’s cobbled together copyright legalese and wrapped it with threats and just plain dumb analogies.
The crux is this. He claimed that I used his photo without his permission – which is true. He claimed I did not credit his work – which is not true. And he claims that I owed him large sums of compensation for the income loss my use cost him – which is as ridiculous as it is kinda and frighteningly true.
Let me be clear. From a litigous point of view, I should not have used his image. I apologized and took it down immediately.
For most, that would be plenty. I’ve had people ask that I remove photos before and I’ve had people ask for a modified reference, and I’ve had people appreciate my use of their photos. Never have I had anyone try to email me legal text books and liken my use of a photo to that of someone squatting in my house or taking my car. Apparently the difference between digital and physical products escape some.
You bump into someone at the mall and you apologize because you were wrong but never do you expect them to pull out their willy and hose you down. Never do you expect the response to be more confrontational than the original and innocent offense.
…unless of course you’re dealing with an ass_ _ _ _.
You’ve heard of patten trolls. People that patten vague concepts like “electronic written communication” and then use it to sue Google and Yahoo for offering email accounts. This type of societal leach is out there and somehow my small sliver of the internet tripped over one. And figuring that the stinch of one such ass might attract others, I elected to remove most of my photos.
And that was something I hated to do. Aside from the time it took to confirm the copyright on every image and then remove so many of them, I was honestly invested in every one of them. On too many occasions I spent more time trying to find the perfect image than I did preparing the entire article.
So as much as I’d like to replace them all… I don’t know if it’s worth the investment. It might be easier to change the site theme or forgo images altogether. We’ll see.
The copyright troll and I finally settled, for less than his original demand and well more than 1 digital copy of his snapshot was worth. Through our discussions he repeatedly offered threats and took great joy in telling me more than once that I was screwed and that he had me over a barrel. Only once did I break with my reasoned and logic based responses and share that I thought he was “being an ass”. His response bore out my observation when he shared that he was fine being an ass so long as I sent him money. And so character is revealed.
Towards the end of the process, as the settlement was in sight he emailed something to the effect that he appreciated dealing with me, that I was smart and engaging and that had we met under other circumstances we might have shared a great conversation or even a friendship. I hope he feels better for thinking that, though I doubt he even believes it.
I know I don’t.