Cease and Desist…or buy a license?


Copyright enforcement doesn’t always come in the form of a subpoena notice from an ISP. Often, copyright holders will send alleged infringers a cease and desist letter, indicating that they believe their rights are being infringed, and requesting that the activity stop, without communicating any demand for payment. This invites an opportunity for discussion and negotiation without the hostility often linked to lawsuits. If negotiation in response to the cease and desist letter fails, copyright holders typically then file a lawsuit. This course of action allows for some disputes to be resolved prior to litigation—thereby saving tons of time and reducing (or eliminating) the expenses associated with a full lawsuit.

However, not everyone follows this path—some companies, like Getty Images, have been skipping the cease and desist letters entirely, and simply sending demand letters and threats of lawsuits. These large-scale copyright holders seem to be taking evidence of potential infringement and using it as part of an enforcement-based business model.

Others have been taking a different tack, and treat alleged infringers as potential licensees. Dreamline, a stock photo website, sends alleged infringers a cease and desist letter that also includes the option of obtaining a license, for as little as $8, so that the alleged infringer can continue using the copyrighted image legally. The company’s CEO said that this model has been successful for them, and often leads to purchases of larger licenses. This route may be cheaper in the long-run for people who receive the letters.

No matter what the pattern, those who receive letters alleging copyright infringement should contact an attorney knowledgeable in copyright law to look into the validity of the claim, and make sure that they are informed about all of their available options.

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