I use to have a blog where I posted humorous and light news articles as well as submissions from viewers. It seems I posted 2 photos that were copyrighted and I have received a letter from a law firm saying I may be liable for up to $150,000.00 in damages. The images were removed quickly but they have contacted me again and want me to call them. Am I not protected by DMCA and Safe Harbor? I am not Perez Hilton or some huge money making site. I am a poor, simple nobody with nothing to speak of. Now I can't sleep or eat because of the worry. Some help here would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
1 Answer from Attorneys
First, it is possible that your use of the photos here was not infringement if, for example, you were actually commenting on them directly, or the creator of them or his message. This falls under fair use.
Assuming, however, that you did infringe the DMCA is not applicable in this case for a couple of reasons, one is that you had direct control over the images and they were not posted to your site by a third party. The DMCA safe harbor requires a contact registration with the US Copyright Office and is intended to protect ISPs and webmasters from infringing user generated content.
That said, the statutory damages they noted will only apply if the work was properly registered with the US copyright office prior to the infringement occurring. Next, they would never be awarded anywhere close to that and in fact it is extremely unlikely it would be in their financial interest to sue you because that will cost them a lot of money and if you have nothing as you say all they will get is a judgment.
You have several options regards to how you respond. If you would like to discuss further over a free phone consult, feel free to contact me anytime that is convenient.
DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed on the basis of this posting.