Purported “litigation watch” website is [no longer] violating our copyright on a photo

ACE Group's Philadelphia Headquarters Building
ACE Group's Philadelphia Headquarters. Copyright ©2009 Steven L. Lubetkin. All rights reserved.
ACE Group's Philadelphia Headquarters Building
ACE Group's Philadelphia Headquarters. Copyright ©2009 Steven L. Lubetkin. All rights reserved.

Update, 12/21/2010, [5:06]pm. The photo at left has been removed from the ace-insurance-litigation-watch.com website and replaced with a stock photo. We received no response to our takedown notice, other than the removal of the photo. No apology for violating our copyright, no offer of compensation for the license they should have purchased. Very typical of online copyright abuse.

Sometimes the guys who claim to be wearing white hats are really wearing black ones.

A website that presents itself as helping individual insurance policy holders keep watch on litigation connected to a major insurance company (full disclosure, ACE Group, which is one of our best clients) apparently is more interested in generating litigation against ACE than it cares about respecting copyright law.

A photograph I made for ACE of its Philadelphia headquarters is being used to illustrate the rogue website.

Typical of commercial photography assignments, I licensed the photograph to ACE Group for its unlimited use, but retained ownership of the copyright in the image.

At ACE’s request, the photo was provided to the Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this year to illustrate an interview with ACE’s chairman.

The website apparently grabbed the photo from the Inquirer‘s website and used it to illustrate a story. They did not have permission or a license from the copyright owner, i.e., me. I have downloaded the photo from the litigation website and examined the internal data in the photo. It clearly shows they took it from the Inquirer and never asked for permission to reuse it.

They knew exactly what they were doing. They opened the photo and removed the copyright information from the IPTC metadata fields dedicated to copyright information, but they didn’t remove it from the caption field.

This suggests that they sort of knew what they were doing was wrong.

We gave them an opportunity to rectify the situation. We notified the website of this copyright violation this morning (December 21, 2010). There is no identifying information available on the website.

Its domain registry is through one of those anonymizers that blocks you from finding out who actually owns it.

There are no email addresses on the website, only a contact form to submit email comments.

You have no way of knowing who’s behind the site.

So much for transparency. And we warned people a few blog posts ago that if they violate our copyrights in the future, we’re going to call them out publicly for it. Enough being nice and privately asking them to take it down. Enough having our work pirated.

So are these the kind of people you want to trust to represent your interests in legal matters, people who blithely disregard the copyright laws protecting private property rights?

I thought not.

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