Copyright Troll Demands SCVAPT Remove Image of Congressman Mike Garcia
Santa Clarita – On April 21, 2022, we received an email from a company called PicRights, demanding a $400 payment or “validation of license” for use of a photo in one of our posts. The company bills itself as “dedicated to copyright enforcement and claims resolution.” Make no mistake, the company is a copyright troll operation; they crawl the web looking for unlicensed photos and send letters demanding payment without considering fair use, or even the size of the website being sent the demand. Their spooky language, rife with “legalese” can be enough for someone to make a payment for fear of being taken to court.
The photo that PicRights claimed was unlicensed was one of Congressman Mike Garcia:
PicRights claimed the photo was actually this one, of former President George W. Bush:
We have no reason to believe that Congressman Mike Garcia directed PicRights or was otherwise involved in this attempted extortion; however, it is notable that PicRights employees or “automated systems” failed to notice that George W. Bush is not Congressman Mike Garcia. One could be forgiven for mistaking one for the other though.
Below is a copy of the exchange in full.
(Edited for formatting and removal of phone numbers, addresses, emails, or official looking numbers)
From: PicRights <Thu, Apr 21, 6:50 AM>
Subject: Image License Inquiry for The Associated Press – Reference Number: [Removed]
PicRights International Inc. on behalf of The Associated Press
Telephone: [Removed], https://www.picrights.com/
April 21, 2022
Via physical mail and email
Santa Clarita Valley Advance Post Times
Image License Validation for The Associated Press – Reference Number: [Removed]
Dear Santa Clarita Valley Advance Post Times,
As an introduction, PicRights (“PicRights”) provides licensing compliance services to third-party content owners, including The Associated Press. Please note that PicRights is not a law firm and I am not a lawyer.
You can find validation of PicRights’s authority to act for The Associated Press on The Associated Press website at: https://www.ap.org/contact-us/copyright-compliance
PicRights has noticed that imagery represented by The Associated Press has been displayed on your website, social media or in media accessible from your website: http://www.scvapt.com/. However, The Associated Press has been unable to find a license for this usage of the imagery by your organization.
At the end of this message, we’ve attached a visual reference of the imagery and its use on your website, social media or in media accessible from your website.
Our goal in contacting you is to ascertain if you hold an active license for this use with The Associated Press or with any other entity authorized by The Associated Press to license and distribute the imagery:
- If you do have an active license for the use of this imagery, we kindly ask you to send us your valid license / authorization, by visiting https://resolve.picrights.com/[Removed]/ Password: [Removed]and clicking the “I have a license…” link; or
- If you do not have an active license for the use of this imagery, we request that you remove the imagery from your website, social media or in media accessible from your website.
Please be aware that removal of the imagery alone will not resolve this issue. We also require payment of compensation in the amount of $400.00 for the past unauthorized usage of the imagery.
You will find further information about this matter along with payment options by visiting https://resolve.picrights.com/[Removed] / Password: [Removed]
We would like to resolve this time-sensitive issue as soon as possible and request that you take action within 14 days from the date of this correspondence.
We fully appreciate that this is a very difficult time. With that in mind, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter with you, in the hope that we can achieve a resolution.
If you believe you have received this notice in error or have questions, please contact us with your reference number [Removed] at [Removed].
On behalf of PicRights and The Associated Press, we thank you for your cooperation and look forward to assisting you in resolving this matter.
PicRights International Inc.
[Ed. Note: Phone Number Removed]
[Ed. Note: Email Address Removed]
DISCLAIMER: PicRights International Inc. is not a law firm and the compliance officer named above is not a lawyer. You are encouraged to seek independent legal advice with respect to this claim.
To learn more about PicRights and this specific matter please visit: https://resolve.picrights.com/[Removed]/ Password: [Removed].
This correspondence is without prejudice to PicRights’s and The Associated Press’s, rights and remedies, all of which are expressly reserved.
WARNING: This e-mail message is intended only for the named recipient(s) above and may contain information that is privileged, confidential, subject to copyright and/or exempt from disclosure under applicable law. You are hereby notified that any unauthorized use of this transmission is strictly prohibited. If you are not the named recipient(s), please immediately notify the sender and delete this e-mail message.
Catalog Image No. 18104475390183
Proof of use under
From: Jerome Horwitz <[email protected]> <Thu, Apr 21, 4:05 PM>
Subject: Re: Image License Inquiry for The Associated Press – Reference Number: [Removed]
Greetings Mr. Pigeon,
I am the current editor in charge of the Santa Clarita Valley Advance Post Times. Your notice has been received and understood.
As a matter of policy, we publish demands from copyright trolls on our website for public consumption. However, on this one occasion we are going to extend a courtesy to allow you to:
- apologize for your invalid claim, and the inconvenience it caused us in replying to your email
- retract your demand
- make a considerable monetary donation to Creative Commons: https://www.classy.org/give/313412/#!/donation/checkout
We would like to resolve this time-sensitive issue as soon as possible and request that you take action within 7 days from the date of this correspondence.
From: Steve Pigeon – PicRights <Wed, Apr 27, 10:13 AM>
Subject: RE: Santa Clarita Valley Advance Post Times – Unlicensed image from AP – Ref: [Removed] – CLAIM CLOSED
Dear Mr. Horwitz,
I am responding to your email of April 21st regarding a license inquiry you received from us on behalf our client The Associated Press (“AP”).
Firstly, PicRights is not a “copyright troll” as you characterized us. I have attached a Statement of Authorization (SOA) from AP validating PicRights as their representative in resolving copyright matters – and this claim specifically. You can find further validation of PicRights on the AP website at:
You would be well-advised to read that AP statement before passing judgment on PicRights.
The SOA includes confirmation by AP of their rights in the image. You can see the image and its related information on the AP website at:
The usage on your website removed President George Bush and his lectern from the AP photo and replaced it with a photo of Congressman Mike Garcia at a different lectern. Your art director did an excellent job of switching the persons in the foreground but the background is identical and our claims preparation personnel believed your publication’s use of the AP image in this way constituted copyright infringement… which led to the automated notice you received from PicRights in my name.
However, when I was preparing my response to you, I recognized the changes made to the image and compared both versions carefully. I then sent both versions to our copyright lawyer for assessment under the fair use provisions of the Copyright Act. The lawyer confirmed to me this morning that he believes the usage by your publication would be deemed fair use in this case.
Based on that assessment, we have closed the file on this claim and you can rely on this email as confirmation.
I apologize for the trouble caused – and I compliment your art director!
End of communication
Jerome Horwitz is a Santa Clarita native. His family traces their lineage all the way back to the 1960s when his grandparents moved to the area to start a farm in what is now Castaic Lake. Growing turnips proved unfeasible below water, so they got out of farming and started a donut shop specializing in Bear Claws. Jerome enjoys watching paint dry, and lurking in local Facebook groups.