What is a copyright troll?

A picture is worth a thousand words, right?  Well, what if that picture costs you thousands of dollars?

Just when you think you’ve found the perfect picture to accompany your blog post or to include in your company newsletter, you see the words Images may be subject to copyright. No big deal, right?  After all, if the image comes up on a Google search it must be ok to use it.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  And if you’re not careful, a copyright troll will let you know just how much using that image without permission could cost you.

A copyright troll is someone that enforces copyright protection for their own purpose – typically through threats of lawsuits for a considerable amount of money.  And if ignored, the threat becomes much more aggressive.

A copyright protects original works of authorship that have some minimal degree of creativity. Things like photos, music, artwork, poetry, etc. can all be copyrighted.  So, when you use a photo for a newsletter or put some background music in a video without permission, you are infringing on the owner’s copyrights. And potentially making yourself a target of the copyright trolls.

If you have been accused of copyright infringement, don’t ignore it.  Do your due diligence to determine if there is any truth to the allegation.  If you are using copyrighted work, discontinue immediately.  And if need be, consult with an attorney.

A few other tips:

  • There are plenty of free and moderately priced services that you can use to find photos, graphics, etc. that are available for usage. These sites will typically tell you how to appropriately credit the author of the work.
  • Create an excel spreadsheet (or similar) to track where you found the photo, taking a screenshot of it and the date you used it. In the event that something changes, you’ll have the record of it.
  • When in doubt, don’t use it. You may think no one will know, but that is a potentially costly gamble to take.
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at Feb 24, 2021

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