Is it infringement? Or Fair Use?
I have always felt that a picture indeed can say 1000 words, however, in the politically charged, Liberal Media driven, that picture can have the power of bias propaganda behind it and it is all in the persuasive text how you will perceive that picture. One can hardly scroll through any Social Media page and not get bombarded with clever, snarky and sometimes downright outrageous Memes. They come in all shapes and sizes and in all possible genres. They aren’t selling anything, are not trying to persuade you to shell out your dough to join an MLM scheme…no they are all trying to make their own point, to share the opinion of the MEME MAKER!
“One can hardly scroll through any Social Media page and not get bambarded with cleaver, snarky and sometimes down right outrageous Memes. .”
So when I received a letter from a company called PicRights, demanding I remove picture of Loretta Lynch that had been made into a Meme, as early as 2014 AND pay them some money to have had that Meme posted on my site since 2017, I had to do a little bit of research into this company and to see if perhaps I was in violation of any type of Copyright infringement. In my mind, and to the best of my abilities, the point of 4earth is to expose the truth, to educate and to sometimes satirically mock what I see going on politically, environmentally and socially and I sometimes use pictures to further that process.
My research into this company–Pickrights led me to believe a few things. First, they prey upon people, mostly bloggers who receive this intimidating letter stating that they MUST PAY UP, in some cases Thousands of Dollars, and if they don’t they will be sued by a Highfalutin law firm for even more money than the letter asked for. And secondly, they are in Canada and sending them a registered, certified letter, costs about as much a the amount they are asking for!
So, don’t get me wrong, no one should profit off someone else’s work; musicians, filmmakers, artists et al labored hard and in most cases spent some dollars to produce their specific work and I certainly think they should be protected. However, and especially in the society we currently dwell in, people have a LOT to say and in the case of 4earth and our content, our main goal is to do educate people based on our content. SO, if we feel strongly that a photo of Loretta Lynch, Obama’s Attorney general is not conveying the truth, then we will use that photo under the auspice of The Fair Use Doctrine to educate and criticize…AND the more I researched this topic, the more complaints I began seeing from people regarding these companies that are attempting to extort money from people who are following the Fair Use Doctrine in their postings.
I am going to post the letter we wrote in response to Picrights threatening, dunning letter to us because I think it is crucial that those of you who are writers, bloggers, independent journalists and the like, understand your rights in regards to The Fair Use Doctrine and not be taken in by companies such as these.
3 Concorde Gate, 4th floor
Toronto, ON. Canada M3C 3N7
Attention: Ahmer Hussain
“To whom it may concern,
Regarding your correspondence to us (enclosed) concerning alleged copyright infringement… Images used on 4Earth.com rely on the US Copyright Doctrine of FAIR USE and are not ever intended to be used for copyright infringement or for profit. The images, quotes and other information used on this site are materials considered beneficial to society in reporting, critique and or criticism, which also entitled us to our First Amendment protection and used in accordance with the US Fair Use Doctrine. Section 107 of the Copyright Act defines fair use as follows:
[T]he fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.
The political image in question, blog posted January 22, 2017 can be found displayed in a Myriad of other internet sites which may also be protected by the US. Copyright Doctrine of Fair Use, Section 107. Furthermore, this image (without the meme content) can also be found https://www.nationalreview.com/2015/04/disgraceful-republican-cave-loretta-lynch-andrew-c-mccarthy/ dated April 25th, 2015, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/11/08/obama-loretta-lynch-senate-republicans-mitch-mcconnell/18706401/ Nov. 8th, 2014 as well as many other online sites from 2014-2019.
The specific image found on 4Earth.com’s blog is a critique on a political issue and was turned into a Meme to further our point and provide a visual as comment and criticism of Ms. Lynch’s political hypocrisy when she was with the Obama Administration in 2014. There is no motive for profit in the posting of this photo or any other photos found on 4Earth.com. As noted in our long-standing mission statement:
“We created 4Earth.com almost 2 decades ago to open a discussion for the truth on environmental, humanitarian and political issues that affect all of us.
We are dedicated to exposing false narratives and propaganda regarding issues like global warming, climate change, the negative effects of progressive liberalism and downright lies.”
As you can see this site has always been purposed for criticism, comment, reporting and teaching the otherwise ignorant in these political and/or environmental matters. I firmly believe that posting and creating a Meme from this 2014 photo of Loretta Lynch, to make clear our blog comments, we have NOT violated any copyright infringement and believe that the use of this memed photo covers the Copyright Fair Use requirements for criticism, comment, teaching, research, and reporting. However, if after considering the above, you feel we are still in violation of copyright law, please send your specific reasoning as to how Fair Use does not apply in this instance and validation of your representation of “Associated Press “AP” of this particular photo to our legal counsel: …”
Now we happen to have some pretty awesome attorneys that we work with, but don’t let the fact that you may not worry you. If you are following the rules set forth in The Fair Use Doctrine and you receive such a letter, go consult with an attorney, most will offer a free consultation, and you will find that you are on the right side of the law.
For an extremely informative read regarding a different company (Getty Images) read THIS BLOG! And the follow up HERE. And for a commentary on Getty Images extortion scheme gone wrong, THIS one will make you so happy!
Caretaker of 4earth and an Independent Journalist.