The last several days have been a bit unnerving for me. In the end, it turns out it was quite a scam, but it was still something that took my attention and troubled me nonetheless.
As many of you know, I have been blogging here for over three years now. What began as a test and a forum for me to explain what I do a bit better to my customers, turned out to be a habit and a personal accounting which has brought me many wonderful friendships.
Looking back on my past blogs (they are all here on www.lumberjocks.com), I see that in the beginning posts, they were pretty much business. As time went on though and I had so many nice, encouraging thoughts, I felt as if I was here having coffee with my friends every morning and things became more ‘loose’. I began telling not only of business experiences, but of personal ones as well, as friends sometimes do.
My love of cats and sometimes odd sense of humor took precedent over discussions of woodworking and painting, and many times when I had little or nothing that was exciting to talk about, I dressed up my post with one or two of the thousands and thousands of silly cat pictures found here on the web, or ones I took myself.
These pictures weren’t to “sell” anything as those of you who read know. It was to bring a smile to your day and hopefully give you a light start to it in these sometimes hectic and troubling times. I am a firm believer that our attitude towards our lives strongly dictates the outcome. (“We follow where we focus” is one of my favorite sayings.) I can’t begin to tell you how many hundreds of emails and notes I receive from strangers who read this blog on a daily basis and say it is part of their morning routine. They also say how much they appreciate the smiles and joy it brings to them each morning and look forward to it. That is what really keeps me writing every day – even on the busy ones when I have a million things to do or not a lot of otherwise interesting information. If I can begin my day with bringing happiness to others – even a small amount – than I am already starting out feeling great.
The other day however, I received a notice from one of the “big” image sites. To make a very long and complicated story short – in it they accused me of using one of their images in one of my posts here almost a year ago. This was not a “legal notice”, however they were demanding a large sum of money from me to compensate them for my misuse and profiting from “their” photograph.
You can imagine my distress, as well as Keith’s. We had just had our best month ever on the site and things were beginning to roll in a good direction with our business and we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel for all of our hard work and effort. It truly blindsided me.
I am always very careful about using my silly cat pictures, and even the non-silly ones. I try to find the proper attributes to the photographers, and whenever possible, I link back to their sites. I know on more than one occasion, as when I used prints that are for sale, that it has caused readers of my blog to go to their sites and make a purchase. The exposure that I give them is a good thing.
But apparently this company is in the habit of threatening ANYONE for ANY types of uses of some of these pictures. Even though they have not been given exclusive rights to them by the photographer (the picture in question is STILL available on a Flickr site for free download and doesn’t even OFFER you a way to pay for it) they have decided to send out thousands upon thousands of demand letters to people, in hopes that it would scare them into blindly paying.
Naturally, both Keith and myself were sick when we received this letter. After all, we weren’t making patterns from the photo and making money off of it. It still however shook us to the point of making a trip to our lawyer to see what he would advise.
We had dropped off the letter when Keith made the appointment and fortunately for us he had a time slot open the following day. Needless to say we didn’t get much sleep or work done. We spent the day trying to research and see what they were able to do. Of course we immediately removed the image from everything, but we were still concerned that they would seek further damages.
What we found was pretty sickening. It appears that this company sends these threatening letters to thousands of people a week, in hopes of scaring them into paying this “settlement” and avoid further harassment from them. This letter is not from the photographers or even from lawyers, but from the company itself. They rarely have taken further action – and when they did, it was only in a case where someone blatantly used images for advertising and made direct profits off the photos and failed to heed to the take down warnings, but instead they did continue to harass many people to pay the “settlement” even though it was not ordered by a court or any legal means. I am sure that many people DO pay because before we saw our lawyer, Keith and I were ready to pay ourselves.
Our advice from our lawyer was to ignore it. He told us it was a scam as much as those SPAM emails from overseas which tell you that someone left you several million dollars. He said that if we hear again from them, he will deal with it for us but for now he said to not think of it anymore, as it had no legal basis whatsoever and we shouldn’t worry about it anymore. We were very relieved.
We also talked to the people here at Lumberjocks.com and they told us the same thing – it was a scam and we should disregard it. They had seen it so many times before they didn’t even need to read the letter.
While we felt much better about things, it really did make me think. While I am not profiting from the funny cat pictures that I offer here in the site to entertain you all, I do realize that there were times when I failed to give proper attribution on some of them and it concerns me. As a designer, I see my work all the time in the form of other people’s finished projects and while some DO give attribution to me as the designer, some do not. I would never think of approaching them though unless I saw them taking credit for the design as their own. And even then I would hope it would be a just a misunderstanding that could be straightened out easily. Unless they were blatantly selling my patterns.
For a brief moment, I considered stopping the blog here altogether. It does take a bit of time in my morning to write, and if I had to look over my shoulder about everything I posted and wrote, it wouldn’t be worth it to me.
But I did miss the people and friendships that I have developed through writing here. For many of you only communicate with me through this blog and it is a wonderful way for people to not only learn, but to have some fun. I also find that by trying to think of inspiring things to talk about with you each morning, I am also inspiring myself to do the best job I can. There are days when I have been discouraged about one thing or another, yet forcing myself to “act positive” in the morning here really helped me turn my own attitude around (WE FOLLOW WHERE WE FOCUS.) By the time I was done writing, I would feel a bit better and as the kind comments flowed in from all of you, it made me happy that I did write after all.
So I am not turning in my keyboard just yet.
I will however, proceed with caution and make sure that every picture that I post is in Public Domain or have a release of sorts so that I am SURE that I am in compliance. I want to be sure that all of those silly cat pictures that I show you are included within the guidelines of the photographer.
I will have to get a little “creative”. And perhaps I will even have to recruit my own cats into service.
But after all – creativity is something that I do best. It will just help me think in another direction and expand my abilities. And that is always a good thing.
In any case, it feels good to be back. I hope those of you in the USA had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Even though I am here in Canada, I had a full celebration dinner with my Canadian family. It was a wonderful day filled with good food, great company and love.
Have a happy and wonderfully creative Saturday.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"