What to Do if You Receive a Pixsy Copyright Infringement Letter

What to Do if You Receive a Pixsy Copyright Infringement Letter

Zeinab Farhat WebsitePK WebsiteAuthors: Zeinab Farhat & Petro Kaloterakis, Progressive Legal

pixsy letter

If you’ve received a letter from Pixsy alleging copyright infringement, you’re not alone. Many business owners in Australia have recently found themselves in this stressful and daunting situation. You might start questioning what this means for your website and your business. Will you face legal consequences? Will your reputation suffer?  

You may wonder why you’re being targeted, whether Pixsy is legitimate, and what your next steps should be. This guide will help you navigate this challenging situation, providing clarity and actionable advice on how to handle a Pixsy letter in Australia.

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Why am I receiving the Pixsy letter?

Pixsy is a copyright enforcement agency which acts as an appointed agent for copyright owners. Agencies such as Pixsy seek to assist creatives such as photographers and content creators in protecting their intellectual property rights, and minimising incidences of infringement.  

Their business model revolves around using advanced technology to scan the internet for unauthorised uses of their clients’ images. Upon identification of those images, Pixsy will typically issue two pieces of correspondence: 

1. A letter detailing the unauthorised use of the image, including (among other things) particulars of the copyright owner, the allegedly infringing conduct, steps required to resolve the matter and licence fee payable; and

2. An evidence report which demonstrates the copyright protected image, and the reproduction by the infringing party.  

Here are specific reasons why you might receive a letter from Pixsy: 

1. Unlicensed use

If you used an image without purchasing a proper license, this is the most common reason you might be contacted. Many businesses mistakenly assume that images found on the internet are “free to use”.  

It is important to note, that where a licence has not been obtained, the reproduction of an image is likely to constitute an infringement under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) (“the Act”). Put simply, copyright owners have a range of exclusive rights (such rights differ depending on the actual work).

For artistic works such as images, copyright owners have the exclusive rights to reproduce, publish and communicate the work pursuant to s 31(1)(b) of the Act. 

2. Improper attribution 

Even if you are using an image under a Creative Commons license, you might still be at fault if you didn’t provide the required attribution correctly. In any event, it is imperative to review the terms of this licence and any other licences to confirm any limitations on use.  

3. Expired licenses

Sometimes, businesses use images they had licensed in the past, not realising that those licenses have expired, leading to unauthorised use. If you have licences in place, you must consider the term of that licence as not all licences are granted in perpetuity.

4. Misunderstanding licensing terms

The terms of use for licensed images can be complex. If you’ve misunderstood these terms, you might inadvertently use an image in a way that breaches the terms of that licence as granted. As such, consider obtaining legal advice on any licences you have in order to ensure that your use is compliant with the licence terms.

5. Employee mistakes

Employees might use images they find online for marketing materials without understanding copyright laws, leading to unintentional infringement. If your business uses third party content on a regular basis, you may also consider informing your employees on any potential risks associated with the use of images online.

Pixsy’s business model 

Pixsy’s business model is built around three main services: 

1. Image monitoring

Pixsy uses reverse image search technology to continuously monitor the internet for unauthorised uses of their clients’ images. This involves scanning websites, social media platforms, and other digital spaces. 

2. Legal action

When unauthorised use is detected, Pixsy contacts the infringer (in this case, you) with the correspondence identified above. It is important to note that as of yet, there appears to not be any formal legal proceedings having been instituted by Pixsy or similar law enforcement agencies. There are many reasons why this may be the case, including the considerable costs associated with initiating a matter. 

However, the commencement of proceedings is never improbable. Should you elect to ignore a letter from Pixsy, do not expect this to immediately put an end to the matter. In some cases, the copyright owner will escalate the matter for further attempted enforcement by a law firm. If you have received a letter, it is best to contact lawyers for advice. 

3. Revenue sharing

Pixsy often works on a contingency basis with photographers and artists. This means they take a percentage of the settlements or awards they secure on behalf of their clients. This model aligns Pixsy’s incentives with those of the creators they represent, ensuring they are motivated to pursue cases of infringement. 

Is Pixsy legitimate?

Yes, Pixsy is a legitimate company. They have established a reputation in the industry for effectively helping content creators protect their rights.  

Their tactics, though often aggressive, are within legal bounds. Pixsy’s approach can be alarming to those unfamiliar with copyright law, but understanding their legitimacy is crucial in responding appropriately.

What are the types of images that attract Pixsy’s attention?

Not all images are equally likely to attract Pixsy’s attention. Understanding which types of images are most commonly protected and monitored can help you avoid potential issues. Here are some categories of images that are often at the center of Pixsy’s efforts: 

  • Professional Photography: high-quality images used for commercial purposes. 
  • Stock Photos: images from websites like Shutterstock, Getty Images, and Adobe Stock. 
  • Artistic Creations: digital art, illustrations, and unique graphic designs.  
  • Editorial Images: images used in news articles, blogs, and editorial content. 
  • Social Media Content: images on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter created by artists. 
  • Celebrity and Event Photography: photos of celebrities, events, and public figures taken by professional photographers. 

These types of images attract attention for several reasons: 

1. Commercial value

Professional and high-quality images may have significant commercial value. Unauthorised use of these images can result in lost revenue for the creators.

2. Easily detectable

High-resolution and widely distributed images are easier to detect using reverse image search technology. Pixsy’s system can quickly identify unauthorised uses across the web.

3. Clear licensing terms

Images from stock photo websites and professional photographers typically come with clear licensing terms. This makes it easier to identify when these terms have been violated. 

What are the risks of ignoring a Pixsy letter?

Ignoring a Pixsy letter can lead to serious consequences. While it might be tempting to throw the letter away, here are some risks to consider. 

Further escalation

As outlined above, it is likely that Pixsy will continue to pursue the matter, whether through the provision of further correspondence, or via the escalation to a law firm. While the commencement of proceedings is unlikely, it is never impossible.

Increased costs sought

Should the matter be escalated to a law firm for further enforcement, the copyright owner may seek to increase the licence fee sought in an attempt to recoup some of his/ her legal fees in further pursuing the matter. 

Consideration of additional damages

If you receive a letter from Pixsy, choose to ignore it and keep the image(s) online, the copyright owner may have a possible claim for additional damages under s 115 of the Act in consideration of the flagrancy of your conduct (s 115(4)(b)) and your conduct after being informed of the infringement (s 115(4)(b)(ib)) (without limitation). 

What are my options moving forward?

1. Assess the claim

The first step is to assess the legitimacy of the claim. Check the image in question and verify whether it was used without proper licensing. If you believe the image was used legally, gather any evidence that supports your case, such as purchase receipts or licensing agreements. 

2. Respond promptly

Don’t ignore the letter. Responding promptly can prevent the situation from escalating. Even if you plan to dispute the claim, it’s essential to acknowledge the letter and indicate that you are investigating the matter.

3. Seek legal advice

Consulting with a legal professional experienced in copyright law is highly recommended. They can help you understand your rights and obligations and advise on the best course of action.  

A solicitor can also assist in negotiating a settlement if necessary. Contact Progressive Legal today to get tailored advice on your Pixsy letter.

4. Negotiate a settlement

If the claim is legitimate and you used the image without proper licensing, negotiating a settlement with Pixsy might be your best option.

Often, you can reach an agreement that is more affordable than the initial demand. Your solicitor can help with these negotiations to ensure a fair outcome.

5. Pay the licence fee

If you do not wish to negotiate a settlement, you may consider just paying the licence fee and putting an end to the matter. 

Preventing future issues

To avoid similar issues in the future, consider these steps: 

1. Always use images that you have legally acquired. There are many stock photo websites where you can purchase licenses for high-quality images. However, you must review the terms attached to those licences as some licences prohibit use of those images for commercial purposes.  

2. When using images that require attribution, ensure you provide proper credit to the creator. This is often a requirement for using free images under Creative Commons licenses. 

3. Develop and enforce a policy within your business for the use of copyrighted materials. Educate your team on the importance of respecting intellectual property rights. 

Common misconceptions about copyright infringement 

“It’s Just a Small Image”

One common misconception is that using a small or low-resolution image doesn’t count as copyright infringement. However, any unauthorised use of a copyrighted image can lead to legal action, regardless of the image size. 

“I found it on Google”

Another myth is that images found through Google searches are free to use. In reality, Google merely indexes images from websites; it does not provide licensing for those images. You must verify the usage rights for any image you find online.

Key takeaways

Receiving a Pixsy letter can be stressful, but understanding your rights and responsibilities is crucial. By taking immediate action, seeking legal advice, and ensuring future compliance, you can mitigate the risks and protect your business. Remember, respecting copyright laws is not just about avoiding penalties; it’s about honoring the hard work and creativity of artists and photographers. 

For more detailed advice tailored to your specific situation, consult with a legal professional experienced in intellectual property law in Australia. At Progressive Legal, we can provide the guidance you need to navigate this challenging situation effectively and protect your business. Contact us today to discuss how we can assist you. 

Need help with copyright infringement?

Contact us by giving us a call on 1800 820 083 or request our advice today.

*NB// The contents of this article are information only and should not be relied on as legal advice. Please seek specialist legal advice in relation to your particular situation.

(c) Progressive Legal Pty Ltd – All legal rights reserved (2023)

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