I recently was informed by another photographer that a website: www.allvoices.com was using my images. This was news to me since I had never heard of www.allvoices.com and more than that, I had never sold or licensed any of my images for them to use. It turns out that they decided to grab my images of Bob Weir and RatDog from my flickr account. Thats right, they just took the images and never bothered to ask.

I sent a takedown notice to the website and asked where to send the invoice for the usage fees. The answer I got back from the company is amazing, they think this behavior is legal.

Here is the reply I got from Michael Sherf, www.allvoices representative

Dear Mr. Hess,

Thank you for contacting Allvoices regarding your copyrighted images from Flickr that appeared on Allvoices.

The photos came from publically-available Flickr and were not posted by Allvoices. Allvoices frowns upon copyright infringement, and takes your allegations very seriously. As outlined in our Terms of Use (http://www.allvoices.com/terms), Allvoices “does not permit copyright infringing activities and infringement of intellectual property rights on its Website and Allvoices will remove all Content, User Contribution, User Report and User Submission if properly notified that such content or User Contribution, User Report and User Submission infringed on another’s intellectual property rights.”

Pursuant to the “safe harbor” provisions of Title 17, United States Code, Section 512(c), upon receipt of your emails and per our policies and procedures we removed the referenced images from our website. Additionally, Allvoices has blocked your Flickr account from our system to help prevent a similar occurrence in the future.

Please let me know if you have any further questions on the matter.

Sincerest regards,

Michael

The real problem is that my photos on Flickr are all marked ALL RIGHTS RESERVED and according to the Flickr terms of service for the API, (which can be read in full here: http://www.flickr.com/services/api/tos/) state that:

a. You shall:Comply with any requirements or restrictions imposed on usage of the photos by their respective owners. Remember, Flickr doesn’t own the images – Flickr users do. Although the Flickr APIs can be used to provide you with access to Flickr user photos, neither Flickr’s provision of the Flickr APIs to you nor your use of the Flickr APIs override the photo owners’ requirements and restrictions, which may include “all rights reserved” notices (attached to each photo by default when uploaded to Flickr), Creative Commons licenses or other terms and conditions that may be agreed upon between you and the owners. In ALL cases, you are solely responsible for making use of Flickr photos in compliance with the photo owners’ requirements or restrictions. If you use Flickr photos for a commercial purpose, the photos must be marked with a Creative Commons license that allows for such use, unless otherwise agreed upon between you and the owner.

What this means in plain terms is that www.allvoices.com had no right to use the images and did so illegally. And since www.allvoices.com is selling advertisements on their site, it is obviously a business that is in the business of making money.

As of this writing, I have not heard a good reply back from www.allvoices.com as to why and how they think this is legal.

If I do not hear back from them within 48 hours, the next letter they receive will be from my lawyer.

So while www.allvoices.com has removed the first 17 images, there are still photos on their site being used without permission and those images have been registered with the US copyright office.

I urge all photographers who use flickr to check www.allvoices.com to see if they might be stealing your images as well. It is time that companies realize that we work hard to take the photos we do. We practice, we buy equipment, we spend time and money developing our skill and we don’t give that away. PHOTOS ON THE INTERNET ARE NOT FREE. You want to use my images, fine, ask me and we can work out a licensing plan.

Here is a screen capture showing one of my images being used on the www.allvoices.com website. Notice the big name advertisers on this page, including Verizon and Groupon.

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