Copyright Troll Demands $8,500 From Rarely Visited Lindsay Lohan Fansite

from the that'll-win-fans dept

We've covered plenty of copyright trolling operations, and the Copyright Enforcement Group is one of the earliest to show up in the US, though there are few details as to who is actually behind it. We recently have been in contact with someone on the receiving end of a shakedown threat letter from CEG for their Lindsay Lohan fan page. The person who ran the site was, not surprisingly, a Lindsay Lohan fan, and tried to use the site to "promote the good things in Lindsay's life" rather than the typical schadenfreude surrounding Lohan these days. It was, in other words, the kind of site that Lindsay Lohan herself might appreciate. But it no longer exists, thanks to copyright trolling.

Like most fan sites, this one had some graphics, and the company that holds the copyright on those graphics, AKM Images, apparently hired CEG to start demanding cash from people, including the operator of this Lindsay Lohan fansite. Upon receiving the email, the owner of the site completely deleted it out of fear. However, he also saw that, according to Google analytics, the page that had the images had a grand total of nine pageviews from six unique visitors (and the operator of the site notes that one or two of the visits likely came from his own computer). In other words, even if the images were "infringing," you could make a pretty strong argument for either fair use or de minimis use.

The threat letter, of course, makes no mention of the details or possible defenses. It just says that each image requires a "settlement" fee of $500, and if you total up the 17 images (sent across two separate demand letters) that were hosted on the site, the owner is expected to pay $8,500.

It does seem likely that this individual did, in fact, post images without a license, though this is quite common across the internet. You could see a pretty strong fair use/de minimis use claim here, in that the site was non-commercial, was designed to help promote Lohan and was basically just a fan expressing appreciation. But, these days, expressing appreciation of someone famous can get you threat letters like this one (we've included one of the two threat letters below).

While there is, perhaps, an argument that the site infringed, the "harm" on the copyright holder is non-existent (there is no way this person would have paid to license such images). If I were a part of Lindsay Lohan's "publicity" team, at the very least I would probably look into paying off this settlement and supporting the site operator. In the meantime, it seems like actions like this could do a lot of harm to celebrities, as copyright trolls try to "crackdown" on fan sites, not only forcing many of those sites closed, but pissing off some of the celebs' biggest fans.
May 07, 2012

Re: Notice of Unauthorized Use of Images Owned by AKM Images

Dear Legal Department:

Copyright Enforcement Group, LLC, ("We") represent AKM Images. AKM Images owns all right, title and interest to the copyright-registered images referenced in this document.

We have detected the unauthorized use of the images owned by AKM Images listed below. Each image is covered by a registered copyright. Our records and those of AKM Images indicate that you do not currently hold the proper licenses for the use of the images displayed on your website.

The following image infringements were detected:

# | Image Title | Evidence Exhibit | Settlement Amount
1.) Lindsay Lohan Bikini Beach Party | Exhibit A in 265913.pdf | $500.00
2.) Lindsay Lohan Bikini Beach Party | Exhibit B in 265913.pdf | $500.00
3.) Lindsay Lohan Bikini Beach Party | Exhibit C in 265913.pdf | $500.00
4.) Lindsay Lohan Bikini Beach Party | Exhibit D in 265913.pdf | $500.00
5.) Lindsay Lohan Bikini Beach Party | Exhibit E in 265913.pdf | $500.00
6.) Lindsay Lohan Bikini Beach Party | Exhibit F in 265913.pdf | $500.00
7.) Lindsay Lohan Bikini Beach Party | Exhibit G in 265913.pdf | $500.00
8.) Lindsay Lohan Bikini Beach Party | Exhibit H in 265913.pdf | $500.00
9.) Lindsay Lohan Bikini Beach Party | Exhibit I in 265913.pdf | $500.00
10.) Lindsay Lohan Bikini Beach Party | Exhibit J in 265913.pdf | $500.00
11.) Lindsay Lohan Bikini Beach Party | Exhibit K in 265913.pdf | $500.00
12.) Lindsay Lohan Bikini Beach Party | Exhibit L in 265913.pdf | $500.00
13.) Lindsay Lohan Bikini Beach Party | Exhibit M in 265913.pdf | $500.00
14.) Lindsay Lohan Bikini Beach Party | Exhibit N in 265913.pdf | $500.00
15.) Lindsay Lohan Bikini Beach Party | Exhibit O in 265913.pdf | $500.00
16.) Lindsay Lohan Bikini Beach Party | Exhibit P in 265913.pdf | $500.00

Total Settlement: $8,000.00

You are hereby notified that your unauthorized use of the registered copyrights owned by AKM Images for the images described herein is in violation of the U.S. Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 106. In this regard, demand is hereby made that you immediately and permanently cease and desist the unauthorized use and display of said images and remit settlement in the amount of $8,000.00 or produce proof of licenses of said images by emailing them to: support@copyrightsettlements.com

You may also be held liable for monetary damages, including attorneys' fees and court costs, if a lawsuit is commenced against you. You have until June 06, 2012 to access the settlement website and settle online. To access the settlement website, please visit https://www.copyrightsettlements.com/ and enter Case [redacted] and Password: [redacted]. To access the settlement offer directly, please visit [URL with case # & password string redacted]

To remit payment or correspond by mail, please send to:

Copyright Enforcement Group, LLC
P.O. Box 515381 #23722
Los Angeles, CA 90051-6681

Please include your case number on all correspondence.

Settlement Information
Total Settlement: $8,000.00
Settlement Website: https://www.copyrightsettlements.com/
[case number & password redacted]

If you fail to respond, settle, or produce proof of licenses within the prescribed time period, the claims will be referred to our attorneys for legal action. At that point, the original settlement offer will no longer be an option and the amount will increase as a result of us having to involve our attorneys.

Nothing contained or omitted from this correspondence is, or shall be deemed to be, either a full statement of the facts or applicable law, an admission of any fact, or waiver or limitation of any of AKM Images' rights or remedies, all of which are specifically retained and reserved.

The information in this notice is accurate. We have a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of herein is not authorized by the registered copyright owner, its agent, or by operation of law. We represent that we are authorized to act on behalf of AKM Images.

Sincerely,

Dale Spislander
Copyright Enforcement Agent

Copyright Enforcement Group, LLC
8484 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 220
Beverly Hills, CA 90211


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Jeremy, May 18th, 2012 @ 10:32am

    Yet another example...

    ...of people/organizations with enough cash flow to pay for lawyers simply shaking down those with no such resources because they can.

    There are a lot of parallels with feudal lords hundreds of years ago threatening area citizens with burning their homes and salting their land for not paying tribute from their farm crop or providing sons for war.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2012 @ 10:35am

    Copyright law is amazing.

    Its the only law that has such massive powers. Not even criminal laws come close to the powers the monopolist have been given these days.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2012 @ 10:44am

    There are Lindsey Lohan fans???

    Eeek!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2012 @ 11:10am

    Sometimes bad things happen to bad people.

    It's hard to know whom to despise on this one.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Buddhapi, May 18th, 2012 @ 11:10am

    Out of control

    8500.00 is a drop in the bucket compared to this little gem demanding 35K for 2 images!

    http://www.extortionletterinfo.com/forum/getty-images-letter-forum/photo-attorney-carolyn -e-wright-$35k-settlement-demand-letter/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Buddhapi, May 18th, 2012 @ 11:10am

    Out of control

    8500.00 is a drop in the bucket compared to this little gem demanding 35K for 2 images!

    http://www.extortionletterinfo.com/forum/getty-images-letter-forum/photo-attorney-carolyn -e-wright-$35k-settlement-demand-letter/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, May 18th, 2012 @ 11:16am

    CEG Is a Paper Tiger

    I wouldn't even bother trying to get Lohan's publicity people to help. I don't think CEG has ever actually sued anyone, and their founder Ira Siegel is currently trying to claw his way out of bankruptcy through extortion. That POS enjoyed a few spectacular copyright trolling fails in California courts last year, where he was largely responsible, along with Brett Langdon Gibbs of Prenda Law, Inc. (John Steele's lackey in CA), for poisoning the well for trolls in CA.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    MrWilson, May 18th, 2012 @ 11:23am

    Re: CEG Is a Paper Tiger

    I would love to see copyright trolls suing each other because one of them screwed it up for the rest of them by bungling trolling cases in court and setting precedents against the practice. I could see a troll lawyer arguing that the actions of failed troll negatively impacted his ability to earn money from such lawsuits. And the beauty is that you don't have to care who you root for because either way a troll loses.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2012 @ 11:36am

    Re: Re: CEG Is a Paper Tiger

    Agreed but I think a more realistic possibility, that we may eventually see, is copyright trolls getting sued by their former clients when the scam blows up in their faces.

    John Steele's Prenda Law, Inc. has provoked two lawsuits against his clients this year, Liuxia Wong vs. Hard Drive Productions, Inc. and Seth Abrahams vs. Hard Drive Productions, Inc. The interesting thing about these suits is that since the original trolling threats were brought on behalf of the troll's clients and not the trolls themselves, the clients end up being on the hook if someone decides to fight back. If a copyright troll's client ends up taking a loss in court due to a countersuit in the future, I expect the fur to start flying as there is no honor among thieves and I'm sure the troll's former client will turn around and sue the troll for negligence, fraud, etc. as soon as things go sour. This scam is advertised as no risk/no investment to troll's clients so as things are getting harder for the trolls the foundations of the scam will eventually crumble and they will start eating themselves.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), May 18th, 2012 @ 12:06pm

    CEG CEG CEG....
    don't mind me trying to summon SJD... this troll needs slaying.

    Copyright trolling should completely force a change in the system, it does not work in todays society and needs to be revisited.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), May 18th, 2012 @ 12:11pm

    Re:

    ohai! I'm here... your wish is my command.

    A bit of rather unique insight on CEG.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), May 18th, 2012 @ 12:16pm

    Re:

    @GEG_Copyright blocks me from following them on twitter. Which does not prevent me from contacting its Twitter correspondents explaining what CEG is really about.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    motioncity, May 18th, 2012 @ 12:18pm

    Re: Re: CEG Is a Paper Tiger

    Mr. Wilson, I think you use the term "earn money" pretty loosely. I would suggest they "extort," "squeeze," "coerce," "shakedown," or "swindle" money. These outrageous claims are rarely put to the test and when they are, it is not even close to the $8000 sought here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    teka, May 18th, 2012 @ 12:18pm

    Nothing contained or omitted from this correspondence is, or shall be deemed to be, either a full statement of the facts or applicable law, an admission of any fact, or waiver or limitation of any of AKM Images' rights or remedies, all of which are specifically retained and reserved.


    am I reading this right?
    it sure seems this says (in backwards lawyer talk) that they are specifically disclaiming the legalese statements as not a "full statement of the facts or applicable law", among the other claims.

    you owe us a bajillion dollars for totally legitimate and legal reasons that are legally binding!*

    *may not be legally binding

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Pitabred (profile), May 18th, 2012 @ 12:28pm

    Re:

    I'd almost say that that clause in it completely shows the extortionate aspect of the letter. It's a letter written in bad faith.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Joseph, May 18th, 2012 @ 1:16pm

    Page Views

    Some of those page views had to be CEG accessing the site.

    Others were probably Google Images or some other robot indexing the site which is how CEG likely found it in the first place.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    trollificus (profile), May 18th, 2012 @ 1:30pm

    Re:

    lol. I thought the same thing but I've been conditioned by example after example to just assume my poor thought processes and pathetic analytical tools (logic, reason, empirical testing) were inadequate to understand the absolute legal necessity of otherwise completely opaque statements. (never mind that the legalisms creating said necessity are often as batshit insane as the response)

    Teka, your summary is perfectly analogous to the actual content of the shakedown letter.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), May 18th, 2012 @ 2:55pm

    Re: Re:

    I am sure the actual reasoning they would give in court is that we fully believed that these were possible outcomes and statements that could be made, but had not had the time to fully review the entirety of the case before making them.

    Copyright trolls often use this to cover up their claims that you could be found liable for upto $150,000 for infringing on copyright, even in cases where those damages are precluded by the copyright law itself. It is mostly a fear tactic designed to scare and intimidate people into paying them money to make it go away ASAP.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2012 @ 1:11am

    Rolling your most serious fans for dough is a good way to guarantee you won't have fans anymore. If artists were able to connect with fans directly, intermediary companies that claim rights over various images, video, sound, and text from those artists would not be able to pull stunts like this and hurt the artists' images.

    Yes, I'm thinking of JKR. Anne Rice and her ilk have already proven they are their own worst enemies, but there are others who haven't shot themselves in the foot yet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), May 19th, 2012 @ 10:45am

    Re: Re:

    Just tonight I sent the link to this article to various @CEG_COpyright followers. Many of them are official Twitter accounts of film festivals. Evidently, CEG hired some PR professionals and spent some money (extorted from hapless file-sharers) hanging on festivals.


    FightCopyrightTrolls ‏@fightcopytrolls
    @sundancefest @misscopyrightem @copyrightclear that's the way classy people @CEG_Copyright "protect" IP http://t.co/j8uBfD9p


    I received one reply:


    Emily Hall ‏@misscopyrightem
    @fightcopytrolls @sundancefest @copyrightclear @CEG_Copyright it could be tackled nicely by requesting them to remove it&try&educate them.

    Oh ingenuousness!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    mcfilms (profile), May 19th, 2012 @ 10:54am

    I doubt LiLo or her representatives are even aware of this. I have been in contact with the original recipient and I'm suspicious that neither AKM Images nor CEG have a model release from Ms Lohan. There is such a thing as a right of publicity. She has the right to control the commercial use of her name and likeness. Since the letter hardly mentions her, I wonder if there is a release. I have asked the recipient to insist on documentation from CEG -- a model release and proof that the images were previously registered with the copyright office.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    MrWilson, May 21st, 2012 @ 10:42am

    Re: Re: Re: CEG Is a Paper Tiger

    I agree regarding the use of the term "earn money," but that's how the hypothetical troll would possibly phrase it in my scenario, with all the chutzpah of entitlement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Innocent Web User, Jul 26th, 2012 @ 2:36pm

    RE: CEG

    I was sent this same exact email from CEG. I am at a loss at what to do. Are their any updates as to what the original recipient of this letter did.

    Help please.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Confused and Scared, Aug 9th, 2012 @ 6:27am

    I got this as well. Im scared and have NO money. I took the pix down and don't know what to do. I have till Sept. 7th to respond :( HELP!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    mcfilms (profile), Aug 9th, 2012 @ 12:41pm

    Just educate yourself and push back

    First, visit http://extortionletterinfo.com and check out the forums. You'll learn that there are hundreds if not thousands of people in the same situation. Image copyright trolling is a booming business!

    You should know that any legal advice given on the internet is probably worth every penny you pay for it. That said, if you read up on this you can educate yourself and make your own decisions on how to fight.

    In general, you need them to start making some demands of your own. They need to establish who holds the copyright to that image. You need to find out if that image has been registered with the copyright office. They may have the rights to the image, but if it has not been registered, what they can collect is severely limited. And finally, I would push back on the issue of having them provide a model release too.

    By the way, if you truly have no money, then you are judgement proof and any attorney pursuing this claim would be a fool.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Kevin, Nov 9th, 2012 @ 5:27pm

    What a scam

    Got the same letter. Deleted the pic and went in my day. If the site made money be different to fight in principle but my site lindsaylohan.us makes no money and is purely to promote and show my live if LILO.

    Checking their site the lawyers are all affiliates and must get paid on some scheme. The company is a new troll exploiting the innocent.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    Robert Z. Cashman (profile), Jan 7th, 2013 @ 8:51am

    Re: What a scam

    CEG-TEK Int'l is really a re-branded Ira Siegel. In short, CEG is an "IP monetization company" who thinks that it is a good business model to scare people into paying thousands of dollars by threatening lawsuits if they do not "pay up." I have written CEG-TEK up extensively on my blog, and anyone that wants to know Ira Siegel's endeavors can also read them on my blog since I used to write about his cases back when he had them.

    PS - I don't think people who receive these should immediately "pay up." Especially not $8,500 - that's absurd! Hire a lawyer -- me, or anyone else -- to fight this for you. This doesn't have to turn into a lawsuit, and this doesn't have to turn into a huge settlement either. What a waste.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Lee Winston, Jan 27th, 2014 @ 9:11pm

    CEG Tek is using a new tactic under the law

    Be warned that CEG TEK is using a loophole in the law now to completly take down websites without ever having to step foot in a court of law to prove their claims.

    We are supposed to have US 17 107 on our side if we are reporting news as that is what my website did. That part of the law has no real teeth and it doesn't help with ISPs or website hosts. They don't recognize the end users rights.

    With that said CEG TEK is now taking advantage of US 17 512 where it requires ISP's and webhosting to have a copyright policy to identify repeat infringers and then deny them service. The problem with this is that the ISP or hosting company does not look at the legal merits of the claims but just that the take down notices are written correctly. They also just look at the number of complaints whether they be legitmate complaints or not.

    CEG TEK flooded our host on material that was 2 and 3 years old plus they also file bogus complaint on thumbnail image linking which has been held up as fair use by the 9th Circuit Court of appeals as complying with Fair Use in cases precendent like Google vs Perfect 10 back on 2007.

    Our hosting company booted us even though we won every one of our counter notices. So there is no real defense that a website owner has to fight these clowns. Even if you are not sued then they will harrass your hosting company to the breaking point and you will end up losing your website.

    ISPs and hosting companies claim to be neutral parties in these disputes but in reality they are not and automatically side with the alleged copyright holder. They really have no choice the way this sorry excuse of a law called DMCA is written.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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