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

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 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.

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