from the fools-for-attorneys:-non-pro-se-edition dept
A stupid law firm supposedly specializing in IP rights enforcement has decided (again!) to jam its dangling appendages into one of the internet’s more ferocious hornets’ nests. When you’re in the business of threatening litigation over hot-linked images (yep), you probably don’t pay much attention to the URLs you target.
The law firm of Higbee & Associates should know better than to go to this well twice. But it doesn’t. Due diligence doesn’t seem to be a priority. If it was, some of its “pre-litigation” specialists might have noticed the firm went after Something Awful in 2015 for using an image from Under the Skin in its review of the movie. Obviously, this was fair use and a little bit of web searching turns up multiple uses of the same image, suggesting it had been made available by the studio for promotional purposes.
You’d think one failure to turn Something Awful (SA) into an ATM would have been enough for Higbee & Associates. Apparently not. Richard “Lowtax” Kyanka — having taken over SA’s legal department after the departure of Leonard “J” Crabs — received a demand letter from the law firm over the supposedly unauthorized use of a picture of (go figure) Hitler.
The law firm apparently thought the threat letter would result in Kyanka cutting a check to prevent being sued for up to and including $150,000. But the firm’s stupidity goes further than simply trying to threaten a site it had failed to threaten successfully in the past. The demand letter references an image not hosted by Something Awful but one posted to a forum thread by an SA member.
Here’s Kyanka’s take on the legal conundrum posed by Higbee’s ridiculous letter.
As you can clearly see, I had been given a bill for nearly $7,000 because somebody on the Something Awful forums linked to an image of Hitler, a file being hosted on the third-party site Imgur. “Now wait a minute Rich ‘Lowtax’ Kyanka,” you may be saying to nobody in particular. “How can you possibly get sued for somebody linking to an image hosted on a third party site?” The answer is simple: because Higbee and Associates exist.
This garbage dicked law firm generates nearly $5 million a year by encouraging photographers to sign up with their company, then performing a reverse image search for anything matching their client’s submitted photos. An automated system then flags the suspected offending site, spits out a super scary legal threat based off a template, and delivers it to the site owner. Upon receiving the notice of possible legal action, many victims freak out and pay these idiots the stated arbitrary amount of cash, under the looming threat of being taken to court for $150,000. Higbee and Associates operate one of the biggest dirtbag law firms to ever pollute the internet, preying on fear and dealing in bulk.
Unfortunately, in my 20 years of running this site, I’ve been forced to brush up on general copyright law, and I damn well know that linking to an image hosted on a third party image site breaks absolutely no law, even if it is digital, lossy compressed Hitler.
Kyanka’s immediate response to Higbee’s threat letter is both hilarious and profane, mostly simultaneously.
I have an even better idea: I’m not going to pay you a fucking dime and you can go fuck off to hell for eternity because I am absolutely in no way responsible for images hosted by a third party service, in this case Imgur. Go fuck yourselves and prey on some other website that hasn’t been around for two decades and knows damn well what their legal responsibilities entail, and what they’re responsible for. Your entire law firm is a straight up piece of flaming shit that tries to intimidate folks with EXPENSIVE LEGAL THREATS in the hope that your extortion scheme will work on some of them. I am not one of those people. So I cordially invite you to take your pdf, print it out, and ride it like a sybian until the cows come home. Then I invite you to fuck the cows as well.
The staff at Higbee’s was presumably not amused, nor willing to ride threat letter PDFs like marital aids for the rest of eternity. It handed over Kyanka and his angry communications to one of its “pre-litigation” people so they, too, could harvest the vitriol from the seeds the firm had planted. A few more rounds of law firm employees hoping to sound serious and threatening being greeted with disdain, mockery, and creative insults followed.
Finally, Kyanka decided to do the firm’s due diligence for it.
Oh, and since I’m such a swell guy, I’ll send you a little graphic explaining Imgur’s copyright and linking policies, which clearly dictates the copyright responsibility for each and every image is the sole responsibility of the individual who uploaded it. I’m sure it was just a freak accident that you guys somehow missed the literal first search result for “copyright law and internet image links Imgur,” but it’s not like you guys are lawyers whose sole job is to do such things as required by the law. Here’s the link as well; let me know if you require explicit, step by step instructions detailing how to click internet links.
Maybe this finally got through to the Higbee & Associates. There have been no further legal threats issued since this last salvo by Kyanka. This is the way it should be, minus all the unpleasant interactions preceding this. A hotlinked image isn’t a violation of anyone’s copyright. The violation, if any, was committed by the person who uploaded the image to Imgur, not the forum poster who linked to it. A DMCA notice sent to Imgur should have been the full extent of Higbee’s actions, but instead it decided to subject itself to public mockery by handling this like an overeager hobbyist, rather than the capable law firm it imagines itself to be.