Update on the Artist Defense debacle:
On August 23, 2017, Copyright Enforcement Officer Michael Hilsheimer of Toronto-based company Artist Defense offered to lower my fees from $1.170 to $500 for “damages” incurred from my unauthorized use of a copyrighted image on a blog post.
Here’s my email to Michael which resulted in the reduced fees:
Dated: August 23
If you’re going to get $1,170.00 out of me, it’s going to be after:
1) You confirm with me that you’ve read this post: https://www.facebook.com/andreweffinghix/posts/286037181874485
2) You give me an itemized invoice on how the damages reached a value of $1,170.00
3) Tell me in a few words why you do what you do.
Complete those three steps and we’ll talk about a settlement.
Andrew L. Hicks”
Michael responded quickly, confirming that he read my post, telling me that artists work hard and copyright infringement is a serious problem. He let me know that he understands I meant no harm, but what would I have him do? If he let one person off the hook, wouldn’t he have to be soft on everyone? Then, he gave some seemingly-arbitrary reasons for the amount of the fee, and offered to cut it to $500. He gave me until August 28 to respond, saying otherwise the offer would be off the table and I’d get sued.
I did not respond before August 28. I took a wait-and-see approach, did some more research, considered options, and sought counsel from a wide variety of sources.
Just when I was starting to miss Mr. Hilsheimer, he graced my inbox this morning. September 7. Michael informed me that the email was CC’ed to his general counsel, the $500 settlement was back up to $1,170 and if I didn’t pay by September 14, his final offer would be withdrawn and next I’d receive a letter from from one of Artist Defense’s lawyers in the U.S.
Michael attached a docket report that apparently showed proof of Artist Defense initiating legal action against people in the U.S. in 2016 and 2017, and made it a point to let me know that seven of the nine most recent lawsuits involved people like me, who had only used one image.
My sweet archangel Michael went on to warn me that if this matter goes through to court, it’ll cost me much more than $1,170.
Here was my response:
Dated: September 7
“What I’d like you to realize, Michael, is that the Internet is packed full of extortion scams. Any intelligent, discerning party would see your emails as potential fraud and would go to great lengths to assess the validity of your claims before conceding to surrender money to you for what by all reasonable and objective accounts is absolutely extortion, whether legally sanctioned or not.
The simple fact remains: no actual damages have been done to your client. You are using the law to to create problems where they don’t exist, simply for the sake of you having an occupation. You are strong-arming one artist under the guise of supporting another artist’s rights, and your actions do not stand up to any ethical standard for which you claim to represent.
I have not ignored your emails. I have spent this time evaluating your validity, seeking counsel, and deciding how to proceed.
All of that said, I am willing to pay fees of $500 to make this go away. Any more than $500 is unattainable for me at this point, so if you truly want to push this to court and pulverize the life out of a person just for ignorantly using a picture on a blog post that was seen by less than 50 people, I suppose that’s your prerogative. But I am pretty sure that would make you worse than saltiest depiction of Satan.
Andrew L. Hicks”
Once again, his reply was swift. It seems he agreed to the $500, claiming that a Settlement Agreement and Mutual Release was attached to the email. If I agree to it, accept it, sign it, and return it with the payment, this is all over.
The attachment is a blank .jpg…
Does this mean I won?
Also published on Medium.