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A few days ago, we were accused of copyright infringement by a company that claims to act “on behalf” of photographers whose work is being shared without permission. To resolve the dispute, we only had to add a link to a completely independent website. We declined this request, but this black SEO scheme is very popular on other sites including news agencies and even a university.
At TorrentFreak, we write about copyright issues daily. However, this week we find ourselves at the reception of an infringement complaint.
A few days ago we received an email from Robert Bradley of Photocredit.org. The outfit accused us of using a photo in one of our items without permission from the copyright holder.
The email in question does not identify the exact photo and the photographer is not mentioned by name. However, the requests are clear and quite unusual, as shown below.
You are using our client’s image in one of your articles https://torrentfreak.com/canadian-music-group-proposes-copyright-tax-on-internet-use-181006/.
We are glad you found it useful🙂
However, our client saved this image, and it requires attribution.
We request a clickable image credit link to Career Employer (https://careeremployer.com/) at the bottom of your article.
Unfortunately, removing the image is not the solution since you have been using the image on your website for some time now. We are obligated to notify the artist if this issue is not resolved on time.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask.
At TorrentFreak, we take copyright issues very seriously, but his email has set off some alarm bells. More on that later. Let’s start by looking at the image that is supposed to be violated.
There is no direct link with the image. However, the article mentioned in the email only uses one photo of the body, the one taken by Canadian photographer Stefan Malloch.
These types of stock photos are routinely used without permission, often because people don’t know better. However, we didn’t just grab this image from the web and properly authorized it through Shutterstock years ago.
Link to career employer?
With the proper license, Photocredit.org’s copyright claim falls flat. But that’s not the main problem here. It is the vague nature of the claims and the request to add a link at random “Career employer” website like netting that stands out like a sore thumb.
To find out more, we responded to Robert Bradley to ask for more details. After a few days, our request remains unanswered. We also contacted Photocredit.org to request contact information. Again, no response.
At this point, we started to wonder if the Canadian photographer is even aware of these infringement notices. Unfortunately, he did not respond to our requests via email, Instagram and Facebook.
Without an official response, we don’t know if Photocredit.org is actually acting on behalf of photographers. However, after spending a few minutes researching the information, we found that many other people had received similar complaints.
“It’s a scam”
Photo credit has a bad reputation on Trustpilot, where many people complain that they have been accused of copyright infringement despite being properly licensed.
“It’s a scam, like all the other reviews. Same email from Robert Bradley saying we’re infringing on his ‘customer’ image – licensed to us through Adobe Stock, ”one of the reviews read.
There were also some “positive notes” about the company at the Black hat SEO forum. “Yo, this is a great method for getting links, I saved this thread for later use,” one commenter wrote.
Others were more careful. A commenter on the SEO forum warned that this is a “low life tactic” that will cause problems when sent to the wrong person.
Effective SEO tactic
While Black Hat SEO tactics usually get a bad rap, they can be very effective. And indeed, when we examined the number of backlinks to the “careeremployer” site, it became clear that hundreds of people responded to Photocredit’s unusual request.
This doesn’t just apply to small sites either. Below is a screenshot of POLICE review, which attributes Career Employer and links to the website.
All of these links help the Career Builder site to increase its SEO value, which could come in handy when it goes on sale.
Again, we’re not sure if the email is legitimate or not. This could in theory be a “creative” way to get photographers to pay with some questionable SEO tactic, but we’re not investing in it.
In any case, we urge anyone who has news of Photocredit to contact the photographer directly, before linking to a random site.