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Old October 23rd, 2012, 04:36 PM   #1
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Demanding payment for my work used without permission

A very good friend is our district's state legislator. I designed and developed his website (not a freebie, but an actual paying job.) Yesterday I receive in the mail a political postcard from the opposition party with images and graphic elements from the website I designed. These were clearly taken from my original creative work, no mistake about it. Yes, the website carried the text "Copyright 2012 All Rights Reserved" (however, that's not required for copyright protection.)

So today I fire off a certified letter basically telling them they can retroactively license my work for $1,000 or I will persue legal action, including registering a formal complaint with the state's campaign finance board.

I am prepared to take this to small claims court if necessary (I don't think I'd bother going the whole lawyer/full trial route). Do you think I have any case whatsoever? Am I just blowing off steam? (It actually did feel good to simply write the letter...)
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Old October 23rd, 2012, 05:13 PM   #2
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Re: Demanding payment for my work used without permission

Your original contract should cover the matter. What does it say?

http://copyright.lib.utexas.edu/whoowns.html
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Old October 23rd, 2012, 07:03 PM   #3
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Re: Demanding payment for my work used without permission

It's not a question of who owns the copyright. I don't know why you would suggest my contract with my client would have anything to do with this.
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Old October 24th, 2012, 03:42 AM   #4
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Re: Demanding payment for my work used without permission

You can't sue in small claims court for punitive damages. My non-legal opinion is that your $1k figure is punitive.

My advice is that however you pursue this, you won't make any money, and you might lose money. It wouldn't stop me from stomping my feet some, but when making threats, I would keep in mind that you are unlikely to win.
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Old October 24th, 2012, 06:46 AM   #5
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Re: Demanding payment for my work used without permission

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Watson View Post
You can't sue in small claims court for punitive damages. My non-legal opinion is that your $1k figure is punitive.
That's good info.

Now that it's 36 hours later, I'm just happy knowing that my letter might cause a few minutes of angst at the opposition party headquarters.
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Old October 29th, 2012, 01:26 PM   #6
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Re: Demanding payment for my work used without permission

Well, they had a lawyer (with offices in Minneapolis and Washington DC) send me a letter telling me a bunch of BS - for example, since the graphics had also been used on Facebook and Linked In, I had no claim to copyright... He assured me they had "ceased distribution" of materials containing my graphics.

Anyway, I'm satisfied that I caused a few moments of angst for them, and probably cost them a few hundred dollars in lawyer's fees. I'm pleased with the outcome! ;)
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Old October 31st, 2012, 11:44 AM   #7
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Re: Demanding payment for my work used without permission

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Davis View Post
Well, they had a lawyer (with offices in Minneapolis and Washington DC) send me a letter telling me a bunch of BS - for example, since the graphics had also been used on Facebook and Linked In, I had no claim to copyright... He assured me they had "ceased distribution" of materials containing my graphics....;)
I'm no lawyer but I'd bet good money that their lawyer was wrong about your losing copyright by the work having appeared on YouTube or LinkedIn. A copyright owner can publish his work anywhere he wishes and someone he licenses the work to can also use it anywhere the license allows him to. Now if you incorporated graphic elements like the LinkedIn logo that you did not hold copyright to or license from them into your work, that might be another matter.
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Old October 31st, 2012, 02:34 PM   #8
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Re: Demanding payment for my work used without permission

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Originally Posted by Steve House View Post
I'm no lawyer but I'd bet good money that their lawyer was wrong about your losing copyright by the work having appeared on YouTube or LinkedIn.
I wrote back and basically told him that was stupid (but in a professional way...)
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