If you have received an email with the subject line titled DMCA Copyright Infringement Notice, don't panic. First and foremost, you will need to check the email is genuine. If you received one from Simpson Turner Law, don't respond to it because it's a fake company. You can safely ignore the content and delete the email. I'll tell you why.
As we all know by now that the internet is filled with false information. Not just restricted to conspiracy theories on social media or Powerball winning scams, but any suggestion by someone you don't know is a suspect, isn't it, nowadays?
Or even someone who you think you know - I'm not the only one who has received "personal emails" from Nicki Minaj and Daniel Craig trying to sell cryptocurrencies. Where fraudsters use celebrities' names, there are also fake government agencies and lawyers indeed.
The first thing you may do is to check the sender's email address - if it's a Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail, you'll probably ignore it right away. But scammers put just a little more effort to make things look authentic. Anyone can create a professional-looking website using a template and buy a domain name for as low as $1-$15 per year.
Fake Legal Firm "Simpson Turner Law"
The law firm Simpson Turner with the address "177 Huntington Ave 17th floor, Boston, MA 02115" is fake.
I've actually written about another "firm" that claims to have the same street address in the past, after receiving a similar warning email. (Fake DMCA Copyright Infringement Notice from “Arthur Davidson”)
If you compare the two websites, arthurdavidson.com and simpsonturnerlaw.com, you'll find them almost identical to each other, so they're likely to be owned by the same person.
The company is not listed by Google. If you search the full address, you'll find a building with office space for rent, and no company called Simpson Turner exists. If it did, it should be picked up by Google, anyway.
So what does the email from Simpson Turner allege?
I'm kind of repeating what I already explained in the other post, but today I received another DMCA notice, but this time from Simpson Turner.
The email was written by their "trademark attorney" which is odd (I'll explain later). She says that my site is using a copyrighted image and her client is the copyright holder. What I'm doing is illegal, so she'll sue me unless I place a link to her client's site underneath the image.
I've already checked the image, which is available from free-to-use image sites, Pixabay and Pexels. They both confirm who the photographer of the particular image is, and also confirm that the image is free to use and no attribution is required.
Full of Contradictions
So if you've received from this 'company', is it what they say to you too?
If so, the claim is full of contradictions. First of all,
- They're not asking you to pay damage - Or to remove the image from your site immediately, but merely to link back to their "client's" site.
If you have committed a copyright violation and made a substantial profit from it, you'll be liable to pay damage to the copyright owner. And from a copyright owner's point of view, getting a lawyer (i.e. spending money on them) to send a notice means they have a clear intent to recover the costs, doesn't it?
Other points include;
- "Trademark attorney" - Whoever's written to you, trademark and copyright are two different things. They should be explaining why they also deal with copyright issues.
- Basic image license information - It doesn't explain the exact copyright status of the image in question, e.g. license type.
- Proof of the copyright - The email doesn't prove that their client is duly the copyright owner.
- Their client's detail - Just the company name is mentioned. Without the address, it can be anybody.
- Their client's website - The company name is not displayed anywhere on their site.
The Site Is Brand New
The "About Us" page claims that Simpson Turner was "established in 2012".
This is a false claim because according to the domain registry information, the website simpsonturnerlaw.com was only privately registered on June 16, 2022.
The Team Members Are Fake
I've already explained this in the other post, but I'll say it again. The photos that appear on the "About Us" page are all AI-generated, using an anonymizer site https://generated.photos/anonymizer. If you look at their faces closely, you'll find their eyes all androids-like and focusing unnaturally.
You'll also notice that the names are all common English first names and surnames, e.g. Dylan Green, Sara Phillips, Richard Hudson, Evelyn Anderson... None of them has a slightly unusual or foreign name. This can be just a coincidence but Boston is a diverse city. Less than 45% of the population is non-Hispanic whites, and 22% of the population is African-Americans as of 2019, according to Wikipedia.
I guess they choose to use common names so that they can't be easily picked up by search engines.
Why Are They Doing This?
I can only guess it from my past experiences. The person behind this fake firm may be working as an SEO agent. But instead of optimizing their clients' sites using legitimate ways, they threaten other website owners to backlink their clients by making false copyright claims.
How To Find Out If The Claimant Is Genuine
So if you receive a similar (DMCA) claim from a lawyer but you believe that the image on your site is free to use, firstly, find out whether the lawyer is real.
- Copy the company name and full postal address and paste it into Google search.
- If the company is real, it should be listed by Google - not just the website listed on Google, but the location and direction should be displayed. Because if it's a legitimate business, it should be registered with Google Business Profile Manager.
- Check the Google Maps and see if you can pinpoint the address. Does it look like business premises? Or is it in the middle of nowhere?
- If the company has a website - go to the "About Us" page and see what it says. If the team members are displayed, check their names on LinkedIn. Can you find any of them? I wouldn't believe any lawyer who's not registered with LinkedIn.
If You Cannot Remember The Image Source
If you've picked the image in question from a free-to-use stock image site such as Pixels, Pixabay, or Unsplash but don't know exactly where from, you can reverse-search the image to trace it back. Use;
So you can check the exact license information. If it says attribution is required, then you can do so. But I believe that's rarely the case. Pexels, for example, says that none of the photos requires attribution.
What Should You Do?
So if you believe that the company/lawyer is fake...what should you do? Nothing. I don't think it's worth emailing them back and challenging their claim. You believe you've done nothing wrong. The best way to avoid timewasters is not to react to them!
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