Did you receive a letter from a German law firm claiming that you have used a photograph without authorization (Copyright Infringment Notice) ?
What is Photoclaim ? Why did you receive such a letter ?
Robert FECHNER, Marcin ZIELINSKI and Filipp BICKEL are German lawyers who collaborate with the company PHOTOCLAIM.
PHOTOCLAIM is a Polish company whose task is to identify unauthorized uses of photographs online.
The infringement alleged by PHOTOCLAIM consists in the use of a photograph on a website without the authorization of its author and without financial counterpart for the copyright holder.
In this case, PHOTOCLAIM instructs a Germand lawyer (Fechner, Zielinski, Bickel) to send a letter to the infringer and to claim compensation.
If you received a letter from the email adress firstname.lastname@example.org (or email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org), it is likely that you have been identified by PHOTOCLAIM as a potential copyright infringer.
Initial letter : « Copyright Infringement Notice »
The letter sent by Mr. Fechner, Zielinski or Bickel usually consists of the following :
« Dear Sir or Madam,
I hereby notify you that I was entrusted to represent the legal interest of the photographer [Name of the photographer] in this specific matter.
In my capacity as an attorney, I hereby verify that I am duly authorized to act in this matter.
In the name and on the authority of my client I must inform you of the following state of affairs:
My client was made aware by www.photoclaim.com that you have published a photograph taken by my client on the website under the URL
[URL adress of your website]
With this act of publication, you have violated the copyrights of my client. The matter in dispute relates to the photograph reproduced in this letter which you are using in breach of the copyrights, with particular emphasis on the moral rights, of my client.
Your website has been secured to the extent necessary for use as evidence in court and will be presented as such evidence should you contest the claim.
With the publication of the photograph, you have acted in violation of the copyrights due to my client as the holder of the copyright, in particular, the right to make works publicly available pursuant to section 19 a UrhG. There can be no doubt that the photograph is a copyrighted work within the meaning of the Copyright Act.
You are not entitled to disseminate the photograph, as you have done in flagrant disregard of the copyrights and moral rights of my client. The appropriation of third-party photographs without the consent of the rights holder represents a violation of copyright law. At no time did my client agree to the publication of the contested photograph in its present form.
The deliberate act of incorporating the photograph into your website is sufficient reason for us to assert the contested use by you of the photograph in question. It has no bearing on the claims in the present matter whether the rights of my client have been violated deliberately or accidentally. Instead, the sole focus of the present matter is on the fact that the photograph was used without consent in the manner described above.
To effectively rule out the risk of any recurrence, it is necessary to issue a cease and desist declaration enforced by a penalty for the future.
I, therefore, request that a declaration to cease and desist is submitted by [date]
On the last page of this letter you will find a pre-formulated declaration to cease and desist enforced by a penalty, which you are at liberty to use. A jurisdiction clause and a clause determining the applicable law is common practice goes beyond the notified infringement. The reimbursement of damages and legal fees is a legal obligation and the placement thereof in the declaration also goes beyond the infringement notified. The reimbursement of damages and legal costs and the declaration to cease and desist are two claims that are not connected to each other. You are, of course, also free to draft your own declaration to cease and desist. I would, however, draw your attention to the risk that an incorrectly or inadequately formulated declaration may not be sufficient to obviate the risk of reoffending.
If we do not receive a signed declaration to cease and desist from you by the stipulated deadline, we will assume that you have declined to accept this obligation. In this case, I am instructed to take further legal action immediately.
Due to the unlawful use of the photograph by your party, we request you to pay damages. The amount of compensation depends, among other factors, on the duration of illegal use. For this reason, based on § 101 UrhG, we ask you to provide further information. Please state for how long the subject of infringement was publicly available on your website.
In addition, in accordance with § 101 UhrG, you are also obliged to provide full information on a possible larger extent of the use of the photograph in question. Claims related to such extensive use are explicitly reserved.
Should you wish to claim that your party is not responsible for the copyright infringement, according to § 101 UhrG we claim for information in that regard. In such case, please provide all data at your disposal within the stipulated deadline as to who made the photograph in question publicly available.
We hope that a lawsuit won’t be necessary and we will help you with any questions you may have.
Second letter : « Cost Breakdown »
The first email is usually followed by a second letter or email entitled « Cost Breakdown ».
Under the terms of this second letter/email, the legal firm requests the payment of a compensation:
« Dear Sir or Madam,
In the case [Your name/Name of the photographer], I refer to the previous correspondence.
In my last writing, I made you aware of your infringement of my client’s copyright. This infringement of my client’s copyrights obliges you to pay compensation in pursuance of section 97 UrhG.
By the way of license analogy, you have to pay my client the usual licensing fee. To provide transparency, my client applies the fees of the MFM-tables (Mittelstandsgemeinschaft Foto-Marketing) that represent an industry average fee and that are taken by the German courts to determine the fair compensation of a photographer. In your case this fee is:
[Financial claims details]
Since you should have paid my client the due licensing fee already from the date on which you have started to use his photograph, based on the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB) § 288 (1) you are requested to cover as well the interest fee in the amount of 5% above the basic interest rate published in the German Federal Gazette by the German Central Bank.
The total damage is therefore set to the amount of [montant total du préjudice invoqué].
According to the law you also have to reimburse my client for the costs incurred by my involvement in this matter through the reimbursement of the business fee pursuant to no. 2300 of the remuneration schedule (VV) appended to the Lawyers’ Remuneration Act (RVG), as follows:
Value in dispute [XXXX] EUR
Value in dispute [XXXX] EUR (Order to Cease and Desist) and Value in dispute [XXXX] EUR (Damage)
Sections 2, 13, RVG, no. 2300 VV RVG (sentence 1.50) [XXXX] EUR
Flat rate expenses no. 7002 VV RVG [XXXX] EUR
Total legal costs [XXXX] EUR
Further, you have to pay for the cost of the documentation of the infringement, which is an amount of 95.00 EUR. Our client has ordered the documentation service RightsPilot UG to secure evidence usable in court. The documentation costs adequately represent a causal and unavoidable loss for my client and therefore you must reimburse this sum.
Regarding the eligibility of copyright documentation costs, see those representative examples of the following judgments:
AG Hamburg, Entscheidung vom 13.03.2012, Az. 26a C 84/12, AG Hamburg, Entscheidung vom 14.06.2012, Az. 35a C 40/12, AG Hamburg, Urteil vom 17.10.2011, Az. 36A C 368/10, AG Berlin-Charlottenburg, Urteil vom 29.11.2012, Az. 210 C 63/12, AG Stuttgart, Urteil vom 26.09.2012, Az. 50 C 4382/11, AG Berlin-Charlottenburg, Urteil vom 20.11.2012, Az. 225 C 196/12, AG Berlin-Charlottenburg, Urteil vom 02.09.2014, Az. 225 C 34/14, AG Berlin-Charlottenburg, Urteil vom 05.02.2009, Az. 239 C 282/08, AG Berlin-Charlottenburg, Urteil vom 08.08.2013, Az. 210 C 6/13, AG Stuttgart, Urteil vom 10.7.2012, Az. 2 C 3327/11, AG München, Entscheidung vom 31.03.2010, Az. 161 C 15642/09, AG Charlottenburg, Entscheidung vom 29.11.2012, Az. 201 C 273/12, LG Hamburg, Entscheidung vom 17.04.2009, Az. 308 O 612/08.
You are therefore required to make a total payment of:
Damages [XXXX] EUR
Documentation [XXXX] EUR
Legal fees [XXXX]
Grand total net [XXXX]
Sales tax DE 19.00% [XXXX]
Grand total [XXXX]
We expect receipt of this amount no later than [XXXXXXX] to the bank account below:
In addition to that, you still have to declare to cease and desist, so
that my clients copyright is protected in future. On the last page of the initial letter you can find a declaration that you can use.
Should you fail to make the above-mentioned payment by the specified deadline, my client instructed me to take further legal action. »
The website owner is called upon to pay the photographer a compensation (sometimes very high) for the unauthorized use of the picture and to reimburse the defense costs incurred.
It is specified that in the event you (owner of the website would refuse to pay, legal action may be taken against him.
What to do ? How to respond ? Should you pay the amounts claimed ?
I first recommend not to sign or pay anything before being advised by a lawyer.
It is also better not to recognize immediatly the use of the photograph.
Depending on the circumstances, the infringement may simply not be characterized : lack of copyright protection, proof of a valid license, authorship not demonstrated, etc.
Even if the infringement is real and manifest, compensation can be negotiated.
Either way, I advise you not to just ignore these mails.
You can send me the letter or mail received from Ferchner, Zielinski, Bickel or Photoclaim by email at: email@example.com
A first examination of the dispute is carried out free of charge.