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December 2023

In recent weeks, Lab IT and the Office of Laboratory Counsel (OLC) have observed copyright infringement claims against the Lab that request settlement payments. These claims often involve alleged use of unlicensed content on Lab websites or social media (e.g. posting a copyrighted photograph). 

In all cases, if you receive communication about a copyright infringement claim, do not respond and immediately contact OLC at [email protected] and Lab IT at [email protected]. As a reminder, please review the Lab’s Acceptable Use of Information Technology policy, which defines violating copyright law as an unacceptable use of the Lab’s information technology systems.

Past copyright infringement claims sent to the Lab have usually involved a cease and desist letter regarding use of specified content at the Lab (e.g., for alleged unlicensed software use). Once such a cease and desist letter has been received, the Lab has a process to review and potentially take down the allegedly infringing content and then respond to the sender. OLC and Lab IT will work with you to determine the Lab’s legal defenses against such copyright infringement claims.

Recent copyright infringement claims that the Lab has received forgo cease and desist demands and go directly to requesting settlement payments. These letters also claim that taking down the content will not resolve the alleged unauthorized use of the content. These copyright infringement claims have typically come from copyright enforcement companies that use reverse image search engines to algorithmically identify possible copyright infringement of images they own or images generated by photographers or content creators they represent. 

These copyright enforcement companies utilize methods similar to those found in phishing emails you may be familiar with: 

  • Presumption of legal liability and violations: The copyright infringement claim letters often state that the Lab has violated copyright law through the use of copyrighted content without a valid license. 
  • False sense of urgency: The copyright infringement claim letters often include discount offers if payment is made quickly. These offers are intended to convince you to make quick decisions and pay the settlement fees. 
  • Preying upon your emotions and sympathies: The copyright infringement claims letters often reference the individual photographer or content creator whose copyright the Lab is allegedly infringing. The letters may also imply that the majority of the settlement money will go to the photographer or content creator.

Please work with the Office of Laboratory Counsel and IT Policy and do not pay settlement fees to these copyright enforcement companies.