Author Topic: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images  (Read 5896 times)  

Offline Alan Petersen

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #50 on: July 11, 2018, 10:45:45 AM »


This is an example of what can happen. It was a long time ago, but this artwork got through and was used on the cover of TV Guide!

I don't know what price range all cover artists are selling at. I do know that a cover "from scratch" (painted entirely from their imaginationno referencing any other photos, stock images, etc) requires that an artist be VERY skilled. With such skill usually comes a higher price. How much higher, I cannot say, because some artists severely underprice their work, especially when they're starting out. I'd consider a cover for several hundred dollars to be still pretty low-priced for a "from scratch" cover, assuming the author gets full rights to the art.

I saw the original images that we're talking about (before they were taken down). They were very detailed and looked very sophisticated. Some looked like a combo photo manipulation and "painting" but some might mistake them for "from scratch" digital painting. Had they been totally original, they would be underpriced if sold for several hundred dollars.

A lot of artists do use stock photos (in an approved, ethical way). Some artists use places like posespace.com and then modify the poses to fit the cover concept. (This is perfectly legit.)

A good thing to do is to ask all these questions beforehand.

Honestly, an entirely "from scratch" cover (meaning no references, no stock photos of any kind) requires a very skilled artist, especially if the art is highly detailed or looks kind of "photographic." Ask for verification, works in progress shots (they don't have to be the actual layered image) and so forth. Maybe see if the artist has a website where they show pencil sketches or drawings they did in a local life drawing class. Many artists at that level of skill will post their "studies" and side projects. If they have those kinds of artworks to show, the odds are higher they are the real deal.


Thanks for shoving me down into that rabbit hole.  ;D

A fascinating history of pre-photoshop manipulation of photographs. I didn't realize that some iconic images of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and others were sliced and diced from different photographs/people and that was done in the 19th Century.

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/06/oprahs-head-ann-margarets-body-a-brief-history-of-pre-photoshop-fakery/258369/


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Offline ShayneRutherford

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #51 on: July 11, 2018, 10:53:36 AM »
Things like this are what scare me.  I'm still new to this and have started shopping around for covers.  Currently, I'm looking into premades since they are cheaper and I've been using Kboards to vet designers.

I'm the same.  I saw the covers before they were removed too and I frankly couldn't see it even with the images next to each other until I stared at them for a while.  There is no way I would be able to make decent covers myself so I'm leaving it people who have the experience and trust them.

Now that paranoia is getting to me and you seem to know a lot more, would you be able to answer a couple of questions even if they sound silly?  Does this apply for premades?  It's not exactly the same, but do you still ask for a contract or proof?  For a contract, did you create a standard one that you modified based on who you worked with or do you create a new one?  Or maybe you can point me to sample contracts that I should look at?

A reputable designer will show you the licenses for the major pieces of stock they used in any premades. (Theyll usually have more minor resources that theyve purchased, like brushes and overlays, that can be used on different projects without needing to be individually licensed for each thing.) Dont be afraid to ask.
     

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #52 on: July 11, 2018, 10:59:25 AM »
One suggestion I haven't seen mentioned here is to find artists through DeviantArt and Artstation. Many of the self-published authors in the more anime-esque book genres (LitRPG, light novels, harems) find authors from these two sites. Most book covers can go for $60-$300, with very, very few ever going over that amount. There is never really any doubt on ownership because they post all their old works online, have them open to comments, etc. It's not a closed off ecosystem like you'd find in an artist's own website.

Offline Day Leitao

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #53 on: July 11, 2018, 11:23:34 AM »
One suggestion I haven't seen mentioned here is to find artists through DeviantArt and Artstation. Many of the self-published authors in the more anime-esque book genres (LitRPG, light novels, harems) find authors from these two sites. Most book covers can go for $60-$300, with very, very few ever going over that amount. There is never really any doubt on ownership because they post all their old works online, have them open to comments, etc. It's not a closed off ecosystem like you'd find in an artist's own website.

Yeah, I found an artist on DeviantArt for anime style, but I think the risk of copying for this genre is smaller.

That said, I do think that an artist who does amazing digital art (or even crappy digital art) will have a portfolio at DA or Artstation, and the artist usually has a style that's recognizable throughout the work. I also think that an artist would think twice before posting copied material on a site like that. So a portfolio for original, from scratch art, is a must.

That said, for realistic digital art, they often use some kind of base image, and that's when asking the right questions might make a difference. I can see how some artists could be confused about copyright because some of them start with fanart. I know it's not the case with the designer mentioned by the OP, but it could be the case with other artists, especially if they don't do much commercial work. I think questions about their process are perfectly valid. I would never have considered asking them until now.


On another topic, one thing that I don't like about this story is the finger pointing at freelance websites. Geez, a freelance website that's not at all involved in this gets mentioned back and forth. Why?

And the post copied by the OP states that the freelance website where this designer offers her services "doesn't care".  As far as I know this has only found out yesterday, so we can't know if they care or not.

I also know a couple reputable designers that get work through that site, and it's just nasty to drag them all down. It's just a site, a platform. People could cheat on their own website too.

A few months ago I heard about a designer copying designs. She had a Facebook group. Shall we point our fingers at Facebook as well?




Offline Mr. Sparkle

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #54 on: July 11, 2018, 12:09:13 PM »
If posting images that explain how to spot the plagiarism are not allowed, I fail to see to how linking to them as an alternative is going to make the forum liable for anything. That's not how links work.

The victims are not named in this public FB post. The link to the cover artist is removed from that post, AFAIK. It's basically a resource now of how to spot similarities in images and to be wary of different drawing styles within a cover.


On a broader note:
I get that the mods want to be cautious. What I would suggest is that there be a sub-forum here that requires registered users and is not indexed in search engines, or a link to another site if that's not feasible.

People have pointed out that search results pull KBoards up frequently with indie publishing related questions. If the intention is to actually provide helpful information -- and often what is most helpful is not "risk-free" -- then it would be better to point them in the direction where they can find that help.

Even a pop-up banner on threads that are heavily trafficked or modded saying "we have removed unverified content; here are public forums where you can also discuss this issue" would suffice. No joke. Let people try and sue Reddit or Facebook.

New writers don't have the kind of insider information or access to private friend groups to find out about problems. These issues aren't big enough or serious enough to large newspapers to send them tips like you would with sexual harassment or child abuse or bank fraud. The only recourse many have is to guard themselves with publicly shared information.
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Offline Bill Hiatt

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #55 on: July 11, 2018, 01:28:54 PM »
I do agree that the best course of action is to have the customer buy the license, and then you do the work for them and return it to them.
That isn't always as easy as it sounds. Shutterstock changed their terms a few months back in a way that seems aimed at preventing exactly that from happening. Unless one has a team license (which is doubtless more expensive), the license covers use by one natural person. If someone else, like a cover designer, is involved, then a team license is required.

(Yes, I know--this is annoying.)


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Offline C.F.

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #56 on: July 11, 2018, 01:32:57 PM »
A couple of things:

1. I had paid for covers with this artist. Since it was through a freelance site, I made one phone call and had my money refunded with zero problems. I think it was a 3-5 minute phone call. It honestly makes me want to use that site for all my work with designers. The site holds the money in escrow and only releases it to the designer when the project is delivered. If this wasn't through a freelance site, I have little faith that I'd have gotten my money back.

2. DeviantArt. I LOVE Deviantart, and it is possible to find artists there, but I think there's also a high risk of running into licensing issues simply because DeviantArt is used by a lot of amateur artists who do fanart. Nothing wrong with that (I can happily spend a day scrolling through their art), but they may not understand licensing and what's involved when doing commercial work.

Offline celadon

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #57 on: July 11, 2018, 04:40:35 PM »

2. DeviantArt. I LOVE Deviantart, and it is possible to find artists there, but I think there's also a high risk of running into licensing issues simply because DeviantArt is used by a lot of amateur artists who do fanart. Nothing wrong with that (I can happily spend a day scrolling through their art), but they may not understand licensing and what's involved when doing commercial work.
THIS.

I wouldn't assume that someone with a DeviantArt portfolio is good to go. There are a ton of anime artists there and that style often has its roots in fan art. I love DeviantArt, and there are a combo of serious fine artists, photographers, illustrators there, but by far the largest majority is anime fan art.

Anime is popular with kids and those doing fan art. Some of them grow up and become more skilled but will remain unclear on copyright issues.

Usually, art school or some sort of professional training pulls the artist away from doing exclusively anime art. The ones who only do anime (have no other style they're good at) may not have had that training and education yet. Some of these artists are amazing, but who knows what their awareness of copyright is? They may think they know but yet not know.


« Last Edit: July 11, 2018, 04:44:42 PM by celadon »

Offline TimothyEllis

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #58 on: July 11, 2018, 06:12:26 PM »
But laying out other people's allegedly copyright-infringing book covers on a heavily trafficked public forum, perhaps deepening those authors' legal risk? No.

Just as a matter of interest, how is this different to all the copyright infringing images and gifs posted here? Most of them are from movies, without permission to use the image.

Why are they ok?

The mods obviously think there is a line here, but given Facebook made posting copyright infringing material normal, and most young people have no idea they are doing so, and don't care anyway, I don't see any real difference here. On the one hand, we have threads full of copyrighted material being illegally used, and on the other, we have deliberate cover making infringement. Why delete one set, and leave the others? The forum is already legally exposed, should any movie maker want to make an issue of it. And I'd think the movie makers are much more likely to have the money to throw at copyright law suits, than the owners of stock images do.

What I see here is an illegal forest, but only the pink trees are causing people to pause and wonder if they will get sued.



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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #59 on: July 11, 2018, 08:21:33 PM »
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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #60 on: July 11, 2018, 08:26:42 PM »
Just as a matter of interest, how is this different to all the copyright infringing images and gifs posted here? Most of them are from movies, without permission to use the image.

Why are they ok?

The mods obviously think there is a line here, but given Facebook made posting copyright infringing material normal, and most young people have no idea they are doing so, and don't care anyway, I don't see any real difference here. On the one hand, we have threads full of copyrighted material being illegally used, and on the other, we have deliberate cover making infringement. Why delete one set, and leave the others? The forum is already legally exposed, should any movie maker want to make an issue of it. And I'd think the movie makers are much more likely to have the money to throw at copyright law suits, than the owners of stock images do.

What I see here is an illegal forest, but only the pink trees are causing people to pause and wonder if they will get sued.




Please note, I am not a lawyer.

Having said that, there's a difference between personal and commercial use and while posting memes and GIFs may involve copyrighted materials used without permission, the game changes the moment you start asking for money.

Book covers are commercial use, and that's what really brings out the lawyers.

Also, I used a certain low-cost freelance site to find the artist who does my covers. Having said that, I do all my own preliminary sketches, and have him work from that and since they aren't photorealistic that helps too.

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #61 on: July 11, 2018, 08:49:22 PM »
Just as a matter of interest, how is this different to all the copyright infringing images and gifs posted here? Most of them are from movies, without permission to use the image.

Why are they ok?

The mods obviously think there is a line here, but given Facebook made posting copyright infringing material normal, and most young people have no idea they are doing so, and don't care anyway, I don't see any real difference here. On the one hand, we have threads full of copyrighted material being illegally used, and on the other, we have deliberate cover making infringement. Why delete one set, and leave the others? The forum is already legally exposed, should any movie maker want to make an issue of it. And I'd think the movie makers are much more likely to have the money to throw at copyright law suits, than the owners of stock images do.

What I see here is an illegal forest, but only the pink trees are causing people to pause and wonder if they will get sued.

I think the key word in Becca's post is *ALLEGEDLY*.

She can correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think her point was that the cover images themselves broke the law (although it is possible that they do). Her point was that the original poster, without personal experience, was *claiming* that those cover images broke the law, which could put the relevant authors' livelihoods and reputations at risk, on the basis of mere hearsay.

[BTW: I'm just paraphrasing what I think Becca was saying. I personally appreciate this thread.]
« Last Edit: July 12, 2018, 09:33:57 AM by SalomeGolding »

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #62 on: July 11, 2018, 09:52:20 PM »
Thanks for shoving me down into that rabbit hole.  ;D

A fascinating history of pre-photoshop manipulation of photographs. I didn't realize that some iconic images of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and others were sliced and diced from different photographs/people and that was done in the 19th Century.

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/06/oprahs-head-ann-margarets-body-a-brief-history-of-pre-photoshop-fakery/258369/

The photography class we had in high school was all film and darkroom. It was way outdated, but really cool at the same time. The teacher was a retired photographer, and he showed us how to dodge, burn, combine images and all that kind of thing without a computer.

Offline Melody Simmons

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #63 on: July 12, 2018, 12:27:08 AM »
Just as a matter of interest, how is this different to all the copyright infringing images and gifs posted here? Most of them are from movies, without permission to use the image.

Why are they ok?

The mods obviously think there is a line here, but given Facebook made posting copyright infringing material normal, and most young people have no idea they are doing so, and don't care anyway, I don't see any real difference here. On the one hand, we have threads full of copyrighted material being illegally used, and on the other, we have deliberate cover making infringement. Why delete one set, and leave the others? The forum is already legally exposed, should any movie maker want to make an issue of it. And I'd think the movie makers are much more likely to have the money to throw at copyright law suits, than the owners of stock images do.

What I see here is an illegal forest, but only the pink trees are causing people to pause and wonder if they will get sued.




Well the images are in public all over FB - like I said - for those who are still wondering about this - just post "unauthorized stock usage" into Facebook's search box and you will find posts with the images - public posts not private ones in private groups, and not my posts either!  You can find the designer's info there too, in some of the comments.

I also did not post anyone's covers with names and titles here - it was only the images.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2018, 12:35:54 AM by Melody Simmons »

Offline Alan Petersen

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #64 on: July 12, 2018, 09:48:39 AM »
The photography class we had in high school was all film and darkroom. It was way outdated, but really cool at the same time. The teacher was a retired photographer, and he showed us how to dodge, burn, combine images and all that kind of thing without a computer.
I took a photography class back in college in the late 80s. I thought an easy credit. I was wrong. You had to be like a chemist to develop a photograph.


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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #65 on: July 12, 2018, 09:59:48 AM »
2. DeviantArt. I LOVE Deviantart, and it is possible to find artists there, but I think there's also a high risk of running into licensing issues simply because DeviantArt is used by a lot of amateur artists who do fanart. Nothing wrong with that (I can happily spend a day scrolling through their art), but they may not understand licensing and what's involved when doing commercial work.
You're more likely to find professional artists at Artstation. Though with the higher skill level comes higher cost.


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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #66 on: July 12, 2018, 10:15:11 AM »
Just as a matter of interest, how is this different to all the copyright infringing images and gifs posted here? Most of them are from movies, without permission to use the image.

Why are they ok?

The mods obviously think there is a line here, but given Facebook made posting copyright infringing material normal, and most young people have no idea they are doing so, and don't care anyway, I don't see any real difference here. On the one hand, we have threads full of copyrighted material being illegally used, and on the other, we have deliberate cover making infringement. Why delete one set, and leave the others? The forum is already legally exposed, should any movie maker want to make an issue of it. And I'd think the movie makers are much more likely to have the money to throw at copyright law suits, than the owners of stock images do.

What I see here is an illegal forest, but only the pink trees are causing people to pause and wonder if they will get sued.
As DCRWrites suggests, context is everything. I'm not entirely happy with the extent to which copyrighted material is thrown around without permission, mostly because my teaching background tells me it gives students the wrong idea. However, if the use isn't commercial, doesn't reduce the commercial value of the work in the same way, and is not offensive to the copyright holder, it's very unlikely anyone is going to be upset.

If I were a studio exec and saw a frame from one of my movies becoming a popular meme, I'd most likely be happy about it. Again assuming the use is not offensive, it could function as free advertising. In one case, a guy who became a popular meme ended up with an acting career. The guy from the angry baby meme got enough celebrity out of it to fundraise for something--I want to say cancer treatment for one of his parents. You don't hear them complaining, though hypothetically privacy issues might have been a legal concern.

Fan fiction is the same way. Technically, almost all of it is infringement, as permission is hardly ever sought. However, it is generally regarded as a positive activity within fan communities. Loving something enough to create your own artistic response is a pretty high level of fandom. Warner Bros, not understanding that, early on started sending cease-and-desist letters to Harry Potter fanfic writers and sites. Cooler heads prevailed, and the letters soon stopped.

When Five Seconds of Summer released the song, "She Looks So Perfect," it apparently didn't talk to American Apparel about the use of its trademarked name in the lyrics. (You would have thought it would have--the context isn't negative, but is is sexually charged. American Apparel's response: "'We're flattered anytime we're mentioned in someone's music or artespecially a big summer anthem like this,' a rep for American Apparel told Fuse. 'Naturally, we also think women look great in our underwear.'" https://www.fuse.tv/2014/06/5-seconds-summer-she-looks-so-perfect-american-apparel-response

As Julie will doubtless point out if I forget to, these examples shouldn't inspire us to neglect appropriate caution in using copyrighted material and trademarks in accordance with the law. However, they do illustrate that a lot of rights holders are indifferent to or even happy about the use, particularly if it's non-commercial and/or seems to actually promote the rights holders' interests.


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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #67 on: July 12, 2018, 11:40:30 AM »
I'm curious. Who and how did anyone discover this? I never would've figured it or linked those images together. Sure, there are obvious similarities, but I still wouldn't have put it together.  LOL


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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #68 on: July 12, 2018, 12:35:05 PM »
I'm curious. Who and how did anyone discover this? I never would've figured it or linked those images together. Sure, there are obvious similarities, but I still wouldn't have put it together.  LOL



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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #69 on: July 12, 2018, 12:37:52 PM »
The FBCI - Federal Bureau of Cover Investigation.  No actually, I have no idea.
LOL That's funny!
« Last Edit: July 12, 2018, 12:44:33 PM by SA_Soule »

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #70 on: July 12, 2018, 12:38:48 PM »
I'm curious. Who and how did anyone discover this? I never would've figured it or linked those images together. Sure, there are obvious similarities, but I still wouldn't have put it together.  LOL


Just like folks that pick up when Book B plagiarized Book A. It's usually a keen-eyed reader that catches it and exposes it.


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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #71 on: July 12, 2018, 12:46:25 PM »
Thank you for this thread, Melody Simmons. Eye-opening. Something to pay attention to for sure.
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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #72 on: July 12, 2018, 12:55:02 PM »
I'm curious. Who and how did anyone discover this? I never would've figured it or linked those images together. Sure, there are obvious similarities, but I still wouldn't have put it together.  LOL



I believe the original artist who noticed it was friends with some of the other artists whose work was used and so recognized their work. (Her post was linked to from the discussion in the Author Support Network which is where I saw this mentioned originally.)


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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #73 on: July 13, 2018, 12:39:48 PM »

As Julie will doubtless point out if I forget to, these examples shouldn't inspire us to neglect appropriate caution in using copyrighted material and trademarks in accordance with the law. However, they do illustrate that a lot of rights holders are indifferent to or even happy about the use, particularly if it's non-commercial and/or seems to actually promote the rights holders' interests.
Great post!

What I've been led to understand is, that in order to sue and win damages, you have to prove that the unauthorized use took money away from you in some way. Or that the unauthorized use made money for them in some way and because they made money, they owe it to you. (Because it wasn't their money to make, if you understand.)

You can always get someone to take down the infringing work, but to sue and make them pay? You have to show that they've picked your pocket or damaged you somehow.

Someone posting a movie meme isn't taking money away from the movie makers. In fact, I just looked up the meaning behind a popular meme, realized it was to a particular movie that I haven't seen yet, and now I'd like to see that movie. I'll be renting it or buying it. Something I wouldn't be doing without that meme.

Someone ripping off elements to someone else's artwork in order to profit from it is them making money that should go to the person whose work was ripped off.

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #74 on: July 16, 2018, 05:53:42 AM »
What I've been led to understand is, that in order to sue and win damages, you have to prove that the unauthorized use took money away from you in some way. Or that the unauthorized use made money for them in some way and because they made money, they owe it to you. (Because it wasn't their money to make, if you understand.)

You do not have to prove actual damages. Copyright law allows for statutory damages. If you see my earlier post regarding the importance of getting an actual contract, I discussed this.

If you do NOT register your copyright, you cannot sue for statutory damages, but you can still sue for actual damages. And you can sue to have the infringing material removed.

If you have registered your copyright, you can sue for statutory damages. If you are found to have willfully infringed, it can be thousands of dollars PER INFRINGEMENT. If, on the other hand, the infringement is considered inadvertent, the damages are reduced to $200 per infringement.

In regards to why you see copyright material all over FB but KB is removing images:

FB has no actual obligation to actively police images. The law only requires them to act if they get a DMCA. Because the actual copyright holder has final say regarding how their copyright material is used. If the copyright holder doesn't care or is indifferent to their work appearing in memes, that is their right to let it be used that way. if the copyright holder doesn't want the work used that way, that is their right and they can send a DMCA notice to FB to have it removed.

In this specific case, due to the fact that there is currently potential legal actions being taken. the mods felt it prudent to not inadvertently hard the affected authors by allowing the images to be shared here. Because of the risk of increasing the statutory charges, if the actual copyright holder decides to sue for statutory damages, each infringement (including the images appearing here!) can add up to thousands of dollars in charges. While KB had no legal reason to remove the images without first getting a DMCA, because this is a writer-centric forum the mods proactively moved to protect impacted authors and mitigate their risks.

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