TORONTO – The company at the centre of a lawsuit targeting Canadians who have illegally downloaded copyrighted content has come under fire for using photographer’s images on its website without permission or compensation.
Montreal-based anti-piracy enforcement firm Canipre used a self-portrait by creative photographer Steve Houk on the front page of its website without permission from the artist.
The copyright violation was first reported by Vice, which took a screenshot of the website’s homepage that showed Houk’s photo set behind the words, “they all know it’s wrong and they’re still doing it.”
Canipre is at the centre of one of Canada’s first illegal downloading lawsuits.
The Montreal-based firm has been monitoring Canadian users’ downloading of pirated content for several months. It has now gathered more than one million different evidence files, according to its managing director Barry Logan.
One of its clients, American studio Voltage Pictures, is now before a federal court in Toronto, requesting customer information from Teksavvy, an Ontario-based Internet provider. Voltage Pictures has requested over 1,000 IP addresses – a user’s unique Internet signature – collected by Canipre.
According to Vice’s report, a second image by artist Sascha Pohflepp was used in another section of Canipre’s website, again without permission from the artist.
This image is available under the Creative Commons license, which means the web designer would have legally been allowed to use the photo if attribution was given, which it was not.
Since the Vice article was published on Tuesday, Canipre has removed the images from their site.
In a statement to Global News, Logan stated, “We are as concerned about this as anybody… it is the consequence of a contract web designer not having completed full and proper due-diligence when sourcing their selection of images on our behalf.”
He noted, “I’d suggest that this is a clear indication that the system works and Canipre extends its thanks to those who brought this to our attention, along with regrets that it happened in the first place.”
The web designer, Trevor Paetkau, took full responsibility for the issue in a statement to Global News.
“It should be noted that the fault has nothing to do with Canipre. They entered into an agreement with a third party believing that all due-diligence would be conducted. It appears that there was a failure and some unlicensed images were used,” said Paetkau in an emailed statement.
Paetkau said that he is in the process of trying to figure out what went wrong.
He notes that the images would not have been used if his company didn’t believe the photographs were available without copyright.
“In any event, this is properly embarrassing and I’m chagrined,” said Paetkau. “Clearly, it’s a lesson to check and double check all licenses.”
Paetkau also mentions that when Canipre contacted one of the photographers – Steve Houk – he was “more bemused by the incident than upset.”
But Houk feels quite different.
After being contacted by Vice regarding the use of his image, Houk said he was shocked and found it disheartening to see that a company that worked to protect the intellectual property of others had used his photo.
“I would say I’m more angry than bemused by it,” Houk told Global News.
“That was something that I put a lot of time into and aside from a money issue it’s just not ethical.”
The image in question was a self portrait of Houk, a San Diego based hobbyist photographer, taken in 2008. Houk said that he has never licensed that image in particular to anyone before.
Houk said he spoke to Logan directly regarding the use of the photograph and noted that Logan initially gave him some push back, asking for evidence that this was indeed his photograph. Houk provided Logan with a link to his Flickr account where all of his copyright and photograph information is listed.
“Eventually he calls me back and says he’s satisfied about the copyright on the image and then he tells me that he had outsourced the website development to a third party,” said Houk.
Logan explained to Houk that the web designer likely obtained the photo through a stock website.
Houk says his main concern now is getting in touch with Paetkau in order to figure out who might be handing his photography out for profit.
“Here’s one of my images being used for the commercial benefit for someone else,” said Houk.
The photography says he is most concerned by the thought that his creative work is being used without his permission.
“Either way I think Canipre could have done a little more to figure out what images to use. I understand that you are trusting a third party vendor, but either way it looks pretty bad.”
– With files from the Canadian Press