As a first line of offense, it is best to send your demand letters to copyright infringers using certified mail. Unfortunately, not every infringer makes his address readily available, which means you’ll need to do some detective work. In this chapter of Photo Repo you will learn how find individuals and companies that do not want to be found. Topics include:
- The Essential Tools For Locating People
- Finding Business Addresses
- Finding Individuals
- Dealing With Infringers Who Cannot Be Found
CHAPTER EXCERPT | ON THE TOOLS ESSENTIAL TO FINDING PEOPLE…
Before starting your investigation, you need two essential tools. First, if you don’t have a Facebook account, get one. You’ll be shocked by the information that people give out on Facebook. Other social media sites may also come in handy, but I’ve found more people with the help of Facebook than all others combined.
Second, you need a paid version of an online telephone book. These provides invaluable information: address, phone number, age, list of known relatives and other people who live at the address, list of known associates, list of past residences and dates. You only get this information with the paid service, so don’t be a cheapskate.
CHAPTER EXCERPT | ON FINDING A BUSINESS THROUGH A CORPORATE REGISTRATION SEARCH…
Check the footer area of the website for a copyright notice. In addition to the copyright symbol and the year, the company’s legal name is often given. If the company is a corporation, LLC, or a non-profit organization, the owner had to register it in at least one state, often the one where the business is located (another popular choice is Delaware). Corporate registration information is public, and every state has a government website where you can find information about the company, including the address, free of charge. Do an Internet search for “Corporate registration for X (state name).” There are also businesses that charge for this information, so be sure you find the official state government website (usually the Secretary of State website).
Of course you must know which state records to search, and not all online businesses make their location clear, especially those doing business nationwide. You may need to read through the website looking for clues. If the site has an ABOUT US page, this is the best place to start. If a company’s website lists a phone number, the area code may also identify its home state. Just go to your favorite search engine and type something like, “Where is area code 404?”
CHAPTER EXCERPT | ON DEALING WITH INFRINGERS WHO CANNOT BE FOUND…
So what can you do about the infringers you cannot find? One option is to simply hold onto the information and check back periodically because companies redesign their websites and may add some vital information. I had a case involving an online newspaper that I could not track down. Over a year later my photo was still being used, so I gave it another look. The company now listed its mailing address in the footer of every web page!
A second option, assuming you have a name and state, is to send a demand letter to everyone who turns up in your online phone book search. However, if you choose this method, send only one letter at a time and give each person a full month to respond. If the person does not pay you, the only way to know if you found the correct person is if he removes your photo from his website. If you send letters to everyone at once and the photo is removed, you have no idea which person took it down.
A third option is to use email, but only if the company lists a direct email address or uses an email form on its website that allows attachments. Many website owners have combated spam by using email contact forms instead of providing a direct email address. You can’t copy and paste the text of a three-page demand letter into the form and have it turn out legibly (the paragraphs are lumped together into one block of text). Furthermore, unless the form allows attachments, you cannot include the supporting graphic files used for proof.