My modus operandi for pursing a copyright infringement is to start with the first infringer on my list, determine if the infringement is worth pursuing, and if so, not only collect the required evidence, but also prepare the demand letter and put everything into the envelope so it is ready to mail before moving on to the next infringement. I find it more efficient to complete an entire case when the facts are fresh on my mind. I can also go to the post office at the end of each day and mail all completed letters instead of waiting until the end of the process and mailing everything at once. Daily trips put letters into the infringers’ hands as soon as possible. This chapter of Photo Repo covers preparing and sending your demand letter and how to handle refused and letters returned to sender. Topics include:
- Sending a Certified Letter
- Letters Returned Due to Incorrect Addresses
- Letters Returned Due to Being Refused
- Missed Deliveries
- Dealing with Letters Lost in the Mail
CHAPTER EXCERPT | ON CERTIFIED MAIL SERVICE…
As a first line of offense, mail your letter using certified mail with a return receipt. The return receipt requires someone at the recipient’s mailing address to sign for the letter and print his name, though the postman doesn’t always enforce the printing requirement (and sometimes the signature requirement as well). A quick look at my recent return receipts reveals that four out of eleven did not have a printed name. Since many signatures are illegible, without the printed name the return receipt service is useless. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about it. Don’t bother demanding your money back from the Post Office because it’s not going to happen.
I suggest preparing your certified letters at home so they are ready to mail when you get to the post office. To do this, pick up a stack of Certified Mail Receipts and Domestic Return Receipts, the two forms required to send a certified letter and receive proof of a signature. These are usually available in the post office lobby, and if not, you can get them from a clerk.
CHAPTER EXCERPT | ON LETTERS RETURNED TO SENDER DUE TO INCORRECT ADDRESSES…
If you find that you wrote the address correctly, yet your letter was still returned, start scouring the infringer’s website for an alternate address like a P. O. Box. If you can’t find one, use Google Maps Street View to see exactly what sort of building is at the original address. If it is an office building with the infringer’s name on the door, send another certified letter because something went wrong with the delivery. Be sure to change the date on your demand letter to the current date, otherwise the settlement offer will have legally expired before the letter is even delivered.
I had two cases where the buildings turned out to be rent-an-office-space buildings like WeWork (in fact, one was WeWork). In this situation, do an Internet search for the building’s address and find a phone number for the property manager. I’m not sure what the policy is for giving out client information, so when calling don’t bluntly ask if XYZ Company is still there. I say something like, “I sent a package to XYZ Company and it came back as undeliverable. Is there some special way I am supposed to address the package so it gets to them?” If the company is no longer there, the agent will say so. I ultimately could not find either of these companies, but at least I knew why the letter was returned.
In another case, the Post Office tracking system stated that the address was “not accessible.” What does that mean? I looked on Google Maps Street View and saw that the building was gated, and the entrance was inside the gate—the postman couldn’t get in. I also saw a mailbox at the curb, so I sent another letter by regular mail knowing that the postman would have no trouble putting it in the mailbox. The infringer called within a few days to apologize and sent me a check that same week.
CHAPTER EXCERPT | ON MY CONSPIRACY THEORY CONCERNING RETURNED LETTERS…
Some people are afraid to sign for certified letters because they often mean bad news from attorneys, and the recipient has the right to refuse such letters. A letter that is refused will be marked as REFUSED on the envelope and returned to the sender. However, I noticed that a small percentage of the letters that were returned to me for being “undeliverable” due to an incorrect address arrived with envelopes that had been sliced open on one side with a razor blade. This seemed strange because I had never received a letter that had been sliced open in this manner until I started sending certified letters. What could possibly explain this? Well, here is my conspiracy theory.
Some postmen deliver mail along the same route for years, and they become good friends with some of the people along their routes. When a postman arrives with a certified letter that his buddy is hesitant to sign for without knowing what is inside, the postman suggests slicing open the envelope, removing the letter to see what it is, and if it’s bad news, sticking it back in the envelope and claiming it was undeliverable. While I can’t prove my theory, I can do something to prevent it.