PicRights in the News: Happy Holidays

November 28, 2023

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

With the legal eagles cackling in their nests about artificial intelligence software using content without permission, the notion of rights enforcement is picking up steam. One niche in rights enforcement is the business of using image search tools to locate pictures and drawings which appear in blogs or informational Web pages.

StackOverflow hosts a thread by a developer who linked to or used an image more than a decade ago. On November 23, 2023, the individual queried those reading Q&A section about a problem. “Am I Liable for Re-Sharing Image Links Provided via the Stack Exchange API?”


The legal eagle jabs with his beak at the person who used an image, assuming it was open source. The legal eagle wants justice to matter. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. A couple of tries, still not on point, but good enough.

The explanation of the situation is interesting to me for three reasons: [a] The alleged infraction took place in 2010; [b] Stack Exchange is a community learning and sharing site which manifests some open sourciness; and [c] information about specific rights, content ownership, and data reached via links is not front and center.

Ignorance of the law, at least in some circles, is not excuse for a violation. The cited post reveals that an outfit doing business as PicRights wants money for the unlicensed use of an image or art in 2010 (at least that’s how I read the situation).

What’s interesting is the related data provided by those who are responding to the request for information; for example:

  • A law firm identified as Higbee & Asso. is the apparent pointy end of the spear pointed at the alleged offender’s wallet
  • A link to an article titled “Is PicRights a Scam? Are Higbee & Associates Emails a Scam?
  • A marketing type of write up called “How To Properly Deal With A PicRights Copyright Unlicensed Image Letter”.

How did the story end? Here’s what the person accused of infringing did:

According to Law I am liable. I have therefore decided to remove FAQoverflow completely, all 90k+ pages of it, and will negotiate with PicRights to pay them something less than the AU$970 that they are demanding.

What are the downsides to the loss of the FAQoverflow content? I don’t know. But I assume that the legal eagles, after gobbling one snack, are aloft and watching the AI companies. That’s where the big bucks will be. Legal eagles have a fondness for big bucks I believe.

Net net: Justice is served by some interesting birds, eagles and whatnot.

Stephen E Arnold, November 28, 2023


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