Dubious Outfit Uses Copyright Claims for Black Hat SEO Scheme

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A few days ago, we were accused of copyright infringement by a company that says it acts 'on behalf' of photographers whose work is shared without permission. To resolve the dispute, we only had to add a link to an entirely unrelated website. We denied this request but this black-hat SEO scheme is quite successful at other sites, including news outfits and even a university.

cautionAt TorrentFreak, we write about copyright issues on a daily basis. However, this week we find ourselves on the receiving end of an infringement claim.

A few days ago we received an email from Robert Bradley at Photocredit.org. The outfit accused us of using a photo in one of our articles without permission from the copyright holder.

Attribution Required

The email in question doesn’t identify the exact photo, nor is the photographer mentioned by name. However, the demands are crystal clear and quite unusual, as shown below.

Hello Ernesto,

You are using our client’s image in one of your articles https://torrentfreak.com/canadian-music-group-proposes-copyright-tax-on-internet-use-181006/.

We are glad you found it useful?

However, our client has this image registered, and it requires attribution.

We request a clickable image credit link to Career Employer (https://careeremployer.com/) at the bottom of your article.

Unfortunately, removing the image is not the solution since you have been using the image on your website for a while now. We are obliged to inform the artist if this matter is not resolved in a timely manner.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Robert Bradley

At TorrentFreak, we take copyright issues very seriously, but his email triggered a few alarm bells. More on that later. Let’s start by looking at the image that is supposedly being infringed.

There is no direct link to the image. However, the article that’s mentioned in the email only uses one photo in the body, one that was taken by the Canadian photographer Stefan Malloch.

These types of stock photos are regularly used without permission, often because people don’t know any better. We didn’t just grab this image from the web, however, and properly licensed it through Shutterstock years ago.

Link to Career Employer?

With a proper license, Photocredit.org’s copyright claim falls flat. But that’s not the main issue here. It’s the vague nature of the claims and the request to add a link to the random “careeremployer” website as compensation that stands out like a sore thumb.

To find out more we wrote back to Robert Bradley asking for further details. After a few days, our inquiry remains unanswered. We also reached out to Photocredit.org asking for contact information. Again, no response.

At this point, we started to question whether the Canadian photographer is even aware of these infringement notices. Unfortunately, he didn’t reply to our inquiries via email, Instagram and Facebook.

Without an official response, we don’t know whether Photocredit.org actually acts on behalf of the photographers. However, after spending a few minutes searching for information we found out that many others have received similar claims.

“It’s a Scam”

Photocredit has a poor reputation on Trustpilot, where many people complain that they were accused of copyright infringement despite having a proper license.

“It’s a scam – same as all the other reviews. Same email from Robert Bradley saying we’re infringing his ‘client’s’ image – which is licenced to us via Adobe Stock,” one of the reviews reads.

There were also some ‘positive notes’ about the company at the Black Hat SEO forum. “Yo this is a great method to get links, saved this thread for later use,” one commenter wrote.

Others were more cautious. One commenter on the SEO forum warned that this is a “low life tactic” that will cause trouble when it’s sent to the wrong person.

Effective SEO Tactic

While black hat SEO tactics generally have a bad reputation, they can be quite effective. And indeed, when we looked into the number of backlinks to the “careeremployer” site, it became clear that hundreds of people complied with Photocredit’s unusual demand.

This doesn’t just apply to small sites either. Below is a screenshot from POLICE Magazine, which credits Career Employer and links to the website.

The same is true for hundreds of other publications, including Lifehack, and even the University of Manchester links to Career Employer in a photo credit.


Caution Warranted

All these links help the Career Builder site to increase its SEO value, which could come in handy when it’s put up for sale.

Again, we don’t know for sure if the email is legit or not. It could in theory be a “creative” way to get photographers paid through a dubious SEO tactic, but we’re not putting any money on it.

In any case, we urge everyone who hears from Photocredit to contact the photographer directly, before linking to some random site.


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