In the digital realm these days, people will do just about anything to make some money off of others, even if this means an outright, illegitimate, and illegal scam. One of the more detailed and sophisticated scam programs that have likely taken money from an array of unsuspecting individuals, is none other than the copyright agency known as PicRights.

When it comes to image rights and copyright laws of photos on the web, many companies and individuals strive to ensure that the images they use are done so in a legal manner, while giving credit where it is due. However, companies such as PicRights often attempt to undercut these efforts, by convincing their victims of the legal ramifications of using a photo that is “copyrighted”, in instances where the usage of the photo was, in fact, legitimate. Online Copyright Enforcement

In a nutshell, PicRights claims to act on behalf of image owners as a means of protecting the copyrights to their photos, even when they do not represent any of the firms in which they claim. Their robust algorithm allows PicRights to pick up on imagery that is used throughout the web, popular images that may be owned by a single outlet, and that are used on another person’s or company’s website, and reach out to the latter in order to claim copyright infringement and nearly demand that compensation be provided so as to avoid legal ramifications. – Fraudulent Online Copyright Enforcement

Put yourself in any of these individual’s shoes, receiving a well-thought-out, well-written email that includes an array of legal terms, many of which are foreign to the untrained eye. Without a doubt, the consequences of legal action on behalf of PicRights and their “represented agency” sound terrifying and daunting, which consequently causes the individual using the image to abide by essentially whatever the agency asks. This often plays out to the tune of hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, which website owners quickly yet hesitantly relinquish to the scammers, in order to avoid any oncoming problems.

Upon making the payments, PicRights then magically disappears from the inboxes of individuals, and further goes to ignoring them and their outreach to gain information about the image that they have now purchased licensing for. This leaves PicRights hundreds of dollars more affluent while causing debilitating suffering to the company or person that was coerced into paying them. Thus, there you have it. A well thought out scheme, aimed at attacking unsuspecting victims, and squeezing as much money out as possible without legitimacy to do so.

One specific instance of a company which will remain anonymous outlines the scam as having reached out to them on behalf of popular French media outlet, Agence France-Presse, claiming that the image the company used was under copyright laws and that the outlet had complained about photo use without proper consent. However, further information from AFP showed that the outlet had not filed any form of complaint regarding the image to PicRights and that their outreach was seemingly unwarranted. Nonetheless, upon reviewing the email the anonymous company paid PicRights’ invoice due to the potential onset of legal ramifications, in an attempt to resolve the situation. Once gaining the licensing for the image, any outreach to PicRights regarding how to publish the image accordingly under their name was disregarded and ignored, with the agency going so far as hanging up on the company when inquiring about publication rights.

The scam promoted by PicRights is one that has impacted an array of individuals in recent months, or perhaps years, without any proper or formal confrontation to the company on their illegitimate outreach. The agency simply sends the precisely-worded and legally-structured email as a scare tactic to their victims, in the hopes that such an intimidating correspondence will spark a reaction of payment.

This, unfortunately, has been the case for many, and has worked for the agency thus far. However, as knowledge and information is the key factor in avoiding falling victim, publishing this piece, in our belief, is an obligation to the online community of bloggers and companies that are just starting up, and unsuspecting of the array of schemes that exist in the digital world.

If you have been contacted by PicRights, be very careful about your follow-up actions, and make sure they are well-informed before taking any measures. If they reach out to you “on behalf” of any major agency claiming copyright infringement, your best bet may be to reach out to the company being represented, to truly uncover whether they have filed such a complaint to the farce copyright agency. This will ensure that any payments that you may need to make, are done directly to the company that has filed the infringement and that the problems that are resolved are done so by dealing directly with the primary party.

Dealing with PicRights may cause you to fall victim to the scam that they have so robustly developed, leading to unwarranted and illegitimate payments that you may not have needed to make in the first place. As such, similar scams to PicRights exist in the online world today, and understanding how best to deal with these fabrications is the most effective way in resolving the problem to the best interests of both you, and the company that may (or may not) have filed a scam

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31 replies
    • Aaron
      Aaron says:

      No, they aren’t. They’re a bottom feeder which counts on ignorance and fear to earn what amounts to living on extortion. They, and by proxy, you should be ashamed of what they do. You’re defending the worst sort of patent trolling and you’re embarrassing yourself in public you waste of skin.

  1. Mauricio Hernandez
    Mauricio Hernandez says:

    Alan, do you work for them? Please, click your link and tell us why is not secure? Why they don’t have a location in the USA? Legitimate where in Russia?

  2. Geoff
    Geoff says:

    For the record I think PicRights are a load of shysters! I run a small business in the UK and they’ve been pestering me for money due to me breaching someone’s copyright on an image on our website. The copyrighted image they have sent me as evidence is of a couple looking in a shop window and pointing at a display. The ‘matching’ image that I have used on my site shows two of MY employees looking into OUR shop window & pointing! Whilst the images would appear loosely similar – the 2 people look very different to those in the copyrighted image (for obvious reasons) as of course does the shop shop window – because it’s our shop! I realise these companies have bots that scrawl across the internet trying to match up images and catch poor unsuspecting (often innocent) people out, but when you try to contact them to point out their error, of course you can’t actually get hold of anyone. All they are doing is sending out thousands of these threatening letters on the basis that a percentage of people, sometimes vulnerable people, just pay up out of fear, to make them go away.
    Unscrupulous and disgusting behaviour.

  3. Carl
    Carl says:

    They are threatening to post porn links leading to a popular website, if the website techs do not buy their services. This would lead to Google removing them from their index for mass spam porn links. I’ve seen this email/threat personally and can attest. They are literally threatening to try and hurt a business’s sales if their services are not bought.

    Can you say gangsterism? lol

    They are most certainly a scam company, avoid and ignore them.

  4. Daniel
    Daniel says:

    Somebody on fiverr is posing as picrights by using website contact forms to contact companies. They input their reply email address and name on the website contact form as “picrights,” but they direct you to fiverr for payment.

    • Darren
      Darren says:

      God yes! I never thought of that! People could be spoofing an email address and mocking up their own letters too.

      The email I got, by the way, was actually from PicRights as it directed me to a payment link on their site. But I don’t for a second believe PicRights are legitimate.

  5. John Berry
    John Berry says:

    I have received the same message that Carl mentions. There is no reference to a copyrighted image or anything: just, “use my services or I will ruin you”
    Subject: powerful backlinks for your site
    Message Body:
    Hello guys, I would like to make offer for you. Please buy my services from https:…. or I will create negative porn backlinks to your website and get it removed from Google index. Please choose. I recommend that you buy my gigs to avoid losing business. If you order my gig, I will take your site to top and if no, I will spam it with porn links and get you removed from Google. I hope you understand the serious matter.

    This e-mail was sent from a contact form on (my website):

    This is in no way legit: this is a direct threat. Is it even worth bothering to reply? What can I do to protect myself? There must be a Government agency that follows up on this sort of thing: I’m in the USA.

  6. Helen
    Helen says:

    A legal company named Higbee & Associates have contacted me as representatives of Picrights because I have not responded to Picrights notifications. Are they a legitimate law firm or are they part of the scam?

    • Ben
      Ben says:

      Can unlicensed/ scam hire licensed/legit businesses? Why not? They will need to prove that PicRights is a legit US-based company. Lawyers work for money. They do not care if money earned in an illegal activity.

      • Lorriane
        Lorriane says:

        This same law firm (Higbee, out of CA) contacted us after we ignored Picright’s claim we owed the almost $3,000 for using a photo that we found on a copy-right free image page. This same image (the inside of a cave) is being used on at least a dozen other sites on the internet. I deleted the page the image was on so it no longer exists. We are a nonprofit and thankfully we have a pro-bono attorney who is responding to their threatening letter. If they want to move forward in suing us then bring it on, and welcome to Texas. ☺

  7. Martin
    Martin says:

    PicRights is a licensing and compliance agency in Canada. I do not know what they do for cases outside of the US, but when they cannot settle a case they send the claim to a US law firm, Higbee & Associates… and they file a lot of law suits. Been there. Wasn’t cheap. Google search Higbee Copyrighht Lawsuits

  8. Carine
    Carine says:

    Moi habitant la france, picright m’a envoyé beaucoup de lettres de menaces et la derniere c’etait un cabinet d’avocat. Ils disent que j’ai utilisé 2 de leur photos, une photo en afrique… Comme je ne repondais pas, ils ont augmentes l’argent que je dois leur parce que j’ai utilisé leur soit disant.. Je ne comprend pas

  9. Daniel
    Daniel says:

    All of the above is correct. Picrights is a legitimate company yet, the extortion scam of copyright infringement is just that…a scam. According to research and letters obtained by some of the companies they state Pictrights represents, they have NO copyright on images yet, they have a law firm, Higbee & Associates, send out threatening letters stating potential legal action and payment of hundreds or thousands of dollars could avoid this. Again, this is a scam and extortion that is being investigated for racketeering through a few Attorney General office around the country. According to one letter, they state NO copyright but, do state they purchased licensing rights which is also fake. DO NOT PAY THIS SCAM! Ask for documentation of copyright registry or even licensing agreements and this will scare them aware.

  10. Jim
    Jim says:

    Received same threatening letter in July 2018 about photo on our church’s website. Don’t know if they actually represent AFP. Found picture in Getty’s library. Purchased license in August 2018. Replaced image with image showing FTP/Getty label. In February 2019, received threatening letter stating “[a]ccording to Agence France-Presse’s records, neither Agence France-Presse nor any of its partners has issued a valid license to your company for the use of that imagery[.]” Evidently, PicRights hasn’t visited out church’s website. They state “[i]f your company holds a valid license or other authorization for the use of the imagery, please provide the corresponding documentation by visiting pictights and clicking the “I have a license…” link. If such documentation is confirmed by Agence France-Presse, the matter will be closed.” Rather not click on the link or contact them in either way. Received threatening letter from them in March 2019 stating “[if] this matter has already been resolved, please disregard this communication” followed by “[t]o date, the matter has not been resolved.” They don’t even know about the license being purchased or that the picture on our website shows the FTP/Getty label! Now, they’ve added a threat to refer the matter to a copyright attorney.

    Comments? Time to contact California’s Attorney General?

  11. Gerald Prettyman
    Gerald Prettyman says:

    Contact a knowledgeable copyright lawyer. Even if they own the rights, which they won’t prove, owning rights is not alone a right to use. I’ve already shut down one PicRights/Higbee harassment and am working on another.

  12. Jim
    Jim says:

    By the way, we purchased the license for $125, and PicRights offered to sell it to us for $1,695 — a mark up of over 1300%! Can you say extortion?

  13. Christine
    Christine says:

    I received the same email last week. The picture was from an automatic blog post. They are saying they don’t take payments and I owe $142 even though it was removed. Decided to do a search and I am glad I found out that I was thinking right , it is a scam.

  14. John
    John says:

    Gоt the same email a week ago. Saying that I owe them $850 for a picture that all over the internet. Glad I found this website. That stuff got me worried. Interesting fact, all post here are really fresh!!!

  15. LM Sarbach
    LM Sarbach says:

    I have not had my website up and running for over a year and I am now getting a letter saying that one of the pictures I used was owned by StockFood and they are asking for $800. First of all my food site was all pictures of my own food with the exception of one or two pictures of which I used stock photos and paid for them. Today I received a second letter. I am going to ignore all of these letters and if I hear further, I come from a family with 5 attorneys who will take care of the harassment.
    I am sorry for those that don’t realize these people are preying on innocent victims – I am not paying them one penny and nor should anyone who legitimately used a photo that they believed to be public domain or is being harassed for no reason. Keep this blog going! They need to be exposed for who they are!

    • Jim
      Jim says:

      In the PicRights’ letter, see if they provide a Catalog Image No. If so, google the number, and see if the search returns with or another like organization. If so, it may be licensed, so consider buying the license! I wouldn’t worry too much until you hear from Higbee & Associates. Also, recent Supreme Court case law states the image has to be copyrighted with Copyright Office.

      Go to the website and see if they’ve registered it. No infringement action without registration (if I understand the Supreme Court’s reasoning). Start with the date of the image. Getty registers pictures as a group. I use Getty because that’s whom my church dealt with..

      • Annette
        Annette says:

        Thank you, Jim, for posting this information. I received an email from PicRights today demanding payment, and I was unsure what to do. I’ve now reached out to Getty Images, as it appears they own the rights. I appreciate your help.
        Thanks again,

  16. Fed Up
    Fed Up says:

    Not only all of the above, but they are also claiming copyright infringement on behalf of a photography website that went out of business three weeks before their email was sent… THAT seems sketchy at best.

  17. Jeremy Espinoza
    Jeremy Espinoza says:

    Just got asked for $935 for use of an image! Thank you everyone for posting. When i google searched PicSearch the very next word that popped up was Scam… HMMMMMMM…. right away i clicked on that instead. I was going to research PicSearch Reviews but scam led me to my review results. Appreciate all the fresh posts here!!!

  18. Whitney McCoy
    Whitney McCoy says:

    Hi, so glad to have found this !
    I too was contacted by an agent today stating that they have been trying to get ahold of me since August of 2018 about an unlicensed image. Which, in truth, I didn’t have permission to use this image but my website was only active for a month before I took it down, I was just plugging in photos to fill empty space to see what to do with it? I’m not sure if I should just pay them since I was however
    “unlawfully” using a photo I did not own . Or if it is truly a scam and that I should just leave it alone?
    I have not sent in payment yet. I also do not have a lawyer, nor can I afford one so not too sure what to do in this case as it sounds like most of you had permission and/or have a lawyer if things progress?
    Any advice or insight would be helpful!

    Thank you

  19. Chris Ford
    Chris Ford says:

    I have received this email from picrights representing afp on two occasions: Feb 27 and Mar 27 of this year. They want 1375$. I have removed the image. The first email I completely disregarded because it had a line: “I am hearing impaired, and can’t talk on the phone…..” suspicious. But I actually called the number on the email and the voicemail said he was in fact hearing impaired. So I pressed another extension to check if all their officers were hearing impaired. They are not. The email I received has proof of copyright and 3 other supporting documents attached. It seems extremely official, and even with the above post, makes me worry. Can any lawyers weigh in on this!? What’s the best course of action!? TIA!!

  20. Tom
    Tom says:

    I’m a photographer and I actually am represented by PicRights. The reality is there letters are real and every notice they send has to be approved by the photographer. They have gone to court on my behalf and they have yet to lose. Think twice before grabbing that image from google or facebook because chances are you are breaking the law. Prior to working with picrights I was reaching out to infringes directly and that took far too much time and energy. Picrights is just one of MANY organizations that do this. If they contact you it means they HAVE all the information they need to proceed legally and will if you ignore them.

  21. Tirlite
    Tirlite says:

    So here is very heavy! AFP and GETTY who harass the world and to whom they send extortion letters and threaten to take you to court, the thieves who shout the theft lost in 2014 more than $ 9 million in a four-year trial where they were judged for photo theft !!! We walk on the head !

  22. David
    David says:

    To all those who claim the company is legitimate, why haven’t they fixed the SSL certificate on their website after almost 2 years?


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