Careful What You Rip From Internet: Copyright Trolls Are Looking For Your Mistakes


Stay Away From Using Copyrighted Material In Your Online Media Mix

By Judith Bachman

During the pandemic business owners have hurriedly shifted more of their marketing resources to digital outlets and social media.  In this rush to boost business, entrepreneurs may unknowingly be using material that does not belong to them.

While that’s been done innocently enough, business owners could find themselves paying for that mistake because a legion of “copyright trolls” or lawyers trolling for these errors, are out in force and looking for a pay day.

judith bachmanWhen posting material on a digital platform, business owners or their marketing teams unthinkingly use images, sound, or video copied from others. They use a GIF floating on the Internet for their Facebook ad. They clip a 15 second loop of an ESPN video to their LinkedIn article.  They attach a snippet of Bruce Springsteen music to their digital newsletter.

Elements like these are ubiquitous across social media marketing but it doesn’t mean they are yours to use. In fact, they might be copyright infringements.

As the creator of a work, an author holds the exclusive right to reproduce, publish, adapt, perform or display their work.  Anyone who usurps any of those exclusive rights and utilizes the work without the author’s permission has infringed the author’s copyright.

While copying other people’s content in a digital posting may seem benign, there is actually great risk in doing so.

A legion of copyright attorneys, known as copyright trolls, are lurking in the background.  These attorneys use automated programs to search the Internet for postings of unauthorized copies of copyrighted works. They then send out cease and desist letters by the thousands targeted at any infringements, even innocent or seemingly minor ones. The letters demand quick settlement payments or threaten suit. And if settlements are not extracted, copyright trolls can bring litigation in federal court seeking damages, set by statute, of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

To avoid the dangers posed by copyright trolls, business owners and their marketing teams should use original work; no copying anything.  While using only original work will require more effort and creativity, it is the only way to safeguard yourself against copyright infringement.

If it is absolutely necessary to use someone else’s copyrighted work, business owners must obtain permission to do so. Getting permission can be done through copyright clearing houses such as, or  These clearing houses do often require the payment of licensing or royalty fees but these fees are less than what a copyright infringement litigation would cost.

A little care may avert a big disaster.  Business owners should take every precaution to avoid the wrath of copyright trolls.

Judith Bachman is the founder and principal of The Bachman Law Firm PLLC in New City. 845-639-3210,