The Copyright Claim

My face when I read: Copyright Claim!


Monday I woke up, excited to have a great day, and head out the door to my speaking event.

Quickly checking emails (famous last words), I was hit with the kind of message every small business owner dreads: Copyright Claim!

Yes, an image on this very blog was copyright protected and I owed nearly $2,000, since it had been on my site for 6 months.

This sent me into a tailspin of questions, research and mining details, as I have not had an issue like this for nearly a decade, and truly thought I was covered with all images we use across the board.

Turns out, I am in the middle of small-business targeting, blog-semi-celebrity status (meaning: I have a blog), a variation of fear mongering extortion from a foreign company, and very unclear licensing usage of images from the company I purchase an annual subscription that covers me for many things, except – surprisingly – not every single image I’ve used on this web site.


Of all things, it was a photo of a steel winch.

Yes, you read that correctly…something I could have very easily taken a photo of myself, since I own a steel winch, this one was just prettier.

Thus, it was copyrighted and I was apparently guilty.

Reading the fine print of my image subscription licensing agreement, I was appalled to see that yes, I had violated the code dependent upon usage.

I had even made reference to NOT using certain images due to this sort of thing on LAST WEEK’S post, ironically.

That meant I was using (possibly) countless copyrighted images over the past 7 years on nearly every blog post, equaling 52 Sundays per year…head slap.

For the next 4 hours, I plowed through my blog week by week, month by month, year by year, 364 blog posts, erasing every image from said subscription site, and quickly reported to the accuser that I had made a mistake, thought I was playing by the rules, make no money from the blog, and meant no harm.

Back and forth we went – they demanded I send purchased license, proof of payments, invoices, and played nice.

Humiliating, degrading, scary, and sort of ruined my week.

Why would I share this?

Because I believe this kind of thing is only going to happen more and more often, for all of us, and even when we think we’re playing by the rules, there may be a loophole.

With AI, deep fakes, and the craziness of creation that is rushing in like an incredible revelation, it’s equally an unwelcome infection.

7 years ago I was just going about my business when suddenly the copyright claim arrived.

A photo of Bill Gates I had used from the internet.

I was taken to the cleaners.

Once the thousand+ dollar bill was paid, they had me, and went through my entire web site, finding more images I didn’t realize I should have gone through and taken account for.

The most expensive one: A photo from the AP of the moment at the Oscars when “La La Land” was mistakenly named the winner of Best Picture. That cost me even more thousands.

From there I began paying for image copyright protected subscriptions, thought I was in the clear, until this week.

I don’t remember the last time I read the fine print of any agreement outside of doing a gig, casually pressing agree to every Apple sign in, Facebook and Instagram contract, and the like – it may all come back to bit all of us. Let’s pray not.

The Promise is to own up to the mistake, communicate, and make it right.

It’s painful, it’s brutal, it’s unfair, and it’s still my own dang fault.

I awaited the decision of, what Reddit calls, extortionists, to see how much I will owe in the end, and I’m sad to have been targeted, while also realizing that yep, I should have known better.

And with that Promise of integrity, I also let the copyright trackers know I support copyright licensing, I never want to infringe on the rights of any worker and their art to be used without compensation, but that I will do what needs to be done based upon their incredibly painful demand and decision.

I received news on Friday: “The case is closed, and we appreciate your quick, honest response.”

Whoa. I wasn’t expecting that!

And so, welcome to my web site – no longer utilizing any images I either didn’t shoot myself or had created for me. It’s a lot less good looking, especially since I’m now using my own face as a filler for most blog photos over the past near decade, but at least I’m not breaking any laws…that I know of.

(P.S. Want to know which subscription service doesn’t cover these things every time? You’ll be surprised, since everyone uses it –  it rhymes with Ganva. Be careful!)


Enjoy SUBSCRIBING to my NEW YouTube Channel when you’re ready to improve upon Your Leadership Promise!

~ Jason Hewlett

Husband, Father, Writer, Mentor, Hiker

  • Speaker Hall of Fame * Award-Winning Entertainer * Mentor
  • World’s Only Keynote Speaker utilizing entertainment, musical impressions, and comedy to teach The Promise
  • Author of “The Promise To The One”
  • President of Cardio Miracle.  Go to to take your health back!

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15 thoughts on “The Copyright Claim”

  1. Cheryl Knowlton

    Whoa!!!!! Thank you for sharing this vulnerable moment in a long and successful career!! This is so important, for all of us! I am thrilled that the resolution was financially painless for you this time. How scary!!!

    Early in my career (in 2003 when I built my first atrociously pathetic Power Point deck), I was clueless about photos and copyright. 6 years ago, I bought a pretty robust monthly subscription to istock. They are great to work with and have thousands of images to choose from. Now, I get to go read THEIR fine print!!!! Thank you again, Jason!

    1. It’s amazing how little we know, and how tough this can be for us to navigate. Your PowerPoints are now incredible! iStock has proven to be way more reliable.

  2. Expensive journey of learning. I am glad the case is closed.
    I think your willingness to be accountable, acting with integrity
    which you always do, helped.
    And Happy Dt, Patrick’s Day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Hmmmm I use that service. Bummed! This happened to me once and I was like you, didn’t know, let’s make it right. They took less but I still paid too much. Now I feel unsure again and like you will switch to my own photos even if they aren’t as beautiful or cool. Oh, man. Life is getting so complicated.

    1. I don’t want to deter anyone from using it, as it’s a great service, but certainly wish someone had warned me this was possible! Good luck my friend.

  4. We had Getty images come after us me for an image on my website of face washing. It was an image that I actually took myself but it had similarities to theirs. It took months to get them to consent it wasn’t the same image. Though it was similar it was clearly not the same— totally trying to extort me. It was pretty scary to me. I’m sick you had to pay money back then.

    1. Oi! Crazy story my friend. It is scary and it’s so difficult to fight it. Glad you fought it, well done!

  5. Sorry you had to go through this, Jason! As a freelance graphic designer, I’m well aware of stock image licensing issues and, like you, try hard to abide by the license requirements. After many years my favorite is iStock (and parent company Getty), as Cheryl mentioned. Other notables are Shutterstock, 123RF, and Adobe Images. I don’t use Canva.

  6. Thank you, Jason, for sharing your story so that we may all learn as well. Appreciate every ones input and advice.

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