Photographer Threatened with Lawsuit After Protecting His Copyright

Clockwise from top left: Jay Lee's original photograph, a screenshot of Google Image Search results, and a screenshot of Candice Schwager's website showing the image being used

After discovering that multiple websites had used one of his photos without permission, photographer Jay Lee began sending out DMCA takedown notifications to web hosts in an attempt to protect his copyright. One of the websites was owned by a woman named Candice Schwager, who had 14 of her sites temporarily taken offline as a result of the takedown request. Turns out Schwager is involved in both helping represent special needs children and helping a man named Louis Guthrie get elected as County Sheriff. This is where the story gets weird.

Lee and Schwager engage in an email exchange that grows increasingly bizarre, and both parties subsequently write blog posts presenting their cases. Lee published emails from Schwager (here’s a cached copy of the page) that appear to show her accusing him of conspiring against her charitable business and campaign. Schwager also published a lengthy piece titled “Chronicle’s Jay Lee’s Cheap shots at Atty4kids Nonprofit ~ Garcia Style” on one of her websites, and then emailed Lee stating that she intended to sue him for “libel, defamation, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and seek punitive damages as well as actual, court costs, attorney fees, and interest.”

Not wanting to engage in a legal battle, Lee quickly took down his post… but not before the story began to go viral online with the help of sites like Slashdot. What began as an effort to protect one’s copyright quickly swirled into a very messy and public battle, and one of the strangest infringement stories we’ve seen thus far.

Thanks for sending in the tip, Joshua!

  • Troy Heagy

    RichardOverton: That’s exactly what GoDaddy did.  They terminated all 14 of her websites.

    Candice the Blogger had to beg to get the account reinstated.  (The photographer Jay Lee dropping the DMCA notice helped, else she’d probably still be terminated.)  Read Jay’s blog for the whole disgusting story:

  • …just a mortal…


    If GoDaddy was simply disabling hosting until she fixed the problem, then she could have removed the graphic at any time and been back up as soon as it was verified removed.  I also think that some ISP’s do remove the individual image at times, tho, and from GoDaddy’s policy thats what it reads to me.  

    She claims on one of her posts on that “By 7:37 a.m., he withdrew the accusation and pleaded with GoDaddy to restore my sites.”  Also for JL’s cached page linked in the article above, it reads that she would only have access to her account to delete the file if JL informed GoDaddy that he was allowing her site back up–these are quotes attributed to her– “Please confirm you agree to allow GoDaddy to activate and I’ll delete and cut you a check for your troubles.” & “I’m not violating copyright.  But I’ll take it down now.  Just get it back up so I can! Please!”

    So for me, the conclusion I reach is that if she can’t get to her own sites unless the copyright holder somehow releases her from infringement with GoDaddy, then I think it smacks of termination? i.e. 3 strikes and your out, oh, wait that was really 2 strikes and a foul ball-your still in it…???

  • RichardOverton

    Er no they didn’t terminate the accounts. They blocked HTTP access to the sites. Which is a different matter all together, the account still existed and the account holder could still access the site to rectify the situation. See here where a similar thing happened to Caroline Wright, when someone issued a DMCA (wrongly) the account wasn’t terminated but the whole site was blocked.

    Many hosting sites do similar hostgator for example.

    @just a mortal

    You mat be assuming that she actually knew where the image was on the site. That might involve more knowledge then she is professing to have.

  • NotCandice

     So how many names do you go by? Candice? Crystal? Are they real people or multiple personalities?  Also, that’s a big paragraph. 

  • Novacainefix

    Wow, comments are all over the board…

    Why is it that when a Lawyer is caught doing something they shouldn’t be, 9 times out of 10 instead of pursuing the “right course of action” they berate and threaten the person [in this case the photographer] with over heightened legal action and suits.  I know most peoples affinity with the “law” is what they see on Law & Order, but damn.

    I just think it is funny how some who “know” the Law, do their best to evade the reach the Law as if they were beyond it. These type of people, whether they had intentionally used un-authorized material or not, force others to do what they want by using the Law as a weapon of mass distraction.
    All would have been a lot easier if she just corrected the issue by paying the fee for use or just used a royalty free image.  Or better yet, hire a photographer to take the damn picture for her, oh but that is too simple.

  • Joe

    I assure you, this is not about her politics. I’m a conservative, I’ve been to quite a few Tea Party events, and met countless really nice people who simply think that more government is not the right solution to America’s problems.  She is no more representative of the Tea Party than Ted Kacinzski (the Unabomber) or Brett Kimberlin (the Speedway Bomber), are of liberalism.  Sometimes people are simply lunatics, and their political views are beside the point.

  • Rod Wayne

    Even the one MySpace photo appears to be a rip-off.

    Looks like it belongs to one Jimmy Williams:

  • Joe

    This is not about her politics. I’m a conservative, I’ve been to quite a few Tea Party events, and met countless really nice people who simply think that more government is not the right solution to America’s problems.  There are plenty of loons on both the right and the left, but she is no more representative of the Tea Party than Ted Kacinzski (the Unabomber) or Brett Kimberlin (the Speedway Bomber), are of liberalism.  Sometimes people are simply lunatics, and their political views are beside the point.

  • Joe

    I can’t imagine why Schwager a)thinks she’s a good writer and b)thinks writing skills are somehow genetic.  Apart from that, I think her claim to be related to Ibsen will be debunked as thoroughly as her claim to be acting lawfully when she repeatedly swipes other people’s images.

  • Joe

    You people are a lynch mob!” Don’t dishonor actual victims murdered by lynching by comparing the entirely justifiable public outing you – oh, excuse me, I mean *Candice* is now suffering because of her serial thievery.  What’s most hilarious about all this is that you – I mean, *Candice* – is trying to market herself as a social media guru.  This is a textbook example of how NOT to do social media.

  • …just a mortal…


    maybe, but can you say with out a doubt that this is the first time she had a DMCA takedown on her stuff and that there have not been multiple infringements before that would have led to her hitting the threshold to be considered a “repeat infringer” 

    Considering that she has a photo up right now on her site that is a family photo taken by a photographer in Utah, that has been cropped so that the photographers watermarks are not visible and scaled up.  I doubt that photo was licensed or given permission to use (both copyright and model releases would come into play with this one) and its a family photo of all things.  With that in mind, my money is on that this has happened before.

    But I could be wrong, who’s to say, unless you are her husband with insider info… ;-) 

  • …just a mortal…

    You almost need a flow chart I think… 

    Candice or Candi is the principal here, tho I am only giving her 25% chance of being Regal4God.
    Crystal or Crissy is a real person.  I think she is Candi’s mini-me who I think may be Regal4God (I give it 75%). Crystal has blogged on the site with Candi with the same language and tone as Regal4God.  Her avatar has the amazing made up eyes–everyone should be so lucky.  

    Ultimately right now, I see Candice and Crystal as being interchangeable.

    Its like Clue–Col. Mustard in the Library with the Candle Stick.  

    It is amazing how much you can google when you are trying to process raw files on a seemingly slow computer… 250 down, 150 left… so very glamourous.  

  • Troy Heagy

    Richard your defense of her makes no sense.  She is a REPEAT offender.  Look at this

    Interesting banner image… that looks familiar… hrm… She IS a repeat offender.  Which is why GoDaddy skipped-over the “will block the infringing object” (quoting their policy) to directly blocking all 14 websites.

  • Gavin Stokes

    I love the interweb, great to see how people like this can have their ass handed to them, and the little guy gets the support they need.

  • Gavin Stokes

    Oh my god, just read her post…..Such a poor standard of written English for a lawyer, reads like an eight year old wrote it.

  • Lolyer

    A special needs 8 year old kid at that

  • Tdwesbo

    Link is dead now, but her blog(s) are full of rants about Jay Lee now. I’ve never seen anyone less in touch with the real world. She needs help…

  • …just a mortal…

    I have to laugh—I think it is interesting how those that infringe will go to great lengths to “protect” their own works when they realize what they have been doing to others could happen to them.  I wonder if they finally got an education on copyright as it applies to photos yet?

    Overnight gained “DM©A Protection” logos and Copyright lines. A nice and ironic touch I think all things considered.  Maybe it is a strategy to be able to send take down notices to anyone who quotes them, not sure.  

    Even more interesting, they are promoting a Houston “christian” photographer’s work and encouraging people to purchase her images on red bubble.  So by promoting a “christian photographer” one post above a post totally bashing JL are they making a statement that photographers that promote themselves as christians are good and worth respecting, while the rest of the photographic world is not?   Is this a PR ploy to show how respectful and supportive they are of Houston photographers (minus JL)?  

    Personally, I feel bad for a photographer that would choose to “hitch” themselves to a person/group who has and is infringing on other photographers rights/work, let alone, one that has been so publicly nasty about it.  Totally bad form. 

  • Bua

    This is an original Anne Geddes I think. I will inform her….

  • Jean-Luc
  • Tdwesbo

    I wonder if she knows that quoting her blogs for the purpose of critical commentary falls under fair use? What a loon.

  • The_photographer_Tom

    Just been again to a couple of her sites. One has an image that says (according to a Tineye image search), that it’s an Anne Geddes picture. The image is here: 

    Another site of hers 

    turned up quite a few matches from other sites.

    Disclaimer. I am not involved in any way whatsoever with any of the parties. mMy only involvement is that of a concerned photographer with a respect for copyright.

  • Mansgame

    She is acting like a child now.  She even announced she is going to feature the works of an “award winning” photographer who is a “true artist”.   Obviously this is a shot at Jay but now she has a supply of instagram looking pictures to use.

  • Vanessa

    All I can say is, it’s not going to get better for
    photographers or anyone else concerning copyrights. Too easy to get away
    with it. I don’t understand with all the Public Domain, freebies and
    Creative Commons (Wikipedia) why do people still desire to use material
    without permission? Is it laziness? Been on the web for years and have watched the bloggers who have literally made their reputations and business success using other people’s photos most without permission. Maybe the copyright holders felt you can’t stop it anyway. This is the concept that has made Tumblr and Pinterest explosively successful.

    Btw, had to watch an entire Lexus ad and wait to skip ad after the ad finished. Not naive, I realize ads help $$$ sustain, but this is getting crazy all across the Web.

  • Manuel Smirnoff

    Why is it that only the worst class of dishonest people seem to habitually invoke God and Jesus? It’s gotten so that when someone says “God bless you” when I sneeze, I make sure not to turn my back on them, in case they are going to stab me.

  • Phillip Pessar

    I was in an antique mall for 10 years and the only bad check I ever received was from a woman who assured me it was good because she was a Christian.

  • RichardOverton

    @just a mortal “unless you are her husband with insider info”

    Do you actually read the posts you are replying to? Whilst the evidence is strong, you are still surmising the account was terminated rather than suspended and that GoDaddy have had multiple complaints. They usually charge $199 to reactivate a terminated account.

  • …just a mortal…


    I think it is you that do not read what you reply to–I asked a simply Yes/No question of you and you ignored it, so I will ask it again–

    “….can you say with out a doubt that this is the first time she had a DMCA takedown on her stuff and that there have not been multiple infringements before that would have led to her hitting the threshold to be considered a ‘repeat infringer’?”

    The reality is, unless you have insider knowledge of this actual situation (her husband’s name looks to be Richard btw ;-) ), you are assessing the situation based on what you know & have read, and I am assessing it based on what I know & have read.  Whilst you may be correct, I have yet to see anything definitive to say that you are correct.  Its a difference of opinion.  And I do appreciate that to some of us, $199 just to get an account re-activated sounds like a lot, but Regal4God tells us candice has deep pockets and in all honesty, if my business, political campaign and work were on the line for $199, it would be a drop in a bucket. 

  • Mansgame


  • Jonas

    Above link is not dead. The comments system just screwed up the link. 

    Try this: 

  • GayLetitia

    my friend’s mother-in-law makes $85 every hour on the computer. She has been out of a job for 6 months but last month her paycheck was $19177 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more here ====>>  ⇛⇛⇛⇛►

  • Carl J Speed II

    Jay didnt pull down her sites. Why dont some of you Candice-defenders get that?

    Jay made a complaints about his copyright to the webhost, GoDaddy. GoDaddy has a policy where they deactivate the websites until the issue is resolved. That isnt on Jay. Jay didnt make that decision. That is GoDaddy’s policy. Jay even went way above and beyond and wrote GoDaddy to try to get them to reinstate the account quickly.
    So get your facts straight.

  • Carl J Speed II

    Another thing.
    Never ever trust someone who takes things to the battlefields of the internet but prohibits posting on their slam pieces. 

  • Carl J Speed II

    Yeah, doesnt take a rocket scientist or a forensic expert to see the similarities there. hahaha

  • Guest

    Tracyrco is a dumb [female dog].  It is NEVER acceptable to take someone else’s photo, esepcially for an organization that collects money.  It is NEVER acceptable for the thief to sue the victim whose work had ben stolen. 

    Stupid stupid woman. 
    (Times about 3 apparently.)

  • Matt

    Wow, just wow…  What a nut job.

  • T. D. F.

    Hard work? It’s just a lousy photo. Point and shoot, and there you go.

    He can also copy it billions of times and give a copy to every person on Earth at no extra cost, so it really has little value.

    I’m not saying he shouldn’t make money but copyright is very overrated. If he’s in the business of selling photos on the Internet, he should know most people will use photos without asking, and he should be working along with it – contact the people, ask them to pay you and/or credit you… it’s simple and leaves everyone happy.

    But he’s acting like he doesn’t know this stuff happens all the time. “Oh noes, someone copied my photo from Google and didn’t pay me! Scandal!”. If he’s so defensive about his work, then he shouldn’t post it on the web in the first place.

    Did he pay Tim Berners Lee to use the Internet? No he didn’t. People like this guy are the first to take advantage of the openness of the web, but when it comes to their work they refuse to give up on a single cent.
    Again, I have no issue with him trying to make money and selling whatever he wants, but the internet needs to be more open and needs more immunity from copyright law, and people like this Jay guy should accept that if they want to do business here. Just accept that some people will copy and use media freely and without asking, and learn to deal with it instead of hitting back as hard as you can. And if these people can’t do that, then they need to get off the internet.

    There used to be a time when nobody cared about copyrights online and you could use any image you found without having to worry about anything. It wasn’t perfect, but it was really simple… People realized how easy it was for computers to copy photos and they accepted that; if they didn’t want people to copy their stuff, they wouldn’t post it for the world to see in the first place. The web was also flourishing – the good stuff would be “copied” by more websites, meaning it was easier to find.
    Now if you see an image you like and want to use, you need to find the copyright holder, which isn’t easy. Then you need to contact them, which also isn’t always easy. Finally you need to work out a deal with them, also not easy. We used to have dozens of equally popular humor sites, a dozen of equally popular search engines, etc. Today, you’ll find that for every topic/purpose, there’s a single gigantic website (Google, Cheezburger Network…) and lots of other small websites (too small to be meaningful). The web is not developing anymore, it’s centralizing. Because content is being locked down, because now people can’t copy and repost content freely. The web is a technology that makes sharing content easy, yet people use it to lock content down.
    It’s good to repay people who do something for you and to credit authors, but a striving Internet should always be the priority.

    Too bad Jay and the other copyright scrooges can’t appreciate the value of not having to pay a license to the inventor of the web for using his invention. Because if they can control who uses their photos and demand payment for such use, then it would only be fair that Tim Berners Lee get payment from them for using his creation. Anybody who disagrees with this thinks that a single photo is more valuable than the Internet itself.

    Jay’s attitude towards copyright isn’t just hurting people who would use his content freely. Personally I draw images and provide them freely to anyone to use for anything. My creations have appeared on all kinds of websites, in games (mostly those small flash games), etc. Wherever somebody needs an illustration, my art is available.
    I love to see my creations spread, it helps websites, games and other projects develop and makes us all richer. I don’t ask for payment. My website accepts voluntary donations, that’s all, and I don’t even make a ton of money (what I make let’s me buy a DVD each month). I don’t even ask to be credited although I do appreciate it (I strongly disapprove of people who pretend to be the authors of my drawings, but if you use my art and don’t mention I made it, you’ll be fine as long as you do not specifically and purposefully say YOU made it).
    Several years ago people would just take my creations and use them without a second thought, which made me happy. And believe me, in 80% of cases I would see credit given to me even though I didn’t specifically asked for it. But today, people are so worried about copyright, they don’t use my stuff as much anymore. Those who do always send me e-mails asking for permission, and nearly all those e-mails mention money: “how much would you want to let me use your images/I can’t afford to pay you, can I use your art for free?” even though nowhere do I ask for or even mention money. And as much as I appreciate people’s consideration, I wish people would just stop worrying so much and just go ahead and use my stuff. But it’s been put in their heads that copyright is almost sacred, thanks to content authors who are so defensive about their work. And I’m far from the only free artist out there complaining about this.

    Anyway enough with the rant.  I just hope those who defend their content so much realize how hypocritical they are to use the web without even a thought for the people who made it possible and aren’t getting a dime in return from those of us who use their invention. I also hope they realize if all the content on the web as as restricted as they want to restrict theirs, the web would die.And finally: it’s not an insult if somebody uses your work.  It’s a compliment, it means they like it and you should consider yourself lucky that you work, be it a photo, drawing, or whatever else, has found a purpose.

  • Minus Manhattan

    I’m getting the same interstitial FYI. Even when I click a link to leave Peta Pixel I’m seeing this ad. 

  • AnturGyffrous

    I love the line “Jay Lee is a hacker and tech expert and knows everything imaginable about computers” she uses in her blog. She doesn’t believe in coincidences (what?) and is willing to paint someone as hacker for one simple DMCA notice. What an idiot.

  • Steve Harrington

    Thanks to the fine folks that alerted us to this issue.  We will be take steps to protect our work.  I can’t imaging my clients will appreciate their likeness used on the site either, perhaps they should know Candice is using their likeness without their permission as someone mentioned.

  • Jimmywli

    Her ignorance lead her to believe she can use anything she found online just because it’s for her noble cause.  Giving her benefit of the doubt that she is trying to associate herself with good causes for political and profitable gains.  But with so many feedbacks, any person would have done some research and find out she was in fact wrong but instead she took offense and started to come up with crazy conspiracies and slander a good man’s name along with her craziness.

    Anyone searching Jay Lee’s name and landed on her craziness might assume Jay Lee is a hacker who does these things if the person stop there and not do anymore research.
    And how the hell can she claim Jay being a hacker with all these skills and goals.  That is the meaning of Slander. Proofs lady.  Jay and the world have proof that you have taken people’s work but you don’t. All your meaningless posts are nothing but slanders.

    Forget about paying for the stolen images.  You are slandering someone and taking picture and logos left and right.  Apologize. Take stolen pictures off. And go to a stockphoto and stockvector sites and start paying. 

  • Michael Zhang
  • …just a mortal…


    I do not see the lexis ad on my home computers (macs with safari), nor my iPod, nor my iPad, however, at work on PC running XP with Chrome I got the lexis add when I went to change from Page 1 to Page 2.  Hope this helps narrow it down…

  • Michael Zhang

    Ah, I think we’ve found the culprit. Hopefully you guys won’t see these kinds of ads any more

  • Lifein50mm

    And Harrington swoops in like a superhero! Go Steve!

  • …just a mortal…

    T. D. F., 

    So if it is “just a lousy photo” and it is so easy to just point and shoot to take it, then Candice should have been able to GO AND TAKE HER OWN!

    She is certainly welcome to go and take her own now.  In fact, when she (or her clone) reads this post, I want her to accept this as an engraved invitation to go and make her own content–take her own pictures of the Houston skyline.  I would be interested to see her compose it and take an HDR photo that compares to JL’s photo. [Go get in Candice, show us how easy it is to take great photos!]  

    Now for you, if giving away your work brings you joy, give it to the world and feel that joy.  In fact, please share your web addy so that those of use who are curious can see your drawings and admire them as well. However, just because you feel that the internet world should be free use for all, does not necessarily mean that everyone else feels the same way.  As an artist and photographer, there is work that I would gladly allow others to use, in fact I have put some photos into the world under creative commons attribution only (you would like creative commons I think), I have work that I would want to get paid for its use, and I have created work that (almost) no amount of money could get me to license the work out. The internet should not be a place only for one school of thinking or another, there should be a place at the table for those that release their work as public domain, various creative commons designations , & copyrighted work, and all of the citizens of the net should respect those various rights held by the creator of the work and the choice the author/artist has made. 

    BTW, Tim Berners-Lee did not invent the internet, Al Gore Did… Sorry Couldn’t resist… but seriously, Tim Berners-Lee developed the World Wide Web–not the internet, which is an application on the Internet.  Much of the Internet, WWW and other internet inventions, protocols and applications we enjoy exist because universities, governments and private entities saw fit to encourage Professors, students, educators, programmers, scientists and the like to experiment & create.  It is fantastic that much of their work has been given(licensed) to the world to use for free (some by law has to be free to the public to use), but make no mistake, copyrights, patents and trademarks exist for much of what you and I can consider the “free” internet, and at the end of that rainbow, there is still explicit ownership…  

  • Guest

    T.D.F You don’t have a clue. So by your logic people selling stuff on Craigs list should give it away because its a free service???? 

    His work. His right. His choice. You think just taking a picture is all it is? There’s a lot more involved in taking a good picture than a few snaps. I could go on but I doubt you’d get it.

    Here’s hoping someone rips you off in the near future.

  • Jonas

    T. F. D. Try explaining that logic to the music industry and see how far it gets you.

  • That_Anonymous_Coward

    Or what if Crystal was an SEO wizard who was earning her fees by taking over running the accounts. 
    Candice who may or may not be completely insane might never have actually sent the emails but someone managing her online operations decided to pretend they were a lawyer.
    So you have a Crystal who does SEO, is bats*it crazy, quotes the bible alot.
    I know of a Crystal like that… shes not a journalist.
    If it were her, the court would love to know about that income to pay off a judgement.

  • Al Borrelli

     Not only that, she (or they who created her site more likely) specifically cropped it to hide the watermark.  That, is intent, and as bad a lawyer as she is, that is one concept she should understand.. intent. Please don’t let her off the hook!