Anti-Piracy Group Accused of Stealing the Photo They Used in an Anti-Piracy Ad


Well this is awkward… We’re all for people advocating for copyright law and making sure that people at least understand that it’s bad to steal other people’s intellectual property, but if you’re going to do it, you might want to follow your own rules.

Case in point: Anti-piracy group The Business Software Alliance was called out this weekend for allegedly using a stolen photo in an anti-piracy ad that encouraged people to turn in unlicensed software users.

The ad in question (which you can see above) reads: “Your pot of gold is right here baby. Report unlicensed software and GET PAID.” Problem is, the pot of gold picture they used to illustrate the ad is actually a picture of a delicious St. Patrick’s Day cake baked by Cakecentral user Bethasd.


When this was pointed out to the BSA, they declined to comment and immediately pulled the photo down, pretty much confessing by omission that they were in the wrong.

Now they’re in the awkward situation that might have them paying out their own pot of gold to user Bethasd, who is being encouraged by many to ask for both licensing fees and damages for the unauthorized use.

(via Boing Boing)

  • Tim

    Delicious irony :)

  • John

    *facepalm* – I sincerely hope an official excuse is coming, and that the photographer get a more than proper compensation! And not the least, that they’ve learned their lesson… Shameful!

  • Mark Wheadon

    Superb :D

  • James

    I hope that the person who first figured this out gets that pay day they where talking about.

  • JordanCS13

    Unfortunately, unless she registered the copyright on the photo, the damages will be very limited. Especially, since this is a non-profit who used it, there’s no ‘profit’ to be made on the image, so it’s likely she’ll only get what she’s already received: takedown of the image. Usually if the copyright isn’t registered, you’re only able to recoup actual losses attributable to the theft of the image. Punitive damages can’t be assessed for non-registered images, as far as I understand (though I am not a lawyer).

  • pgb0517

    The Business Software Alliance has been using thuglike strong-arm tactics for years to get employees to turn in employers, conduct raids on companies suspected of using “pirated” software, and so on. I hope they get dragged through torment and heavy outlays of damages for this. I’m against using software without paying, but the BSA believes in guilty until proven innocent. As a former IT admin, I knew that all it would take was one disgruntled employee to make my life hell, even though our company tried to abide by all licenses.

  • David Addams

    I assume the “beth” portion of the user name bethasd means this was posted by a female. If she’s a professional cake decorator, she needs to update he CakeCentral profile.

    She’s getting some great publicity out of this.

  • AaronD12

    The BSA is a scam anyway.

  • JoanieGranola

    While I’m all for people getting paid for fair use of their images, there ARE other solutions. When faced with the error, the site took the photo down immediately. That’s a reasonable solution. It’s sad that we live in such a litigious society that people are advising she sue for damages. Granted, this was a huge error in judgment for the anti-piracy company to not do due diligence to find out the rights attached to the image. I think the site should pay her for using her image up until the time it was taken down. But they removed the image when it was brought to their attention that it wasn’t royalty free.

  • Alan Klughammer

    I was understood the opposite. All images are protected by copyright owned by the creator (unless a contract states otherwise). Registering images helps with international disputes and establishes a date of creation, but you do not have to register your copyright to pursue litigation.
    PS. Maybe a lawyer can pipe up to clarify.

  • oldtaku

    This happens again and again and again. For profit trade groups think the same laws they aggressively enforce don’t apply to them because they’re above it, or worse because if you’re not coughing up dues to the trade group you deserve to have your stuff stolen. The old protection racket.

  • Ed Rhodes

    well that takes the cake

  • Jim Johnson

    Not a lawyer, but had my own dealings with this. Jordan is right. The damages awarded by courts for unregistered photos is minimal (and determined by the court). Registered photos are automatically awarded a quite large, mandatory minimum in terms of damages.

    BTW, It costs $35 to register an unlimited number of photos (in one sitting), so there is no excuse for photographers not to register their photos periodically. Bakers, on the other hand, would have to decide if that was something they were concerned with.

  • stairbob

    Mmmm, cake.

  • analogworm

    Silly Americans, having to register their photo’s for copyright.. Glad that’s not the case here in Europe :D

  • analogworm

    I don’t Agree with you. They used a photo for a limited time, even though it’s limited they still need a license for it. In your argumentation the offender could just pick a new photograph and wait for the next take-down, and again, and again..

  • Jim Johnson

    You misunderstand.

    It is still copyrighted without registering the image. The law all but guarantees the transgressor will pay the photographer a fee for use, but if you want punitive damages, you have to demonstrate how much damage was done and that the offending parties did not act “in good faith” and that they did not attempt to determine who owned the image (which is very difficult to do— essentially, you try to prove a negative). If the image is registered, however, the law guarantees a larger usage fee and a certain amount of punitive award paid to the copyright holder. The law is written that way because registering it puts it in a publicly accessible database with clearly defined ownership and rights, so you don’t have to prove what the offender did or did not do.

  • JoanieGranola

    That’s fine to not agree with me, but I certainly never said it was OK to use someone’s photo without paying for it and I certainly never implied that the company should steal another’s photo illegally until they’re caught. A reasonable, prudent person would not make the same mistake twice, especially an organization against piracy. As I said, someone dropped the due diligence ball and the organization was embarrassed by it. A formal apology and payment for prior usage should be punishment enough for a first offense.

    And before you make a comment about the myriad of people who DO use others’ images over and over without paying, even when they’re caught time and again – to that I say those people are douchebags and are clearly NOT the reasonable, prudent people of whom I speak.

  • Renato Murakami

    Here’s the next image for No Piracy group to use:
    ps. I stole it using Google Images. I wouldn’t steal a car.

  • eka gaurangga


  • David De Beer

    It’s certainly not necessary to sue them if they apologise and take the image down. But since this is an anti-piracy group, do you think they would act in the same way? If they went to Bethasd’s house and found she had pirate software, do you think they would just let her uninstall it and take an apology as good enough? I doubt it! So i don’t think it should be good enough for them either.

  • lunebe

    That reminds me of the ex French president, Sarkosy, promoting his 3 strikes law against piracy, using a stolen font specially designed for a business, plus not paying royalties to a Canada band which music was used for his party conferences, and copying, editing, and distributing a commissioned video without the creater knowledge or consent.

  • markz

    I’m an IT professional these days (well have been for over 20 years) and I pretty much think that sums up BSA, add to that, as I understand it, that the “royalties” they collect through their action don’t even go back to the companies who’s software they are supposedly protecting but, “allegedly” back in to the BSA’s own coffers for … well they are a business and I guess those private jets and yachts aren’t going to buy themselves

  • Ellen

    It does not matter if the BSA made a profit or not! Copyright law will still protect creators.BSA makes money. They used the photo for promoting their organization but even if no money exchanged hands,I’d suggest the photographer register that copyright immediately as ‘previously published.’

  • Jay

    What they fail to mention is that this is the third time BSA has been caught doing exactly the same thing.

  • Yy

    This shows how easy it is to unintentionally steal in the digital age.

  • Justin Shepherd

    I’ll make sure to pirate 100x harder now

  • Rob Harmer

    What were the other instances where the BSA was caught?