Consumer Warning-This is a Must Read!



M. Higbee

Hi Paul. Thank you for inviting me to comment on your article. There are more inaccuracies and mischaracterizations than I care to address. However, I will quickly point out a few.

My client’s decision to no longer pursue the claim had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that your client decided to retain counsel, but simply the discovery that your client was a non-government entity (NGO), which, along with other economic related factors, put it outside of my client’s enforcement parameters. The inference that we do not like working with attorneys is not true. While we are happy to work with unrepresented parties, our preference is to deal with attorneys who understand the nature of the claims. A majority of the claims we resolve involve represented parties.

Our clients choose which cases we pursue. Generally, our clients choose to have us only pursue unauthorized use of their work by persons or entities that provide or promote goods or services for a fee, generate ad revenue, or solicit contributions. We never intentionally pursue private non-commercial infringements. That being said, often times it is difficult to accurately assess an infringer based on the limited information available, especially when the natural tendency of most websites is to make the entity look bigger and more successful than it is. Whenever we discover a case is outside our firm’s or our client’s enforcement parameters, we close it (even if offers to settle have been received) and take any necessary steps to prevent similar errors in the future.

Anyone who believes that the existence of a screening stage prior to the litigation stage is proof that no screening is done at the pre-litigation stage needs to gain more insight on how law firms and businesses that depend on efficiency operate. Every law firm will take what they learned during the pre-litigation stage and evaluate it before making a recommendation about litigation to their client. The cases we litigate or that we refer to other law firms to litigate are all screened multiple times prior to pre-litigation and litigation efforts.

We never pursue a claim that we do not believe has merit. We also never state that a claim will definitely involve statutory damages, but instead, we caution people as to what may be possible. The initial letter is sent at a time when we know very few facts about the extent of the infringement or how many other images may have been infringed. It is not uncommon for us to find additional infringements even after we begin litigation that may give rise to statutory damages. Also, during the pre-litigation stage, we often do not know the viability or availability of additional claims that could give rise to statutory damages and attorneys fees, for instance, violations of 17 U.S.C. 1202, which involves alteration or removal of copyright management information, and does not require registration for an award of statutory damages. Some of our clients have thousands of registered images that they have not yet matched to their image library. So, Ms. Alvarado’s statement about the image not being registered was accurate for purposes of our reaching a settlement, as we would negotiate a resolution as if the image was not registered; however, there is a chance that we would later need to revise our position on whether or not the image was registered. Our goal is not to be heavy-handed, but rather to convey the seriousness of the matter and caution the business about the potential risks. We also suggest they consider consulting an attorney.

Copyright infringement is a big problem that threatens the livelihood of talented artists and the viability of important publishers of news and commentary. Unlike other areas of property theft or trespass, which are primarily policed by government entities, the protection of intellectual property falls almost exclusively on the copyright holder. Policing anything is difficult. Policing large scale infringement is beyond difficult. However, our tremendous success rate in and out of court is a testament to our ability to do things right. That being said, I know we are not perfect and there is always room for improvement.

So, let me conclude by saying the following: my law firm has been blessed with the opportunity to represent incredible artists and professionals from all over the world, not to mention two of the world’s three largest news agencies. We are proud to represent them and to help them solve a very challenging and serious problem. I welcome any criticism as an opportunity to find ways to improve our ability to better achieve our goal of protecting our client’s work with the integrity and professionalism they expect. To the extent that your article provides an opportunity to do that, I thank you. I wish you the best of luck in the future.

Mike Spaulding


Thank you for this article. It explains my experience to a “T.” Received a Higbee demand letter related to an article I received from a friend who does a news podcast. The article gave a run down of that particular night’s show with some brief commentary. I reposted the article. Unbeknownst to me, the article contained a picture that Higbee says infringed upon their client Agence France-Presse. I removed the picture but Higbee’s clerks are still emailing me wanting payment. Now I understand why.

Thank you!


Matthew Chan

This recent expose about Higbee & Associates and their demand letter scheme written and researched by Mr. Levy was an unexpected surprise. It is an amazing piece of work filled with analysis, research, cross-references, links to letters/emails, and so much more. The time, effort, and work Mr. Levy put into this project are substantial. I have no other word to describe this expose except that it’s “packed”.

I have followed the Higbee Demand Letter Scheme for years through the hosting of a dedicated Higbee Associates Letter & Lawsuits forum on the ExtortionLetterInfo website. I have seen no singular article that has as much analysis packed into this article as this one. Nothing else written thus far comes close to touching Mr. Levy’s work. I say this being very familiar with the Higbee operation and their demand letter scheme. Nevertheless, I still need more time to go through every link Mr. Levy provided and put it all into context in my mind.

Unless Mr. Levy decides to do a follow-up, his article will be the definitive “go to” article for anyone receiving a Higbee Demand Letter. It is a MUST READ! Through Mr. Levy’s and Public Citizen’s ongoing advocacy for consumers, Mr. Levy has called out the Higbee operation in a very big, unique, and public way.


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