Mere unauthorized use of a picture downloaded from the Internet (even from a “free site”) is enough to create liability for a business using the copyrighted work without permission. This is true, regardless of how the infringement came about. Typical copyrighted works that get businesses into trouble include images and text “acquired” from the Internet.
Copyright infringement can occur willfully or “accidentally,” but copyright law prohibits both. One federal court recently held, “there is no need to prove anything about a defendant’s mental state; [copyright infringement] is a strict liability tort.” A strict liability tort is a legal wrong that does not require a “mental intent.”
In other words, a copyright owner, does not need to prove a defendant intentionally infringed the copyright in order to create liability because it is a “strict liability” tort. If you copy a picture from the Internet without permission, for example, you can be liable for damages even if you did not know the picture was copyrighted. That is the essence of “strict liability.”
Although there might be a "fair use" defense to consider or implied license(s) but the general rule is don't use copyrighted material without permission. Here is a link to an article I did and a great legal comic book from Duke University Press that my old copyright profession worked on. It explains fair use well.
This blog provides is not intended to give legal advice and is not a substitute for the same; if the reader has a concern they should contact a knowledgeable attorney.
Yes, you could end up a defendant in a lawsuit from "sharing a flyer." As noted by my colleague, copyright infringement is a "strict iability" tort, so your intent or knowledge is irrelevant, although it may impact plaintiff's potential damages against you. Here it seems that the plaitiff's real claim, if any, is against whoever put the painting in the flyer and distributed it in the 1st place --that is, unless you shared it very widely with a lot of people, each transmission of which could be considered a copy of the work.
"Sharing" isn't an iniversally good thing- look at all the liabiity for music file "sharing." Sharing is often a euphemism for stealing if what's being shared is owned by someone else.
Passing on false facts in the form of gossip can be actionable defamation, too, even if you're not the one who started the gossip.
I wouldn't worry too much about someone who threatens that you'l be hearing from their lawyer. Talk is cheap, and lawyers cost lots of money. But I would think 2x and 3x before you thoughtlessly share something that you're not sure you own.
Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to any follow-up comments. If you want to hire me, please contact me. Otherwise, please don't expect a further response. We need an actual written agreement to form an attorney-client relationship. I'm only licensed in CA and you shouldn't rely on this answer, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it's impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.
Yes, you could be sued, but it's doubtful. My colleagues are sharing a legal lesson in the perils of image sharing, a strict liability tort. I would like to add advice on what you should do. Remove the post if you can, post a notice that you have been informed the painting Is copyrighted.go to www.copyright.gov and search the copyright registration database to see if you can determine if the picture is registered. Write the owner and say what you did was fair use, but since he objects you have done what you can to try to stop further distribution, and would he please send you by return reply a copy of his copyright registration so you can better understand exactly what is registered. Then hang tight and do not further post that image.if you hear from his lawyer, which frankly I doubt, you should hire one of us to draft a response.
So far, this is free to you. Until you pay a fee, I am not your lawyer and you are not my client, so you take any free advice at your sole risk. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.