On May 5th, we have received an Abmahnung from Kanzlei Lutz Schröder in Kiel. They demand 6XX€ in reparations for using their client's photo with an incorrect attribution. They give us 10 days to pay.

What did we do wrong?

In our guide, Steuerberater or Buchhalter: what's the difference?, we used a photo with a Creative Commons licence as the header image. Although we gave credit to Christopher Scholz for his photo, we did not do it in the correct way.

Under the CC BY-SA 2.0 licence, the attribution must include the Title, the Author, the Source and the Licence (TASL). We only included the author and a link to the source. This is a common mistake. Over 90% of Creative Commons images are not attributed properly1.

This is how we attributed the image:

Cover photo by Christoph Scholz.

This is how we should have done it:

Cover photo: "Kleingeld vor Taschenrechner in Buchhaltung" by Christoph Scholz, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

Creative Commons attribution: a lucrative business

Pursuing people for copyright infringement is a very profitable business in Germany. There are several law firms that specialize in aggressively pursuing people for minor infractions. Many people cannot afford a lawyer to defend themselves and simply pay the "fine".

All About Berlin's case is not an isolated incident. Kanzlei Schröder sent similar "fines" to several websites over Creative Commons misattributions. Christoph Scholz, Dennis Skley and Dirk Vorderstraße are known for sending Creative Commons Abmahnungen through Kanzlei Schröder.

Here are dozens of articles describing this practice:

What do the courts think?

Kanzlei Schröder is demanding 3XX€ in reparations for using a free image for non-commercial purposes. The image was free and the author was credited for his work, so it's hard to claim that any business was lost because of our mistake.

The Cologne Higher Regional Court ruled that no compensation is due for misattributing Creative Commons images. The Frankfurt Higher Regional Court also issued the same ruling.

How did we react?

May 5, 2018: We immediately removed the image from the website, and filed a request to remove the image from Google Images.

May 7, 2018: We contacted a law firm who already dealt with Creative Commons litigation: Kanzlei Ostermaier. Herr Ostermaier already helped clients defend themselves from Kanzlei Schröder.

May 15, 2018: We sent our answer to Kanzlei Schröder: we caused no harm, so we won't pay anything. An incorrectly formatted attribution for a free image is not losing the pursuant any business, so there are no grounds for reparations.

May 24, 2018: We paid our lawyer a flat fee of 275€ (327.25€ with taxes). We did not pay Kanzlei Schröder anything.

May 28, 2018: Kanzlei Schröder replied to our letter. They do not accept our objection, but offer us to settle amicably for 400€. We maintain our position, and refuse to pay anything.

June 20, 2018: We have not received any answer from Kanzlei Schröder.

July 10, 2018: We still have not received an answer from Kanzlei Schröder.

September 21: After months of silence, we have received another letter from Kanzlei Schröder. This time, they threaten to take us to court unless we pay 400€ by October 1. We decided to pay. That was our last interaction with Kanzlei Schröder.