About a year ago, I received an email from Shutterstock.com and another one from Photos5.com with a request to ban and drop the rules of the website. litigation for violation of copyright.
I've used photos I've found on Google and on some free wallpapers websites on my professional website. These images are protected by copyright (which I did not know at the time, and I had the impression that all images on Google are free to take), Shutterstock asked for $ 273, and Photos5 m proposed a settlement of $ 150 to resolve the copyright infringement within 10 days prior to the lawsuit.
I ignored both emails and I immediately deleted the pictures and I never wrote them. They have sent me many emails during this period, asking me to resolve the case before bringing in lawyers, but I have ignored the emails because I've already deleted the images of my websites and their last e-mail have informed me that, as I was not paying their settlement offer, they will sue me and that their images are protected by the author's right and registered at the copyright office, etc., and I did not hear from them after that.
Two weeks ago, Shutterstock sent me an e-mail informing me that he was going to process my case in front of a contractual agency charged with the enforcement of copyright, that I also ignored.
BUT now, I have received a registered letter from an IP lawyer's office in my area, representing photos5, and I have no idea of how they have found my address or my real name (my domain was protected by whois) informing me that they have already started the legal procedure. actions to recover statutory damages, Apparently, the copyright infringement involving images registered with the US Copyright Office allows for statutory damages of up to $ 30,000, or 150,000 dollars it can be shown that it was a voluntary act. !!! This is only an image !!!
I contacted them and I offered to buy the image and pay the previous settlement fee of $ 150 and close the case. I am sorry, but they replied "we are contractually obliged not to talk to you", and I should discuss this issue only with their lawyers !!
What should I do, should I hire an intellectual property lawyer because it costs too much, or should I negotiate directly with their lawyer, I need help please !! any advice is very appreciated.