Matthew Chan Oscar Michelen ELI Defense Program

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by dan_taylor, Feb 23, 2017.

  1. Recently ran across this at Extortion Letter forum in which Matthew Chan and Oscar Michelen of ELI are offering cookie cutter help for settling demand letters against photographers and image owners.

    They use the keywords Copyright Trolls, Extortion Letters, and shakedown letters to market their services. Formally this site was more or less free community discussion but just this month they flipped the switch on monetizing their Defense Letter Program service.

    The highlights:

    -Oscar has streamlined their law office operations to better accommodate and more efficiently process a larger volume of extortion letters.
    I'm curious what defines extortion "lawyers fees of $450 hr"?

    -Attorney Oscar Michelen’s Defense Letter Program. The pricing for the ever-popular Getty Images Defense Letter Program remains the same at $195.00

    -Make an ELI Paypal Payment of $59.50 and you will be able to schedule a 30-minute Phone Support Call with Matthew Chan. this is Michael Chan ELI.

    Destination360 is one that they have decided to target for protecting our copyright. We've done everything by the book; registering our copyright with, Resorted to branding our images with copyright info (it helps little) and monitoring a myriad of websites and scrapers.

    While we've never met in legal circles I see this coming and we would welcome the opportunity to review their "Defense Letter". As a photographer that has spent 20yr+ in the business I'm a strong advocate for protecting photographers copyright, even though many choose not to. Please contact me here or offline if you would like to continue the discussion.
  2. Dan,

    • It was brought to my attention that you are making some inaccurate statements on this forum. You are certainly free to express your opinions. However, I believe I have the right to issue a rebuttal statement to your mischaracterizations and assertions.

    • First off, if you objectively read our online discussions (and there are thousands), no one at (ELI) questions a photographer's or stock photo agency's right to defend or enforce copyright. No one questions piracy is an issue and that infringements are rampant. No one questions that there is a lot of false information out there and that there are many careless website users and website owners. And contrary to popular belief, we at ELI believe in copyright protection. We are not anti-copyright. People seem to forget the fact that I am myself a publisher and author with a number of works, titles, and websites. I've also had to enforce my copyrights due to blatant plagiarism and piracy. As such, I do believe that some people overstep their boundaries and deserve to pay and/or face negative consequences even if that means the occasional lawsuit.

    • Having said that, I have spoken and communicated with hundreds of angry, worried, distressed, and distraught website developers, bloggers, hobbyists, and small-party, mom & pop website owners, and have seen the heavy-handed, antagonistic, boiler-plate, legalese letters they receive. There are some incredibly high-dollar amounts in the thousands of dollars PER IMAGE being demanded under the name of low-value/low-damage infringements.

    • The best analogy I can give is that if someone speeds, runs a red light, or run a stop sign, is it fair for any city/county to demand $2,000 to $4,000 for a ticket from any citizen? They broke a traffic law so does that mean they "deserve" to pay that much as punishment? I believe most people would say that $2,000 to $5,000 is an extortionate amount and is tremendously unfair for a traffic ticket. So, if someone infringes on a $50 to $200 photo (a civil matter, not a criminal matters), does that automatically mean someone is entitled to collect $2,000 to $5,000 automatically at will? We think not. We believe letter recipients have the right to be informed and know their response options. We also believe that people have the right to hire others to assist them in an area they are not knowledgeable about.

    • I know the counter-argument about a photographer's cost of producing photos and their livelihood. However, in the movie business where movies cost $50 million to $200 million to make, does that mean if someone pirates an Avengers DVD, sneaks into a movie theater without paying to watch an Avengers movie, or uploads a pirated copy of Avengers to Youtube, should that infringer have to pay $10,000 to $100,000 on the basis of the production cost of the movie? I think most people would have a serious problem with that kind of logic. And people in the movie business don't insist on financial payments occur when small infringements occur. They demand a takedown and then it's over. They don't even require an apology. They want it taken down and most people are happy to comply as to not aggravate the matter further. There is no sustained or escalating letter campaign full of legal threats insisting on a disproportionate large settlement.

    • I am sure you have other arguments you can make in support of your position and I have counter-arguments as a rebuttal. The point being is that the higher the settlement demand, the more disproportionate it becomes and it will create extreme anger, distress, and hostility. There will be inevitable pushback, disagreement, and resistance. In the vast majority of letters, there are all kinds of confusing legalese and misleading statements which take unfair advantage of people's inexperience of the laws and legal system.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2017
  3. Due to character limitations, I was forced to break up my long response into 3 posts.

    • More to the point, you are being overly defensive and accusatory with some of the things you are posting about me, Oscar, and ELI here on I think some of what you are posting is misleading, out of line, and out of context.
    • I find it interesting that you appear to have an anonymous account on the ELI Forums and you were able to freely post your side of the story several times with no issues. But because we recently received and seen a number of Destination360 settlement "invoices" come through and listed Destination360 (NOT Dan Taylor the photographer), you feel "targeted". No one is "targeting" you or Destination360. You are but one of many we have reported on. Destination 360 popped up on ELI's radar a number of times is the only reason. In fact, until now, we were never sure who or what was really behind Destination360 until now. Your name rarely comes up anywhere. I see now you are an independent photographer of 20+ years. I didn't know that before.
    • I even wrote that out of all the settlement demands I have seen, Destination360's settlement invoices is the LEAST hostile I have seen. That is actually a compliment towards Destination360 given the many vicious, heavy-handed letters we have seen over the years.
    • Regarding your comments about our offering "cookie cutter help", I think you should look at those in the copyright enforcement industry. If there is anything "cookie cutter" about our help, I refer you to the boilerplate letters that are rampant in the copyright enforcement industry. If there is anything more cookie-cutter than what we do, might I suggest you look towards those in the copyright enforcement industry and perhaps even your own settlement invoices. Most of what we have seen are extremely cookie-cutter/boiler-plate, disproportionate, and heavy-handed like crazy.
    • Oscar and I get criticized because we charge people offering our personalized help, expertise, assistance, and time. But, we also provide tons of free information on the ELI Forums. Somehow, it is okay for people in the copyright enforcement business to demand thousands of dollars from careless or unintended victims to settle but it is somehow a "bad" thing for ELI to offer a $250 defense letter/legal representational service or a $59 phone support call to help those RECEIVING threat letters demanding a large settlement. Who is actually making more money here out of all this?
    • And for the record, we never sought to get into the "copyright defense" business. I have told this true story many times on video and in writing. The business of ELI "happened" to both of us by a weird set of circumstances which evolved over time. ELI was forced to change and evolve. It was a consequence of thousands of distressed letter recipients finding and reading ELI. MANY readers would send uninvited emails asking for help to email addresses we never shared or phone calls for help to phone numbers we never published.
    • Many were looking for advice for "just a few minutes". But it was never "just a few minutes". It always went longer. And "short email replies" were never long enough to cover all the questions people had. People wanted legal representation but couldn't afford lawyer hourly rates. So, Oscar was forced to come up with an affordable but legally efficient system to help people that couldn't afford traditional lawyer hourly rates. (Most people know lawyers charge a substantial 3-digit hourly rate for most situations.) People wanted to phone consult with someone knowledgeable on the matter but few people (lawyer or otherwise) knew as much as we did. However, it fell upon me to take on the paid phone support calls because Oscar is primarily a litigator who spends most of his time in courts representing clients in lawsuit matters, not phone consultations. I am not a lawyer and don't pretend to be but I know a LOT about how many copyright enforcement firms work and their tactics and methods because ELI is a clearinghouse for victim stories and letters we see. I prominently disclose the fact I am NOT a lawyer in several places. I would like to note that reporters, journalists, bloggers, business owners, media personalities, doctors, dentists, and even LAWYERS quietly consult me through ELI in such matters. They recognize me as a reliable and reputable source of information.
    • In the early years, the unsolicited phone calls, emails, and spending hours giving free answers to hundreds of people took too much of a personal toll on us. The onslaught for our knowledge and assistance was entirely driven by the tens of thousands of demand letters being sent out by the copyright enforcement industry. And those letter recipients, in particular, sought us out in very intrusive ways in their desperation for knowledge and assistance.
    • And that is the story of how ELI evolved over time from a goodwill project to become a business project and we make no apologies for it. Both Oscar and I are not old and retired. Our time is valuable. We both have our respective full-time businesses. The ELI project grew into side business project because of public demand for it. We don't find all these people. All these people go out of their way to find us. One day, we may leave the ELI project behind because we may get tired of it. But it isn't because we are getting rich despite what some might think, that is for sure.
    • Continued in next post
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2017
  4. A continuation of a long post broken up due to forum character limitations.

    • You state that "this month we flipped the switch on monetizing their Defense Letter Program service." That is factually untrue. The Defense Letter Program originated from the Getty Defense Letter Program in 2009. Oscar did everything back then and he had no assistants in the program. In 2012, he was forced to evolve and change the program to incorporate help from his assistants because he had too many other responsibilities and his law practice grew. He was also bombarded with requests for help to defend non-Getty demand letters people received and that is how the list of names grew over time. As I said before, Destination360 was NEVER "targeted". It first became a topic of heated discussion by a forum participant in 2014 and we slowly and sporadically have seen more of those letters come our way.
    • And regarding my phone support program, it was launched in 2012 simply because people blew up my phone and leaving messages on my voicemail despite the fact I did not (and still do not) publish my cell phone number. The random phone calls were clearly not going away so I had to give people a response besides "Get lost, I can't help you. You are on your own." Time has shown people feel much better and relieved; and are much more knowledgeable and informed after speaking and consulting with me. I don't give legal advice but I do give personal opinions. I get grilled hard with questions in most phone support calls.
    • Hence, your characterization of ELI and what we do is "new" and "flipped the switch this month" is absolutely untrue. You probably only noticed now because Destination360 was mentioned recently. ELI was launched in June 2008 and we experienced explosive readership growth driven by thousands of demand letters flooding out to website owners. What began as a goodwill/defensive project (ELI) was forced to evolve into a part-time business thanks to the onslaught of letters from the copyright enforcement industry.
    • And until you said you were a photographer of 20+ years in the business, we never knew exactly who or what was behind Destination360. No one at ELI has accused you of any wrongdoing or being heavy-handed. No one at ELI has insulted you. No one at ELI has attacked you. And unlike you, no one has accused you of running a shell game. If there is anyone who appears to stay hidden, it is the person who sends anonymous emails, makes anonymous posts, and a website owner who doesn't reveal who the principal(s) are on any website page, etc. But that is certainly anyone's prerogative to stay hidden. At ELI, we identify who we are and what we do. We are very transparent of what we can do and what we cannot do, what we know and what we do not know. We try to get our facts straight and if we do make errors and we try quickly correct.
    • Finally, if I was inclined, I could make a list of numerous accomplishments, achievements, credentials, awards, accolades, business associates, customer testimonials, news articles, recommendation letters, etc. to offset the criticisms, innuendoes, personal attacks, or disparaging/snarky remarks someone might make about me, my products, my services, my websites, or my character but I think most intelligent and diligent people of good faith and conscience are discerning enough to sniff out the truth of such remarks.
    • We don't run a perfect operation and we certainly have our critics. We can't make everyone happy but we try very hard to get it right. And we are especially dedicated to our clients (that few lawyers want to help since it is not financially worthwhile). They need our help the most from an unbalanced, unfair, heavy-handed, and disproportionate system. There will always be critics and naysayers that want to go low and attack us but that is a reflection upon them not what we do.
    • And, Dan, if it was you who emailed me anonymously, you (or whoever) are best served to sign your name or use your own email address if you truly wanted a response and not make a snarky remark. I had no clue who the email was from because it was sent by "Editor". That is meaningless to me. I don't reply to anonymous emails for security reasons.
    • I thank you and everyone else who had the patience to read and digest this long post.
    • P.S.Sorry for the bullet paragraphs. I did not know how to format standard paragraph breaks in this forum.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2017
  5. Michael,

    • I don't need to hide behind anything but I also choose not to have my name associated with this negativity.I'm glad I don't do this for a living..readers feel free to skip till the word "extortion"

    • ExtortionLetter Matthew Chan, Oscar Michelen's and "Oscar Michelen’s Defense Letter Program"has targeted Destination360 with new posts specifically designed to rank in Google for keywords that would direct users to your services. Then you just randomly post information about Destination360. I understand it's all about drumming up business but I refuse to comment and feed your forum with more traffic and ranking. Destination360's forum posted something similar on Extortion Letter for ranking purposes. Please don't take it personal it's just for ranking purposes.

    • Since life is precious how about we drill down to the meat of Extortion Letter Forum's existence and the word "extortion" I checked with Michael (who deals with Destination360's DMCA's and settlements). The last four copyright infringements are; 1)person using a Las Vegas image as a poster and selling them on Ebay and Amazon, 2)Festival Producer using skyline image to promote their festival, 3) Golf Course company promoted golf vacations, and 4) Real Estate Investment Firm using skyline image for marketing on website and PDF brochure, multiple placements. In all instances they removed our copyright and branding.

    • Drilling deeper into the Real Estate Investment Firm; Destination360 has spent several hours identifying, documenting, and attempting contact with this company. They removed our copyright and branding on said image here but refuse to respond to our settlement demand of $6,500. So do you consider this extortion, if so why?

    • Ps.; this editing interface is really difficult. It looks fine writing but upon saving its a huge block of text.
  6. Dan,

    As I told you, no has randomly "targeted" Destination360 with new posts but clearly you are taking it as a personal attack. There was a person who reported and shared with us a new settlement invoice which followed other recent reports. And there have been a few others. No one is sitting around trying to devise new names to add to the list. And my receiving a random email from unsigned "Editor" at your domain is not a fiction I am making up.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2017
  7. No you have targeted and are attempting to rank in Google for many brands not just Destination360. Nothing personal just business. Please let's get back to the real issue here.

    • I welcome a debate on Destination360's settlement invoice in this forum, not yours. Feel free to share it..Or tell me which one and I'll have it researched and posted up.

    • My hope is that it may enlighten a few photographers to protecting their copyright and getting real fees for copyright infringements, not $50-100 like many of these would like to settle for.

    PS: any comment on what defines extortion?
  8. Dan,
    • It is clear by your tone and assertions, that we will simply have to agree to disagree. It matters not whether you want to debate here or on the ELI Forums, the answer would be the same.
    • You have a right to pursue any amounts you see fit just as letter recipients have a right to understand their response options. The ultimate responses or counter-proposals are their choices, not mine.
    • The primary reason I posted here was simply because you were making factually incorrect statements and assertions about me, Oscar, ELI, and what we do. I wanted to post an informed rebuttal which I have done. People can then make their own judgments themselves about what they want to believe and what is going on.
    • And as I said before, I am also in the intellectual property business in the realm of books and audio titles as well as websites. My works have been grossly copied and plagiarized and I know the frustration quite well. And yet, I don't think you will find people complaining about me being disproportionate or heavy-handed. I have a different view on things which I will keep to myself out of respect of not stirring the pot in this community.
  9. I would like to understand what you advise clients is extortion because I've seen it used so much as it relates to Getty and others. When you run across another one of our settlements that you define as extortion please let's discuss it.

  10. I've been following Matthew Chan Extortion Letter for sometime since they assist people who steal copyrighted images and attempt to not pay copyright settlements for which photographers are due. Mr.Chans program has evolved to attempt to get people to pay him $60 for a 30 minute consultation. He has no legal qualifications just methods for attempting to evade paying copyright settlements. If there's any photographers who are attempting to collect copyright settlements and dealing with him let me know I should be able to help. On several occasions I said to Matthew Chan that we at Destination360 welcome an opportunity to debate this in an online forum but still not one copyright issue has been brought up. Meanwhile we continue to process copyright settlements successfully.
  11. Hello Dan,

    Given the fact that you made distorted comments about me, Oscar, and the ELI project, I will offer a rebuttal response.
    • You say we "assist people who steal copyrighted images and attempt to not pay copyright settlements for which photographers are due". Your statement is incorrect. We EDUCATE people on their options of how to defend against disproportionate copyright settlement payment demands. We EDUCATE people on how the copyright settlement demand industry works and the tactics they use. We EDUCATE people to their response options. We frequently ENCOURAGE people to settle their cases.
    • Whether you agree or not, full payment of stated letters amounts are NOT the only response option for letter recipients. We encourage people to get educated and negotiate these settlement demands to an amount that they believe is a fair amount. We certainly have our own opinions but each letter recipient has the choice to respond as they please. They always have free choice. If a settlement amount cannot be agreed upon, people have a right to stand their ground. It ends up being an unresolved matter for 3 years (statute of limitations) of which I remind people. Likewise, folks in your industry like to threaten to escalate to lawyers (who work for commissions) to "motivate" people to settle with various legal verbiage and threats. People have a right to learn how to cope and counteract such actions.
    • Some observations I would like to share about the people I communicate with: 1). Most people caught up in this are innocent infringers. They made an innocent mistake. 2). Most people feel bad about their infringements once notified. 3). Most people PREFER to settle these matters and get it behind them.
    • BUT the huge conflict and disagreement comes into the settlement amount. There are some disproportionate demand amounts being demanded for most cases I have seen. Because of these disagreements, there is great friction by the parties involved.
    • You say I have no "legal qualifications" to assist demand letter recipients presumably because I am not a lawyer. Would it surprise you if I told you that many lawyers and paralegals over the years have reached out to me seeking out my opinions to assist themselves and their clients in their own cases? They happily pay the nominal fee I charge for my time because I save people a LOT of time and cut through all the research and reading time involved. It is also public knowledge that Oscar Michelen has worked with me on the ELI Project since 2008 as ELI's Legal Advisor. He is an enormous asset to the ELI Community because he provides the guidance on the legal side of things.
    • And we don't do any "hard sell" for anyone to do a telephone consultation or any other premium service we might provide. There is plenty of free information and insights on the ELI Forums free for the taking. People choose to consult me because I give them individualized attention and give my non-lawyer opinions (which I fully disclose is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and I am NOT A LAWYER) about their individual situations.
    • Likewise, no one is strong-arming anyone to hire Oscar or retain his legal services for these matters. They are simply there as premium options for those who want more than is offered on the free ELI Forums.
  12. I wouldn't consider my opinion of your product distorted but that's where we diverge. In the interest of transparency as I've said before I would discuss a settlement in an open forum. Either you or I bringing one up for debate preferably one of ours so have some bearing on the case. You've had several anonymous people bring up our Destination360 copyright settlements over the years but they have yet to discuss it in an open forum. Your response sounds a bit like a marketing pitch but I understand everyone needs to make a living.
  13. Dan,

    We can agree to disagree. And regarding these "anonymous" cases. People submit their information to me in confidence. It is not my place to break their confidence and divulge such information. The people themselves can elect to publicly discuss their cases if they choose to.
    • Also, anything I say sounds like a "marketing pitch" to you. If you truly knew or understood me, you wouldn't construe everything I say or do as a "marketing pitch". But if you want to call my words a "marketing pitch", that is your right. I have been called worse.
    • Another point is that this forum is not my forum. So I am extra careful to choose my words carefully because I cannot easily correct them here. And since you want to aspire everything I say and do with negative, conspiratorial motives, I have a right to assert reasoned counter-response. Balance / counterbalance. Point / Counterpoint.
    • And honestly, what do you care to debate ME anyway? You have your opinions and I have mine. We can agree to disagree.
  14. The reason to debate you? Well to show your service is a disservice. If you so need to control the narrative I'd debate you on you forum. Now I must get get to taking pictures. Good day..

  15. "Matthew Chan and Oscar Michelen of ELI are offering cookie cutter help for settling demand letters against photographers and image owners."

    What about about hiring an attorney with a more individualized approach. Does that make that attorney attorney evil or any attorney hired to defend epople in lawsuits?

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