AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — A wildlife photographer who specializes in bugs and whose work has been featured in the Smithsonian, The Washington Post and National Geographic demands $2.7 million from a pest-control business he accuses of using his work without permission.
Alexander Wild, curator of entomology at the University of Texas-Austin, sued Innova Supply dba Solutions Pest and Lawn on copyright claims Friday in federal court. He seeks statutory damages of $150,000 per infringement, and says the pest-control company, based in Pasadena, Texas, used 18 of his copyrighted images.
Wild’s website features stunning color close-ups of a wide range of insects. Its home page includes an Image Use button, which states that his licensing fees “generally fall between $40 and $400 per image.” Schools can use the images for free, so long as they do not upload the images, and nonprofits can use them for free or at reduced rates, but only with permission, Wild says on the Image Use page, which contains explicit warnings about copyright infringement.
Wild says he sent the pest-control company a cease-and-desist letter through counsel in February 2017, when he saw it using 10 of his photos without permission. Solutions Pest and Lawn ignored it, so his attorney sent a second letter a month later, according to the lengthy Feb. 2 complaint.
Solutions’ nonparty CEO Zach Colander responded by email on March 31, 2017, according to the complaint: “I received your letter and did my research into it. It does look like one of our outsourced content writers was taking images off Google. Internally we have a company Shutterstock account and policy of using only that. I am working on getting them all removed.”
But Wild says he discovered an additional eight photographs on Solutions’ website in January this year, and that it had not removed the previous unauthorized photographs.
Wild is represented by Mathew Higbee with Higbee and Associates in Santa Ana, Calif.
Neither Wild nor a representative of Solutions Pest and Lawn could be reached for comment Monday.
In addition to his professional photography and academic curatorial work, Wild publishes blog posts about myrmecology, or the study of ants. In his most recent post, Wild touted his “decades-long career as an ant guy.”
Wild also indicated his excitement about being sent a few “workers” of a specific ant species that he had not previously seen in the wild in North America.
Ironically, images of the numerous species that Wild studies and appreciates were used to help the pest-control service exterminate them.