How an Admitted Bib Forger Took Down Marathon Investigation

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Two weeks ago, Valerie Reyes was featured in three separate articles on Marathon Investigation. Valerie was outed for running with forged bibs at numerous events. I originally estimated that she likely was responsible for faked entries worth at least One Thousand dollars. That figure is probably low. The forgeries were seen at races as large as Los Angeles, and as small as a local Turkey Trot.

The last article I wrote was regarding her entry to The Los Angles Marathon. She registered for The 2018 and 2019 Los Angeles Marathon through The Justin Turner Foundation. The Justin Turner Foundation issued a statement stating that they would not allow Valerie to raise any more money on their behalf.

In the comments of an article, the following was posted:

Charity February 8, 2019 at 3:24 pm

Who is stealing from charity now? Due to these articles and crazy acts of cyber bullying Valerie is no longer running for the JT Fountain!? Last year I noticed she raised over $2000 for this charity. Essentially you have accomplished her not being able to fundraiser this year, but yet you are seeking donations on your articles about her?! Surprised she hasn’t served you a DMCA letter for using her personal photos without her permission. Copyright infringement is also stealing. How ironic! You’re both thiefs at the end of the day!

The Justin Turner Foundation made their decision based on the actions of Valerie. Any repercussions Valerie faces are a result of her behavior.

The above post was made at 3:24 pm on Friday February 8th.

Coincidentally, by 9:00 am the following morning I received a DMCA take down notice relating to images I used that showed Valerie and others wearing the copied bibs.

What is DMCA?

You can skip this section if you don’t want all the legal details. Basically, Valerie tried to force the removal of photos that showed she was copying bibs.

A DMCA notice informs a company, web host, search engine, or internet service provider that they are hosting or linking to material that infringes on a copyright. … DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act. A DMCA notice is also known as a DMCA takedown notice or a DMCA request.

Valerie was claiming to own the copyright on the images that I used. All of the images were taken from her Instagram page. She even included the below image in her complaint.

I did not post her entire Instagram post, I only posted the unaltered photo. She actually included the watermarked Marathonfoto picture in the complaint. By doing so, she was claiming to own the copyright to this photo. She clearly screenshotted it from Marathonfoto without purchasing the copy. She has no legitimate claim to that copyright. Marathonfoto owns the rights to the above photo.

The DMCA complaint came through my hosting provider, Bluehost. I was given 48 hours to remove the photos or risk suspension of my account. I immediately consulted with an attorney and began the process of issuing a response. I filed my response within 12 hours, which should have been sufficient to avoid any service interruption.

Fair Use

It is my opinion, as well as everyone with whom I consulted, that I was fully within my rights to use the photos. The Fair Use exception allows the use of copyrighted materials.

In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. https://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/fair-use/what-is-fair-use/

I clearly used these photos for the transformative purpose to comment upon, criticize and to report news. Despite sending in my response, the hosting service suspended my site without any further warning.

I was forced to remove the photos in order for them to restore service. I did so promptly and service was restored the following day.

Within 48 hours I switched hosts. I believe my former host acted improperly in suspending the entire site after I issued the response to the DMCA complaint. After issuing the response, they should not have removed the photos, let alone suspend my account.

What’s Next

Valerie has 14 days to file suit after receiving the response. After that time, the rights to use the photos must be fully restored. While I switched providers, I agreed to wait until after this waiting period to republish the photos in question. Today marks the 14th day, and I have not heard from Valerie or an attorney.

There are possible penalties for issuing a DMCA claim in bad faith. I do feel that this claim did not consider The Fair Use exception, and was simply an attempt to force me to take down content that showed Valerie forged bibs in order to run multiple races.

Why Not Just Take The Photos Down?

It would have been easier in the short term to just remove these particular photos and move on to the next story. But I fear that could open the floodgates. I will always fight any attempt to censor my site or to hide evidence.

So, while in this case, Valerie was successful in having the evidence removed from my site (if only for a couple weeks) I am taking steps to make sure further attempts do not result in any interruptions in service and that MarathonInvestigation.com is never taken offline by someone trying to manipulate the rules.

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28 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for the updates, and explanation about why your site had gone down for a bit.

    Keep up the good fight. Lots of us appreciate what you are doing to improve the running community.

  2. I have made a contribution from here in Canada. As an avid runner and one who pays for entries to races, I find it absolutely unconscionable for these fake runners to continue with this charade. They take away the moments for bonafide runners. Thank you got all you go and continue your awesome work!!!!

  3. Thank you for your work. These bandits are stealing services in the same way a person who forges tickets to a sports or music event does, or sneaks in. The serial offenders like Reyes need to be exposed. I’m hoping the race organizers will be pursuing their own legal actions as a way to discourage others from attempting theft of service.

  4. Derek … this is interesting. I have been advised that when it comes to using Instagram images and twitter images you should use the entire thing showing that the source is Instagram published by that person and their caption, hashtags and all. What I have been told is that is fair use under the user agreements with Instagram and Twitter. Conceptually similar to take a photo of the front page of a newspaper and saying look what this paper published. I’m curious if that is what you did?

  5. You can’t make this stuff up.

    A runner who copy’s bibs illegally to defraud charities ends up filing an invalid DMCA request because someone is, fairly and legally, using copies of her photos.

    Can she not see the irony here?

    • I believe that’s what’s called a Valism. She is a piece of work. And a teacher, at that. So she changed her IG profile name from valmipal to socalvalism and went private. That won’t last long. She needs the attention and will be public with her posts before you know it. How else is she going to build a follower base? It’s horrible to say, but the best thing that could have happened to her was a dead body showing up with the exact same name the same week Derek wrote the original post. She’ll turn up in pictures at races with copied bibs on her friends’ accounts in no time. Either that or someone will be looking for their own race photos with their legally-purchased bib number and find pictures of Ms. Val. She can run (illegally, and cutting the course), but she won’t be able to hide for long.

      • Despite what people think, using the proofs is not a violation of MarathonFoto’s copyrights. They waive them for the proofs. Go to their website and click on “About”

        “Free digital proofs.
        There’s no obligation to purchase. But who doesn’t want to remember their achievements?”

  6. Thankyou Derek. Running is truly inclusive to anyone without discrimination. Unfortunately, this and other stories you’ve covered evidence the need to keep it as Honest as possible.

  7. I just left my second donation. Thank you Derek. I support you. You have a lot of people all over the world that are backing you and all your hard work. I wish everyone on Wall Street did research like you.

    Jason

Comments are closed.