You received the Getty Images letter threatening a lawsuit, now what?





Let me paint you a scenario.

You get done with work and after your long commute you grab your mail and head inside your home.  After getting inside, you view your mail and see something from Getty Images.  You open up the letter and it hits you….Getty Images is demanding that you pay for images that were used on your website.  Typically the range is between $750 to $950 per image for copyright damages.



Your stomach sinks; you wonder how this happened, and then you come to the realization that you are faced with hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in debt.  How do I know this feeling?  A good friend of mine was faced with the issue for roughly $1000.00 for an image of a welcome mat.  This same image could be bought for $18 on a different website, but now Getty Images is stating that “the damage has been done” and the settlement is your only chance to avoid a copyright lawsuit.

Usually this is done when someone purposely steals an image, or they forget to filter a photo by license and grab an image that has a copyright.  Before I explain what happens next, make sure that whenever you use these photos you provide photo attribution to the original author.

So, what is going to happen next?

1)  Getty Images will send between 2-3 copies of a similar letter explaining that if you don’t settle with them, they will take you to court and the penalties could be far beyond what they are asking as a settlement, sometimes in excess of $5000.00.

2)  If Getty Images doesn’t get a response from you, they will turn you over to an attorney that they work with who will send you a new letter stating a similar scenario as the original Getty Images letter, but the price to settle just went up because they now have a lawyer involved.  In this letter you may receive a copy of a judgment that resulted in a $5000.00 settlement where a company lost their case against Getty Images for the use of a single image.

3)  If Getty Images is still unsuccessful with those attempts to get you to settle, they will turn your information into a collection agency who will then tell you that you owe them for the settlement.

4)  You CAN potentially be taken to court by Getty Images if they own the copyright for the image. So, now that you have seen the steps above it all looks like doom and gloom.  You must be thinking, “How on earth am I going to pay all of this money to Getty Images?”  Although the steps above sound very bad, they really aren’t as bad as you’re imagining.  In other words, there is hope!

Questions and answers:

Q:  Did I violate a copyright by using the image if I don’t have a license for it?

A:  If a copyright for the image exists then yes, you did.

Q:  Can Getty Images sue me for this?

A:  If Getty Images can prove that they have the copyright for the image, then yes they can.

Q:  Will Getty Images sue me for this?

A:  Everything that I have seen on the internet says that “they will not sue you and rarely sue anyone”.  Do I know if this is true or not?  The truth is I have no idea, but the trend of various outlets stating it won’t happen is encouraging.

Q:  Should I just pay Getty Images and get this over with?

A:  No, that’s right, the answer is NO. Why am I saying “no” to that last question?  Because at this point in time Getty Images hasn’t proven that they own the copyright of the image.  If you call Getty Images and tell them that you removed the image from your website/server and any other excuses such as; the whole thing happened on accident, you didn’t build the website, you only had it on a webpage that was viewed twice, etc.

This is the type of response you are going to get: “Removal of the imagery alone does not resolve the matter.  Getty Images is entitled to seek actual damages for the use of the imagery. Included in Getty Images’ actual damages are the lost licensing fees and related expenses incurred in pursuit of its claim, including things like research, correspondence, accounting, and retaining outside counsel.” You see, Getty Images goes after small business owners who don’t have the legal resources to fight and continually barrage them for use of the images that they may, or may not, own a copyright for.   In my opinion, it’s a predatory company with bad moral principles and I will never use them or any of their subsidiary websites for anything as long as I live.

What should you do about the Getty Images demand letter?

Instead of calling them and stating you are sorry and “it was on accident” etc. talk to a lawyer and have them deal with the correspondence moving forward.  I know that you don’t want to pay a lawyer (who does?!) but it really is the best course of action right now.  I say this because Getty is leading with intimidation practices and the best way to defend yourself is to use an equally intimidating resource.  Technically you DID potentially infringe on a copyright if one exists, but Getty Images needs to prove that they own the copyright before you pay them anything.

If you go to them and write a very professional letter asking for the copyright information, they will just respond and tell you that they don’t need to provide that until it goes to court.  They do so because you aren’t a lawyer and you don’t know how everything works.  Keep in mind, if Getty owns that copyright then they are able to sue you so don’t just ignore everything. I mentioned in the beginning of the post, a friend of mine was faced with this situation.  The way I see it, you have two alternatives.

1)  Utilize a service like Legalmatch which will find you a highly rater lawyer in your area to help.  For a Getty Images case, make sure you select “Intellectual Property” and “Copyrights” when choosing what type of lawyer you need.

2)  Speak with Ric Gruber who is an Internet law attorney located in Chicago.  If you are outside of Chicago, probably better to go with the Legalmatch option mentioned above.

*Two things to note*

First, I am giving my endorsement to the attorney because I know that he handled the situation well and my friend avoided any potential lawsuit.  On the other hand, I do NOT get any type of referral fee from this attorney for the endorsement.

Second, this entire post is based on research I have done and the experience my friend dealt with.  My post is based on suggestions from resources I have seen, but it is up to you to decide what to do in this situation.  To avoid this issue moving forward, if you want to to find website images then I would use Shutterstock as they are reasonably priced and offer some great options.

  • thew

    Talking to a lawyer will cost you more than dealing with Getty Images. It’s a stupid advice.

    • Thew,

      Thank you for the feedback, though I wish you were able to more eloquently convey your opinion.

      As I mention in this post, all of this was based on someone’s experience. From my understanding, Getty was willing to “settle” the dispute for $800 after all was said and done, and the lawyer charged him $500 in total to complete everything.
      I’m no mathematician, but I do know that $500 is less than $800. While I know that every situation will be different, this is all based off of what I know and what I have seen.

      Really, there are three options for people who have this issue.

      1) Ignore everything and hope for the best. (I think this is a crazy solution and hope people don’t take this route.)

      2) Pay Getty Images directly after speaking with them which, to my knowledge, is the most expensive route.

      3) Use the service in this post or talk to the lawyer I recommended who went through the situation previously.

      As I state in my article, I am not the legal counsel of any of my website visitors, but I am hoping that this post will help people out.

      Again, thank you for your comment, but next time let’s try to have a more appropriate response rather than “It’s a stupid advice”. I’ve seen this first hand and that’s why I recommended it.

  • If you have dealt with Getty Image like our company has, you will know Getty employs never ending scared tactics to companies unaware of the law into submissions. Getty knows going after large companies take a long time and is very costly to do so and sometimes with fruitful results. Instead, Getty opts for small companies with no financial means to obtain an attorney by simply charge a low, but still a ridiculous amount (not market price;usually 10-100 times market price) for a single image. Check similar images with Getty and iStock (a company Getty own), you will find the 20X difference in price, one would wonder if Getty immediately moves the image in question from iStock to Getty right after PicScout (another company owned by Getty) finds a potential for profit image in question. Most of the time, you will find these companies are unaware of the image in question to be a violation of copyright, some simply linked the image for educational purposes.

    Getty created a company call Picscout an imaging scarping bot to do exactly that. Picscout generate millions in revenue yearly solely from their demand letter from small business alike. It is also rumored that Getty shares 50% of its revenue from Picscout. Instead resolving copyright infringement issue, Getty acts as judge, jury and executioner. Getty automatically calculates violation fines which far exceed any market price or court findings. To do so, Getty created an entire compliance department for the sole purpose of generating revenues. A bad business practice if Getty cannot rely on its main business to sustain.

    Do they follow the law? Sure they do! But! Getty tells you the law which benefits them without letting you know your rights. They simply treat a serious offender and innocent mistakes the same for the SOLE purpose of generating revenues.

    In our case, our Company is a health and workout product site focus on healthy living for our customers. With so much information out there, we look at YouTube for educational information to link to our site (both youtube and federal court findings allows linking in this nature). Now, if you have ever uploaded any videos onto YouTube, you know that people sometimes embed images into the video which under YouTube copyright the original Uploader is telling YouTube that they own the right. Therefore it would be perfectly ok for our site to link to. Now comes Getty………

    Dear Business Owner;

    By way of introduction, Getty Images is a leading global provider of digital media; our imagery is used by major newspapers, magazines, and in advertising campaigns around the globe. We represent over 200,000 artists, the largest community of photographers and filmmakers in the world. They rely on us to protect their livelihood, allowing them to thrive and produce future creative works.

    We have noticed imagery represented by Getty Images on your website, and, so far, we cannot locate an active license for this commercial use.

    Sounded perfectly legit, had we have done so knowingly or unknowingly. However, after our company have told them exactly what we have done and immediately took it down. Getty ignored the fact also federal court findings that linking is not a copyright infringement, violation and the pursuit with its demand for payment letter, suggesting a bigger trouble for our company if we do not comply. Following other company’s experience, we said okay give us proofs in writing so we in the case where if we complied that we are complying with something that is authentic.

    Getty being the largest imaging company that they think that their simple imaging link is their right to victory, what if I put that same exact image on my site and claim it as our own do we have the right to collect from them? No written proof was ever provided, not even a digital signature? So, why would our company want to pay this ridiculous claim?

    We also show them their own sub company iStock’s similar which costs 20X less than what they are asking of us. The feedback? Well, you did not buy it from iStock. Now why is that important? They are all your company with the same parent. Imaging when you buy a Chevy Tahoe at $40,000 dollars but when you want to buy a GMC Yukon, it will cost you $800,000 dollars. Is that right? I beg the differ.

    Finally, after many corresponds with Getty we realize this is never ending and Getty would never give-up. Perhaps their “Compliance Specialists” gets a commission for each payment? We then simply tell them, look, we’ve researched your questioned practice and would like to answer them all at once. Thanks to http://www.extortionletterinfo.com and attorney Michelen’s forum we were able to come out with the following:

    1. Sending us to collection agencies

    Our response would be:
    Please cease and decease all communications. No office visits.
    This is not a “debt collection” because it is not we do not owe you money.
    This is not a “settlement claim” because they have no claim without proof of ownership.
    These debt collectors cannot report my company or any personnel to a credit agency or do anything to harm my credit rating, because it is not a debt.

    2. Liability?

    Our response would be:
    Show us your ownership in writing first.

    3. Damages?

    Our response would be:
    If you cannot show predated US Copyright Office registration, you will not have grounds to automatically qualify in Federal court.

    4. if you say statutory damages, like attorneys fees and court costs?

    Our response would be:
    You only get that for registered images

    5. if you say our actual damages takes into consideration all the additional costs of enforcement?

    Our response would be:
    You have no proof how long these images were up and that their inflated rates are not what matters; the courts state that actual damages are what a person would pay in the MARKETPLACE for the image.

    6. if you know that courts often award damage multipliers in these cases, so that’s why we ask for these amounts

    Our response would be:
    Courts do not routinely give multipliers and almost exclusively award multipliers for registered works only

    Finally Getty told us:

    Had you been infringed on a iStock image than iStock pricing might be relevant. However, this isn’t the case here. I’m glad you’ve educated yourself on inexpensive ways to avoid claims like this in the future, but this doesn’t take care of the past unlicensed use of our Rights Managed content on your website.

    Let me tell you how this is going to work: My department is here to reach amicable resolutions in these matters. In your apparent online research about our pursuit of copyright infringement you have not likely come across this specific type of communication. You haven’t read about our willingness to accept low amounts like $249 (which we are willing to accept here for the specific type of use we found on your website). You’ve made it clear that you have no interest in reaching an amicable resolution with us. Our offer of $249 will be withdrawn. This case will not bet sent to NCS. You will be notified of the next steps.

    I won’t waste my or your time responding to any further e-mails from you that are not productive towards settlement.

    Sure, while iStock charges $12 dollars for similar images why would we pay $249 20 times over that of their similar images. As what we’ve mentioned, would you pay for a Yukon for $800,000 dollars? Getty is not trying to resolve any issue, Getty’s only interest is getting outrages money from law abiding companies unaware of the situation. These questionable practices are indeed in our mind extortion and scamming practices.

    • Thank you very much for the extremely detailed response. As I mentioned in this post, this is primarily based off of my friends experience, but he saw this comment and informed me that much of what you outlined is very similar to his sentiment and what occurred with Getty. Glad to hear that it worked out for you.

      • how did it worked out for your friend?

        • Overall, pretty good. He ended up getting a hold of the lawyer (mentioned in the post) and then paid a fraction of what it cost to pay off Getty. He tried to send a letter asking proof of their ownership with the image, but that fell on deaf ears. At the end of the day, he paid a reduced fee and Getty hasn’t contacted him since.

          • pat

            how much was the reduced fee? when I called they asked what my counter offer was…

          • I honestly can’t recall at this point. If you can get a counter for around $250 though, that would probably be a good deal. Otherwise, again, I’d contact the lawyer, but maybe they do this on a case by case basis?

  • David

    Thank you for your time into this Ron. I am under attack from Getto images, and want to fight it in court. What if it is my website but I personally did not place the picture there? Don’t they have to prove I made money from use of their picture ir they suffered harm?

    How much leeway does a judge have in these matters? I can’t afford to pay any fine, and can prove that.

    Thank you,

    David

    • David,

      Find out if they own the copyright to the image or images in question. If they don’t own the copyright, from my understanding, they will have a hard time prosecuting anything.

      Obviously I am not a lawyer and I have provided resources in this post that can help, but that is the really important part to this from what I know.

    • Jamesssss

      1: You don’t need to have “made money” from an image for it to be copyright theft. It’s theft either way.
      2: You are responsible for what goes on your website. If you hired a designer, your contract with him (you did get him to sign a contract?) should include information regarding rights of all illustrations and photos, and whose responsible for making sure they are rights free.

      Finally, I want to point this out – Getty is an image library, they make a percentage from the sale of each image, but the rest goes to the photographer or illustrator who created the image, the “little guy”. So it’s them you are ultimately thieving from, and we are more than happy for Getty to go after you. We would like them to go after you harder tbh. The sooner you pirates realise our work is not there to be used for free the better.

      • James,

        Calling others “pirates” isn’t appropriate. Again, many assume that the contractors they hire are legitimate and won’t use copy-written images.

        I chalk a lot of this up to ignorance and confusing. Do I think that many people would use the images if they knew they could be sued? Absolutely not.

        To me, it is on Getty to try to prevent people from using these images. Instead of giving them an open book of images and then coming after them once they unknowingly used an image with a copyright.

  • Dmitri

    Advice doesn’t make any sense. Most lawyers will take $500 fee,but you STILL need to pay for the image!! In addition, your claim that you need to check if getty owns copyrights is laughable. Of course they do! Once photographer submits an image to Getty or any other stock agencies, they become a share-holder of copyrights and they can and do act on the behalf of the photographer whose images YOU all infringe. Learning to respect copyrights is the best way to avoid any lawsuits.
    The only way they would not have the copyrights of a photo, if that photo was stolen and uploaded by someone else. I really doubt that happens. It is very very hard to submit your images to Getty and they require a lot of personal information to prove you are who you say you are.
    On the side note, Getty doesn’t charge enough for their images! And photographers barely get anything from the sale as well. Most artists would not sell their images for $20-100 as they sell prints for 10s of thousands.

    • Dmitri,

      That advice is based off of this particular experience and it is what worked in that instance. I have no idea if Getty owned the copyright, but in this particular instance it was the thing that stopped the lawsuit.

      As stated above, my friend only paid the lawyer fee and didn’t pay Getty anything.

      I agree that learning to respect copyrights is the correct course of action, but what you aren’t realizing is that sometimes people don’t even know they are infringing copyright and when they realize it, it’s too late. Instead of getting the typical cease and desist letter, they are getting hit with the threat of a lawsuit.

      I can tell you are coming at this as a photographer who is angry that most people steal images with no respect to the artist who created them and I am actually advocating that people appropriately purchase/give attribution where it belongs. You can chastise the post all you want, but it’s not advocating that people steal images. Instead, it’s giving people advice who have been faced with this extremely unsettling situation.

    • That’s nice advice, unfortunately, in the real world there are many different scenarios in which you come into disputed over a Getty image. In my case, I downloaded a free image from a site that offers free desktop wallpapers. They make money from their site’s ads. Now, 8 years later, Getty claims they own the image. I’ve checked a site called Tineye.com which shows the image didn’t show up online until 2013. Getty claims they owned it since 1999. I’ve requested proof that they owned it since then as they haven’t and I have t found the image on their site.
      Part of the “just don’t steal images” advice is that various sites give away or sell images and consumers should be just as likely to believe those sites as they believe Getty. And, can Getty prove that the photographer owns the photo? Can they prove he never shared it before licenses no it to Getty? And it’s not just foreign or sketchy sites that giveaway images, sites like Corbis, whose assets are now owned by Getty might have sold you the image, given it away as a free photo of the day, or a company as reputable as Hubspot, who regularly gives away images, might be the source.

  • dylan

    Hi, I recently got a letter from Getty about an image I used years ago, so they cut the price and I paid. I took off all the pictures that were from the web. But how do I know if they have infringements against me for other images? Is there a way to find this out?

    • Dylan,

      I am not so sure it is possible to get this information. Unfortunately you are probably playing the waiting game, but if they come at you again, you may want to talk to a lawyer. Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful, good luck!

  • Mel Raso

    What Getty Image did was unethical. I believe 95% of Getty’s victims do not have the intention to infringe copyright (who wants trouble?).

    A good company warns potential infringer ahead of time (i.e. by giving a specific time frame for people to act accordingly such as removing images) prior to taking next step of seeking compensation.
    Now Getty Image did it wrong by seeking money prior to giving out warning & time
    for people to act right.
    This is no different than a private parking lot with NO sign at all.
    It may seem like a free parking spot to everyone with average IQ.
    Any victim who park his/her car at this space will face a security guard jump out of nowhere demanding money! This thug won’t accept your sorry, you don’t have any option! You cannot back off your car! He simply won’t let you go! This is an act of extortion and this is Getty Image!!
    Everyone should join force and put a stop on this!

    • Mel – Thank you for chiming in. It is frustrating and as wrong as it may seem, Getty is technically right for enforcing copyright. But, like you, I wish they would start with a cease and desist letter before immediately jumping to the “fine small businesses out of business” model.

  • Dave Jonkers

    Ummmmmmm, I would be saying:
    Come and get me Bitch !!
    I have a MAJOR issue with big motherfuckers who think that they can sue anyone because they are big motherfuckers – COME AND GET ME FUCKERS !!!

    • Dave – Let’s keep it PG Please 🙂

      It is frustrating the the “big guy” is going after the “little guys” but I am hopeful this post helps a lot of people!

  • Taylor Hope Venus

    I made a complaint with the BBB and contacted my state representative. I was only going to be charged $250 but that’s way beyond my budget. I am not going to hire a lawyer. I’ve been professional so I’m just waiting to see if they’ll go forward. They don’t have the right to send anyone to collections. It’s too easy to dispute.

    • That seems like a good approach! Let us know how it works out.

      • Taylor Hope Venus

        I also just filed with consumer affairs in Washington State.

        I’m now looking forward to ignoring their letters but I’m not sure if I can.

    • Christian

      Taylor – what ended up happening with the image copyright issue?

    • Taylor Hope Venus

      They sent me to a collections agency in FL. The people there reported
      that I was ALWAYS asked to pay $1500 for the image. I showed proof that
      that was not true and contacted the Attorney General in FL. They looked
      into the matter and nothing was done. The collections agency sent the
      bill back to Getty and I haven’t heard anything back.

  • floyduk

    I agree that this is predatory behaviour. Sadly it’s legal predatory behaviour that has become easy pickings for a company like Getty because image copyright *has* been so roundly flouted on the internet. People need to get smarter and more honest about their use of images – that would make this a much less attractive revenue source for Getty. Where there is easy money to be made there will always be someone willing to play hardball to get it.

    I think I’m right in saying Ron isn’t a lawyer. His post above it mostly sensible I think. Certainly it’s wise to seek legal advice but do balance the cost of that against the cost of paying Getty. Also don’t be shy about explaining that you can’t afford their amount and make a reasonable counter offer. The worst they can do is say no.

    I’d be very interested to know whether the original photographers are getting any of this money.

    As a photographer myself I find this story has put me off Getty. I’m not with Getty but I won’t be placing any of my images with them in future now.

    The main thing that offended me about this article was the use of “on accident”.

  • Jamesssss

    I’m a “little guy” but constantly struggling to take people to task who use my work, without licence, without credit. Use my work and I will take you to task, I will go after you and i will get my money. Welcome to the real world, if you use images from Google image search you can bet your life they are NOT copyright free and you get what you deserve. Wise up.

    • James,

      Thank you for chiming in, I’m happy someone who is representing the other side of the argument is here. I guess what I would prefer is if Getty did a better job watermarking images to prevent people who are unaware of the fact that they are infringing on copyright. Form my experience, most people legitimately don’t realize that they can’t do this.

      However, as a small business owner myself, I can sympathize with your position. When people try to steal a course I make, I will do everything I can to take them down because I worked hard on it, just like you did on creating images.

    • Jamesssss again you are assuming that everyone is willfully steals big your photos from Google image searches. Do you know how many websites selling or giving away photos have come and gone or have been obsorbed by Getty and Masterfile? Is anyone checking on old licenses or permissions?

  • Doug Dalager

    For starters, if you are in the habit of using images downloaded from Google web searches, the chances that any picture you use/steal/appropriate is copyright protected is very, very high. There are multiple image websites where you can purchase pictures, and most of them have an introductory period where you can get a number of images for free. I use http://www.bigstockphoto.com and have had good luck with them.

    Honestly, I’ve started a handful of accounts with them in the past couple years, in order to receive the free imaqe benefit, and then cancelled my account before they started charging me the monthly fee. Ultimately, I signed up for a monthly program that initially offered me 5 images a day for $49 for the first month, that then went to 6 images for $79 per month, and then in third month, $79 for 7 images a day for a month. I kept that subscription up for about five months, and then just recently cancelled it since it was becoming a chore to choose 7 new pictures each day. BTW, I have no affiliation with bigstock, nor do I get any payment for saying this.

    My point is, you can buy images, videos, backgrounds, etc. for a reasonable price, but you need to plan ahead. The only downside to the bigstock deal is that you have to be on top of it and make your downloads every day…snooze you lose! Nonetheless, it is cheaper than buying credits…if you have the foresight to guestimate what pics you might need in the future.

    As far as getting those dreaded letters from the royalty police…I highly recommend that you take them seriously. Ignore them at your own peril. For years I was an internet image robber, and thought all I needed to do if I ever got called on the carpet was apologize and remove the image. WRONG….I got a letter a couple years back about a small, insignificant image I had placed on a client’s website, with a bill for $1350! While it wasn’t my website, and my client was the one on the hook, in order to maintain the relationship and operate in an ethical manner, I took ownership of the problem.

    Fortunately I was able to negotiate the bill down to $400, of which I paid $300. I had to send a screen capture of the back end of the website showing how long the image had been used, and remove it. My client covered the other $100 and agreed to purchase a bucket load of images to restock his website, and re-issue three years of newsletters I had created for him (he had supplied many of the photos on his site, and owned the rights to only a few).

    My client initially wanted to fight, but I advised that he would probably lose, and that if he lost I wouldn’t share in the expense. Since I was able to negotiate a lower price, it turned out alright…certainly cheaper than paying for legal representation (besides, who wants it to get out that they’ve been taken to court for “stealing” copyrighted material?) Bottom line, we settled and learned a valuable lesson.

    As a former bar owner, I have had experience in the past with royalties in the area of music. If you have play music in a public place, have televisions going that play music, or offer live music, karaoke, or disco, you have to pay BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, and possibly one or two other music licensing operations. They start the meter running from the first day they contact you. Many bar owners scoff at this and keep blowing them off, but should they choose to sue you, it will be very, very expensive. Remember all of the lawsuits that eventually caused the downfall of Napster in its original incarnation…same deal. File sharing of images, music, video, or even the written word is not okay if you don’t pay royalties for copyrighted materials.

    I’m pretty sure that if I chose to start copying all of Ron’s blogs, and reposted them to my website as mine, he would be rightfully upset. Besides, isn’t good content original content that you can stand behind?

  • Ron, thank you for posting this blog. It is evidently a common practice of Getty to send C&D letters and it is great to have a landing page on the web where people can learn more about it and develop a personal game plan.

    This article drew my attention after a law school alumni contacted me tonight and mentioned a friend of his recently received a C&D from Getty with a demand for $1000. I have reviewed this page, and others on the web, and certainly see the pattern. Whether you consider Getty’s actions unscrupulous or not, a copyright holder possesses the right to control the use of their original authorship. Simply put, unauthorized publication and use of another’s copyright are the major factors in copyright infringement. Innocent intent or simple ignorance to ownership is not a defense and neither is an inability to pay.

    It seems to me that if someone receives a letter from Getty with a settlement offer, the first thing to do is immediately remove the image(s) in question (along with any other images that may be subject to copyright infringement). I would then suggest seeking counsel from an attorney who concentrates in copyright infringement. Many attorneys do not charge for initial consults and a person could get some quick advice. An attorney who handles such matters would likely explain the nuts and bolts of copyright infringement and proffer options that can be explored.

    One option would likely be to retain the attorney to draft a letter on attorney letterhead to Getty inquiring further into proof of ownership of the license by Getty. The strategy here is twofold. First, it puts some onus on Getty to produce proof of ownership which they may not have (things slip through the cracks all the time). Second, it puts Getty on notice that the target has “lawyered up” thus increasing the odds that a judgment for failure to answer a complaint is unlikely.

    Another option is to negotiate the settlement offer to a lesser amount. Persuasive arguments, in my opinion, would involve pleading innocence, immediate removal, and any sob stories contributing to lack of available funds Getty is seeking. Anything in writing can be later quoted/cited — and sob stories can be very persuasive in the court of public opinion, which could be used at a later date.

    The one thing NOT to do is to simply pay. At a minimum, you should negotiate the amount. But before you do, make Getty do some more work and show them that you are not the average person who will be pushed around. If this involves paying an attorney for an hour of his or her time to get a single letter to Getty on attorney letterhead, it may be well worth it in the long run.

  • F. Haggsman

    I’m amazed that there has been no federal action against Getty and this extortion scheme. Now we have Masterfile who is even worse than Getty. Why is no one working on changing the law to close the loopholes they’re abusing to take innocent people’s money?

  • Angela Beasley

    Ron, I agree with you and I find all this Interesting, All these “thief pointers” have never had anything happen to them that they were unaware of or have never taken part of or been associated with ANYTHING EVER that may have been considered unethical, ever, at any point of their lives – LOL yeah right! LOL – I am so HONORED to be surrounded by such impeccably perfect and highly INFORMED beings that I’m trying to figure out where things went wrong with my upbringing or lack thereof?

    Hmmmm, my client hired a web designer, specifically told that web designer not to use images without paying for them. The web designer said and signed paperwork that they would not use copyrighted images and still used them because she was also ignorant and now my client is a thief and trying to take from the “Little” guy? All for a blurry picture of a mouse (the computer related kind). The image is about 1/4 an inch round and it wasn’t even on her site, it was on the server from who knows when. Now they “Getty Images” are trying to charge her (who is also the “Little guy”) over $2500? And somehow we all believe this is “Okay”? Then we also want to refer to this as art? It is a “picture” of a mouse. It is not a “painting, drawing, or picture of a hand-crafted” mouse. Perhaps Instagram should start attacking people while we’re at it – a lot of the shit on there is a far cry closer to art than on Getty Images.

    At the end-of-the-day, everyone is so quick to jump on the bandwagon to judge and slam someone else to the ground for nonsense. Artist should be compensated and people who work hard to do something should also be compensated. Should we snatch nearly $3,000 out of the hands of a SMALL business owner over a blurry picture of a mouse, in a struggling economy and threaten that person with “Lawsuits”?? Hmmmm I don’t know. Could we perhaps reach out to these small business owners and charge them a fee that doesn’t snatch their mortgage money out of their wallets and get everyone compensated without creating more opportunities for opportunists (attorneys)? I would like to think so. In the long run, is this going to help Getty images or the artists on Getty images make more money? My guess would be no! Its a quick fix with a lack of concern for longevity. More people will write articles like this about Getty images, it will be come viral, less people will purchase from them, their reputation will be ruined, and eventually those artist selling images on Getty will have one less platform on which to sell their “snapshots” because Getty really doesn’t give a damn about artists or consumers they just want their cut and will do anything within their “corporate” power to “F” ALL the LITTLE Guys be they artists or small business owners.

  • Geof Kirby

    Oh dear me. Getty do not need to own the copyright on any image they licence. Sometimes they do, often they don’t. Their agreements with contributors usually demand exclusive licensing and therefore the unauthorised use of any image from them goes to the heart of the contributor’s ownership of copyright and Getty’s agency agreement with the contributor.

  • Brenda

    So, experience provides life lessons. Therefore, thank you for the advice. One thing that I would add to this is what we did for one of my customers who had this situation happen to them: I referred them to LegalShield, because it is what we use. It cost $55.93 per month, give or take, and they will draft a letter and fight your battle at no additional cost. The only way they will charge is if they go to court, and this type of scenario does not typically end up in court, as it is truly insignificant. Just food for thought.

  • bubba

    If the letter was sent to a person, how do they know exactly which person used the image? Could have been any of the 5 people living in the house, friends that visit, neighbors that use your open WIFI, etc? Wouldn’t it be impossible to file a lawsuit if they cant prove with certainty WHO actually used the image? DENY DENY DENY. “I didn’t use the image. I dont know who did. Have a nice day.”

  • David Habes

    Right now, with Getty about to be hammered by a massive lawsuit I would simply ignore them. If the law of karma holds, then Getty’s copyright trolling business – and possible the entire company – will be history soon. God willing the other stock photo companies will go down in flames soon after.