Today, I received a Getty Images Settlement Demand Letter basically trying to extort from me a payment of $1,300 for a bird image that was used on theintrepidway.com website. If I pay that amount, basically they agree not to sue me or my company. However, suing and winning are two entirely different issues.
TheIntrepidWay.com currently looks bare because I immediately took down all the web banner graphics to comply with the Getty Images Settlement Demand Letter.
For most of you reading this, you will be like me earlier today. I had no clue what this was all about. It would be many hours later until I discovered this extortionistic practice by Getty Images. But, believe it or not, this issue is relevant to anyone who wants to put up their own website and intend to hire someone to design their graphics and images.
The “short version” of all this is that “Getty Images”, a photo-licensing company, actively sends out Settlement Demand Letters in the U.S., U.K., and Australia to unsuspecting website owners that have intentionally or unintentionally infringed on their copyrighted images. ON the surface, this sound fine.
In my research, so many website owners are small-business people or companies that contracted web site templates and graphics from graphic artists/designers in India. Well, apparently, the folks in India have a terrible reputation of stealing U.S. images and incorporating them in their web graphics and template design.
Unsuspecting U.S. website owners who want to improve the appear of their websites buy these web templates and graphics and use them on their websites. However, months and years later, Getty Images sends this very nasty and threatening letter out essentially holding you fully responsible even if someone else did the crime. I understand that employers are held responsible for many issues, however, what comes is on the verge of insanity and certainly not even close to reasonable.
If you are legally uninformed, I will tell you, it is a very intimidating letter unless you think this through carefully. After I calmed down, I took the time to do a Google and Yahoo search on “Getty Images Settlement Demand Letter”. I think if you do the same, you will get a very interesting education. It is actually devious because Getty Images do not do anyone the courtesy of a Cease and Desist Letter. Basically, let people know that they did the wrong thing and allow them to correct the situation before you get nasty.
However, in one mailing, they ask you to remove all the infringing images AND ask you to pay this extortionistic amount so they won’t sue you. What a great scam. Start sending letters to anyone who made a mistake to correct the mistake but also demand a huge cash payment while you are at it in exchange for you to NOT sue them. What a great way to make money. Why bother going to court when you can simply instill the fear of a lawsuit into people?
And even if you have to go to court, there is this small matter of preparing and proving your case. Is Getty Images (based in Seattle) really going to hire an attorney and sue me in Columbus, Georgia over $1,300? Perhaps they will sue for more. But for what damages? Punitive damages? You want to punish someone for doing something they did not intend to do or know it was even occurring? Those attorney fees might get expensive trying to sue a corporation over state lines.
I have been to court many times as a plaintiff. It is not easy to simply make stuff or puff your case up. The judge is usually smart enough to temper a case and not let a ruling get too ridiculous especially in a small claims case.
If it sounds like I am being cavalier, I am not. I am treating this seriously. However, I am not simply going to roll over. I also have a few tricks up my sleeve if they truly decide to push the matter into the court system. I won’t get into specifics but let’s just say the word will get out very quickly and wide to people, companies, and agencies I have never communicated to before.
I felt the need to post this warning message to warn others. There are many, many angry people who have received similar letters from Getty’s Images. I suspect they will want one more web source to consult and discuss this situation.
Cold calls are NOT welcome on this matter. Please do not cold call me because I will not accept phone calls from phone numbers I don’t recognize.
Get Help with your Extortion Letter. If you want to learn more about my case, visit ExtortionLetterInfo.com.
Their actions are outrageous…
The reason I have read this today is because a new client of mine who I am designing and building a website for to replace the existing site has just received the very same disgusting letter from Getty images.
This particular client runs a home business web portal, and like most individuals are unaware of the laws, but to ask £1200 for a very small image that has only been on the site for a few weeks is disgusting. Cannot stand bully’s and Getty images are certainly that!
I have run advertising and marketing agencies for over 15 years and had a few run ins with Getty’s in my time, where they have threatened to sue on a few occasions. On all occasions I have told them where to get off, and that is because they had no case whatsoever. One particularly disgusting episode was the following
My agency produced some design for a Hospice’s fundraising leaflet. We purchased the front cover image front Getty’s at about £250 for single use. This was back in 2002. The following year we had to produce another leaflet for the same fundraising activity, and Getty’s database obviously picked up on this, and we got a call from one of their sales staff, did we want to purchase the image again. I said no we have shot our own for this years leaflet. The sales guy then started getting nasty saying that we cannot do this and under copywrite laws we cannot copy one of their images. I said we haven’t, we have shot a completely different image. He demanded that we send through the image to make sure. and In no uncertain terms I told him where to go. I am sorry to say in anger, I told him that I would re arrange certain parts of his anatonomy.
But we never heard another word from them. The actions of this company are disgusting and they should be investigated for this.
However, my advice to all website owners who need good images are to either subscribe to shutterstock, thinkstockphoto, istock or other cheap to use libraries. Istock is good because you pay as you go by purchasing credits, and the others a fairly small monthly subscriptions if you need to download images regularly. The unfortunate part of using these is most of them are owned by Getty images. They have the monopoly in the stock image library world and that is why they practice these bullying tactics.
You are absolutely right, that they should firstly ask for you to remove the image, or pay a reasonable fee for it. This would then protect their reputation, educate the small website owner not to pursue unlicensed images from google, and of course Getty’s make a small sum to ad to the millions they earn each year. Whoever adopted their current policy within Getty’s needs their ass kicked. Bad PR and not good for business. They should be educating people, not crucifying them!
I am a web designer/developer and have known several people who have received this demand letter. I agree that Getty should at least issue a warning letter but from their perspective that would be alot of maintenance issuing thousands of warnings to the website owner. The problem here lies in my humble opinion, with the web professional who is designing the website. It is their duty to educate their clients on web image licenses and if they are not aware of it, they should not be designing websites.
The bottom line is that everyone should be purchasing images and not plucking them off the internet through Google images or any other search engines image browser. By doing this, you don’t know if there is a copyright on the photo and thereby, risk a copyright infringement. Now, true people who utilize offshore companies to put together websites may be subject to the developers there who steal images and don’t have valid licenses for them. But think about it, you get what you pay for in this world and usually people who use offshore companies are looking for cheap websites and anyone who uses them from the United States should be cautious of their practices.
Business owners should be prudent in their choices of whomever they hire to design a site. Yes, they may not be aware of any copyright image laws but they should also be making sure the person they hire can do the job and is well versed on good internet practices. Would you hire an attorney and not ask questions about their education, expertise or access their knowledge? No. It should be the same when hiring a web professional. I can’t stress this enough as I’ve had many a client come to my office after being burned and ripped off from so called web developers.