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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?  I went through it myself and was told I owed 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 was 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.

What’s 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:  If I did this on YouTube, is it still violating copyright?

A:  Yes, even if you have a YouTube channel where you try to make money and put images there, it is still copyright infringement.

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. How do I know? Because it’s what they told me.

“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 the 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 and Getty owns it, 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 at the beginning of the post, a friend of mine was faced with this situation. 

My solution was as follows:

1)  I used JustAnswer, which will connect you with a lawyer to answer how to handle your particular situation. 

For a Getty Images case, make sure you focus on “Intellectual Property” or “Copyright” when choosing what type of lawyer you need.

Below is a handy little widget they gave me to make this easier:

2) Speak directly with the lawyer and ask them how to properly handle this situation. Every case is different and while this blog post is likely to help you, I am not a lawyer and am not giving you legal advice. I’m simply explaining how I dealt with it.

3) Work with the lawyer to complete whatever is necessary to get Getty off of your back and end the harassment.

This entire post is based on research I have done and the experience that I dealth 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 find website images then I would use Shutterstock as they are reasonably priced and offer some great options.

    • 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 it cost “your friend” $500 for an attorney and you paid $800 to Getty doesn’t that add up to $1300? Did your friend research the copyright law online before contacting the attorney? Under penalties, the fine for innocent infringement is $250 per image, so Getty was asking for over 3 times the statutory fine, why not negotiate that fine down to innocent infringement directly with Getty and save the cost of a lawyer? Be sure to only use an image service (like shutterstock) that requires you to pay a license before downloading the image or video, there are slimy sites that dupe you to pay without requiring a license first. Beware of seemingly free photos on the internet, they are usually lawsuit bait. Bottomline, take your own photos or shoot your videos using students from local colleges or your local cable company may have volunteers and there won’t be a problem.

  • 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://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.

        • 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.

          • 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?

    • “Our response would be:
      You have no proof how long these images were up…”

      They may well have, It would depend on the timing of Wayback Machine impressions”

  • 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,

      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.

    • 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.

        • It’s generally not the best idea to take advice from an individual who doesn’t know the difference between “copyright” (i.e. “the right to copy”) and “copy write” (i.e. “the writing of copy”).

          “Copy-written”, with a hyphen, isn’t a thing with either definition. It’s “written copy”.

          The past tense of “copyright”, on the other hand, is “copyrighted”. You can tell because it doesn’t suddenly change the meaning of the word from talking about rights to talking about writing.

      • Hi James

        As a fellow photographer – actually from your response I imagine you are not a professional but a zealous and insecure amateur – I’d like to point out that your nasty and blanket attitude towards anyone you feel has taken “our” work is counterproductive to say the least. Clearly accidentally using an image and not profiting is not something I, or any photographer I know, is concerned about. Simple removal is all we’d care about.

        Secondly Getty do not always pay royalties, in fact they pay a below average daily rate and then they own the images you take. When this isn’t the case they take a much higher proportion of the royalties (in the area of 80% last time I checked). These are reasons I do not work for Getty anymore, and will not provide images to them.

    • I know this post is from a long time ago, but perhaps the correct answer will do somebody good…

      If you used a photo on your website without permission, you have no defense, so the “I want to fight it in court” is a losing proposition. You don’t need to have made money from the image, but ethical photographer’s only go after commercial uses. If you used the photo on a commercial site, whether you made no money is of no consequence to me as a photographer. If it is on a personal blog, I wouldn’t even ask you to take it down–but that’s me.

      If it is your website, it is your problem. If your web designer put it there, if you still do business with him you might demand he pay or else you’ll go somewhere else. If you hired some guy in India to save money, you are probably out of luck.

      Copyright law is Civil Law, so its up to the copyright owner to figure out how to get his money if he were to win a lawsuit. These Internet-based photograph copyright infringement cases will never see the light of day, for if the copyright holder even files a suit, the defendant either negotiates a settlement or ignores the case and the copyright owner gets a default judgment. If you don’t want to pay, no problem, but the copyright owner will most likely place a lien on your property, so if you ever try to sell it, the judgment gets paid.

      I’m a photographer and enforce my copyrights. I go after all infringers who make or attempt to make money with my photos, but I determine an appropriate fees, sometimes as low as $75. Getty and other copyright enforcement services typically ask $750 because that’s the minimum statutory damage award they would get if the case ever did go to trial.

      I just published my book, Photo Repo: A Photographer’s DIY Guide to Getting Paid For Copyright Infringements (photorepoman.com), and though it is geared for the photographer, the information is helpful to the infringer as well, for if you know what the offense is doing, you can plan your defense. Typical court awarded damages for these “my photo is on your web page” cases are anywhere from $750 to $2500, and legal fees are around $2500 as well (the infringer may have to pay legal fees). So look to be out $5,000 or so, plus your own legal fees if you do decide to go to court.

      Keep in mind the jurisdiction is where the defendant lives/does business. If you get a letter from an attorney in another state, it’s doubtful he’ll file a lawsuit against you if he is not part of the bar in your state because he has to get a local partner, and there isn’t much to split. If the attorney is in your state, I’d be a little more worried.

      I would also ignore any advice on these forums from people who advise you to ignore Getty because Getty never came after them. Most likely they are a bloggers who don’t have two nickels to rub together, but if you are a company with assets, they probably won’t go away, and any attorney you hire will most likely advise you to pay up.

      I’ll try to answer some other questions on this blog as well.

  • 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.

          • How much money they were asking you to pay? And how did they get your home address to send you the letter? And did u pay?

          • Seriously.. If you haven’t used the image anywhere, then there is no point on paying them. Also you got the image from some other website.. So you possibly didn’t know that it belonged to getty. Just ignore them

          • I used the image in a presentation that I posted to slide share and then embedded on a website. I didn’t use it for profit, just an educational presentation and if I’d known it was a stolen image I would have taken my own photo. I just happened across it on a “free” desktop wallpaper site while doing research for the presentation.
            Can you imagine that someone shows up at your house and demands you to pay them rent for the time you’ve lived there because they claim ownership that supersedes the person that sold it to you?

          • Though I don’t know much about the U.S.A copyright laws, but I do know that the way you used it comes under the “fair use”. You can file a court case against them and they will surely lose.

          • Not necessarily fair use, one aspect of fair use is that the image has to be attributed to the photographer. If they got it from a site like described I would imaging that part was missing.

          • What was the date on the demand letter you received? Or in other words when did getty came to know about the infringement?

          • Free wallpaper is completely different than using the image on a website. One is for personal use, the other in for public display. BIG difference. I sell through stock agencies, and make a whopping $50 a month on a good month. Seriously get over your self righteousness, you stole an image, whether you were aware of it or not, and you got caught. It’s as plain and simple as that.

  • 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!

  • 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.

      • I completely agree. What bothers me is that the standard letter that Getty sends out starts with the offer to buy one of their (extremely expensive) licensing packages, and, if you do, they will forget the whole thing. This really does fit the definition of extortion. I made the mistake of putting an image, which I thought was public domain, onto a non-profit site and got the same threatening letter. Ironically, I had already removed the image from the current live version of the site. Yet, they found it anyway. We went through about six rounds of letters, and I tried everything including counter offers to settle. Their amount was $890 for a small thumbnail, low res image. When the final letter arrived, I did not open it, but sent it back marked return to sender. All letters stopped after that. But I do recommend you scrutinize your webpages for ever image. What’s really frustrating is that multiple companies license the very same images. I have an account with Vistaprint, and with that comes a gallery of images. Many of those images are also licensed by GettyImages, so you still end up having to PROVE you have a license through Vistaprint to use the images if GettyImages sends you one of these letters.

    • Unfortunately, in the USA, the big companies rule. Oh and anybody who thinks that Getty is standing up for the little guys has no idea how Getty works. Myself and many other photographers refuse to accept their contracts (yep, they do tender contracts) or provide them with images.

  • 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 !!!

  • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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”.

  • 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?

  • 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?

    • You’ve completely missed the point and ignored the context. This is simply a misdirected rant. Nobody here has deliberately reposted photos as their own, and most of Getty’s letters will be directed at such people. It’s pathetic extortion at its most transparent.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • The problem is that the same image can often also be acquired from other sources for free. It’s important to keep track of the source of every image you use.

    • Do copyrights for photographs exist in perpetuity or is there a time limit? I am thinking about historical images.

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • 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.

    • Well I just got two threatening letters from them (for an image of theirs that was in a larger screen capture from a screen capture… it’s totally bogus) and am weighing my options. Pretty scary stuff. I actually don’t believe their case has merit. In either case I hope you’re right and their business goes up in flames.

  • I had an issue with Getty previously and ignored it (bad I know). A paralegal just sent me a letter on their behalf offering to settle for $262. Sounds like this is a good deal.

    • What was the final result tPjfink? Did you settle? Did they go away? I’ve got a first letter this week and am not sure what to do about it.

    • Don’t fall for it, it’s just scare tactics used by extortionists like getty. Would you have acquired the image if they had placed their watermark (or copyright logo) on it at the time? It’s your word against theirs. Read of my experience with them above…

  • A while ago, a colleague of mine told me a similar story about getting sued. In our state, Michigan, forming an LLC is so easy that he basically let the lawsuit go through and then filed bankruptcy, and started another business with a similar name, etc. In our line of work as contractors who work at home (but who have a clear veil between public and private), there’s nothing to lose in a bankruptcy. No stock, no property, etc. His response was “no skin off my nose, let them sue me.”

  • Getty images sent me a threatening letter requesting $975 for an image offered for free at another site about 18 months ago. I appealed and sent them proof of the other site’s existence and thought they’d go away. Now I’m getting harassed by their collection agency in Sarasota, Florida, who have told me getty is the rightful owner, but would not take me to court if I settled the matter with them now for $421. I told them I am firm in my resolve to neither pay them or getty unless they provided me with proof of getty’s ownership or documented evidence that certifies they had registered the image with the government Patent or Trademark offices in D.C.
    Their reply was that they had the right to withhold this information and that it would not be disclosed until they saw me in court.

      • I called their bluff by requesting they send me better evidence that would certify they had registered the image in question with the U.S. Government Patent, Trademark, and/or Copyright Office (or any other Government database). It also helped by asking why there was an absence of any watermarks or copyright logos at the time of acquisition that would’ve identified the image as being their exclusive property, which would’ve been an effective deterrent and a sign for me to look somewhere else for the image I was seeking.
        That was about 2 months ago, and I haven’t heard from them since. When they see you stand your ground, not succumb to their scare tactics, and take the offensive by demanding proof of ownership they’ll go away, and like a good predator… look for easier prey.

          • Thanks, I do as well. Actually that was a bit odd, after I replied to you I opened my emails and they have now sent me an email follow up. This is in addition to the posted letter.

          • Besides harassment, their M.O. is to keep it up until they see you flinch, or give any indication you will settle for their lesser amount. It’s all a ruse, and as I said before, if you let them know you mean business and are serious about their backing up their claim with more proof of ownership (i.e., the official notarized copy of the alleged copyright certificate of their ownership, chain of title for the Image, sales data confirming it’s purchase, their owner’s IP and website addresses), let them know you cannot give any serious consideration to their demands. Standing firm is the key.

          • A service level agreement should be part of the process to insure of the fact that service provider replies to outages within a reasonable length of time. We have a comprehensive market place that will enable you to compare data points, before you make a purchase. But a lot of time your skin, doesn’t contract with your body. Family practice doctors are frequently called General Practice Bella Vista and will see patients with almost any issue. They may be a form of poems that everyone can consider and find the gratification of being a poet. They do not have to be present for any classes and can review the downloaded learning material offline at their convenience.2) Plan the lighting system of the home accordinglyLED lights are believed to be almost 75% more energy efficient than the normal lighting. In short, the film effectively crosses borders without losing its plot and story line. Given that it’s an all-natural product, it may take 30 days or even more to generate apparent results. The pathway to the goal was unpleasant and restless. James Cameron鈥檚 film the Avatar (2009) is another film that takes viewers from their world and time zone to a world of aliens. She is the publisher of Warren Bland’s book, Retire in Style 60 Outstanding Places Across the USA and Canada.

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          • ” The NES was occurring for a prolonged time until the Xbox, PlayStation and online portal came into being. They are likewise made with awful leather exterior that can contribute security from marks and scars. Stir the solution until the salt has dissolved ever so slightly, and then soak a cotton ball in the solution. These cells are mostly formed in cells鈥?lining in the throat, mouth and nose.Mix 2 tablespoons of mineral salt with 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and half a cup of filtered water.Total Views: 138Word Count: 441See All articles From AuthorWhen your co-worker or neighbor has a better vehicle insurance package than you, you may be wondering what happened He could be looking at several quotes before selecting the best deals. I remember theabsolute awe when I first saw a character moving through a scrollingenvironment. Wildness Requires LibertyBeing able for the girls to really cut loose will demand that the freedom from the practical and everyday are clear.Slide Defiant work boots may add up in different high-class designs but the most primal thing about this footwear is the protection it applies on the wearer.Strange Noises and Vibrations. The popular purchases include brass items and wax candles in colorful, unique designs. will fuel the growth of the leather embossing market.”

  • Getty steal images from the public domain and then re-sell them. They treat their photographers like crap, pay them nothing and accuse incidental individuals of copyright theft. They are scum, and no photographer likes them.

  • I have a couple of quick questions:

    1. To what extent does copyright cover modifications of a copyrighted image?
    – If a person comes across a modified version of a copyrighted image on the web (an image that was modified by a 3rd party and shows no signs of being copyrighted), to what extent can the person, that uses the modified image, be held accountable for copyright violations on the original image?

    2. For a case such as #1 above, what is the likelihood of Getty Images successfully pursuing a judgement, if some of their claims can proven to be inaccurate?
    – In my case, I promptly responded to the original correspondence from Getty Images (removed the photo called into question within 4 hours of receiving the original correspondence, and informed Getty Images of this action (as well as the shaky legal ground, per #1 above).
    – Getty Images completely dodged my response, and kept sending me letters in which they accused me of unresponsiveness (they acted as if my initial response did not exist).

  • Australia – I have received a $1600

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    Dun and Bradstreet, in partnership with Getty Images, are notifying your company of unauthorised use of imagery as represented by Getty Images. To date we have not received proof of a valid license or payment from your company in regards to the issue of copyright infringement.

    Ceasing use of the image does not eliminate liability for payment.

    I have attached a PDF of the image this relates to.

    The outstanding amount is $1,600.50 please have this paid. If you have any question concerning this matter, or a unable to pay the above settlement please email back or contact 1300 315 866 to propose a suitable plan to pay the amount outstanding.

  • Frequently Asked Questions

    For more information about the Getty Images License Compliance program, please visit:


    What can I do if I believe I have received this notification in error?

    Please contact us immediately at [email protected] or dial 1300 315 866. Please be sure to provide the case number found on your settlement demand, as well as your name and company contact information.

    Who is Getty Images?

    Getty Images represents imagery, footage and music created and owned by some of the world’s best photographers, filmmakers and artists, as well as by entities such as National Geographic, Time Life, Agence France Presse and various professional sports clubs and leagues. Getty Images has contractual agreements with its contributors to represent and license the use of digital content to companies all over the world. Businesses license thousands of images daily on our website, http://www.gettyimages.com. Customers such as graphic designers, advertising agencies and publishers license our imagery for a variety of purposes, including, but not limited to, print advertising, billboards, newspaper and magazine articles, brochures and websites. Our license information is clearly available from each page of our website (see “License Information” link at the bottom of every page). Customers are not permitted to use imagery without paying a license fee and agreeing to the terms of our license agreement. Getty Images, on behalf of itself and its represented photographers, filmmakers and other contributors, is committed to protecting its imagery from unauthorized use. Further information regarding Getty Images’ business of copyright licensing and how it protects imagery from unauthorized use can be found in the “Copyright 101” guide available on the Getty Images’ website.

    What if someone else created my company’s website?

    Getty Images understands that a third-party designer, employee, or intern may have been contracted to design and develop your company’s website. However, if no licenses for use of the images from Getty Images exist, the liability of any infringement ultimately falls on the company displaying the imagery, which is considered the end user. If this situation applies to your company, please contact the third-party to inquire if there are any licenses from Getty Images for the specific use of the images in question. If this is the case, please contact us as soon as possible to provide the Getty Images invoice number or sales order number information and we will research accordingly. If a third party who supplied the images is willing to settle on your behalf, that third party may contact Dun and Bradstreet to settle this matter. If the third party is unable or unwilling to settle this matter on your behalf, Getty Images will continue to pursue your company as the end user of our imagery. Any pursuit by you for reimbursement from the third party would be between you and the third party, separate from our claim against you.

    What if I remove the images? Could I simply consider this matter closed?

    While we appreciate the removal of our represented image(s) from your website, removal of the
    Image(s) alone does not settle the matter. Since your company has already infringed the copyright by using the images without a valid license, our photographers are entitled to compensation for the use of their work. Therefore, Getty Images will continue to pursue settlement of the demand. We are seeking payment for the unlicensed use of the images, and would be happy to work with you on correctly licensing any future use.

    I found the images on the Internet or the Getty Images website; aren’t these free or “Royalty-Free” images?

    Although we understand you may have believed the images were available for free use, all images represented by Getty Images require an appropriate license for their use. “Royalty-free” does not mean that the images are free; it is an industry phrase that refers to a licensing model where the user pays once and has the continuing right to use the image without additional royalty payments. In any event, the images referenced in our settlement demand are not available from Getty Images under a royalty-free licensing model.

    What is the difference between a Rights Managed (RM) image and Royalty Free (RF) image?

    Rights Managed images are the highest-end content, they are considered to be extremely high quality and the licenses are for specific usages and are for specified amounts of time. The license cost of these images depends on the specific usage type, the location, the duration of use and other factors including the number of physical copies produced. Royalty Free images only need to be licensed once and are value oriented content however they are not free. Royalty Free license prices are based on the size of the image only.

    I did not know the images were represented by Getty Images and required a license; what can I do to resolve this situation?

    Although your company may not have known the imagery is represented by Getty Images, use of the copyright protected images without proper authorization is still a violation of copyright law. If no valid licenses exist then your company has violated the copyright by using the images without permission from Getty Images or its represented photographer(s). Since the unlicensed use has already occurred, and copyright law has been violated, payment of the settlement demand is required. Please keep in mind that in a copyright infringement lawsuit, Getty Images would be entitled to seek damages as well as costs and interest. This is an attempt to settle this matter amicably without litigation.

    I purchased the images from a company I found online as part of a web template, so is the web template company responsible for licensing the imagery?

    As the end user of Getty Images’ imagery, you are ultimately responsible for ensuring that you have obtained the appropriate rights to use the imagery. If you acquire imagery from a web template provider or other such company, your company is still liable for copyright infringement if that provider or other such company did not properly license the imagery from Getty Images for your use.

    How does Getty Images calculate the settlement demand amount?

    The settlement demands are based upon the fair market value of a license, taking into consideration several factors such as usage, size, placement, duration, and territory. The settlement demand is calculated by taking the average length of use and the average cost of licensing for that period, plus a portion of the costs incurred related to the pursuit of the unlicensed use. Because you have used the images without first obtaining a license, you are not eligible for our lowest pricing. We have incurred additional costs due to your unlicensed use.

    I do not want to redesign our site with new imagery. Can I pay the amount due for the previous use and purchase a new license so that I can continue to use it?

    Yes, we’d be happy to assist you in this effort. Once the prior unlicensed use has been settled,
    Getty Images will help you license the images properly. The only circumstance in which we would not be able to issue a license for future use is if another customer has purchased exclusive rights to the same image that clash with your desired use.

    Can I settle this matter by purchasing a future license or by trying to purchase a backdated license?

    No, use of another’s intellectual property without authorization is a violation of copyright law.
    Purchase of a future license or license subsequent to notification of the unauthorized use does not address the copyright violation. Accordingly, Getty Images does not accept either approach as settlement of our unlicensed use claim. Payment of the settlement demand is necessary to settle the matter.

    I am willing pay the amount due for the unauthorized use but cannot afford to continue to license such an expensive image. Are there less expensive options available?

    Getty Images offers imagery at a variety of prices; including Royalty-Free content on Gettyimages.com, Punchstock.com and iStockphoto.com.


    Customer Management Solutions

    479 St Kilda Road
    Melbourne VIC 3004,
    1300 315 866

  • If you receive a demand letter for copyright infringement the first that that you must document is when you placed the image on your site. If you remove the image and/or web page before doing this, you just erased your proof. Thus, before removing the image do the following: 1) if your post has a published date, take a screen shot of it. 2) If there is no published date, FTP to your server, find the file, and take a screen shot of the upload date. 3) Get two other people to do the same thing and make sure that they will vouch for your. The infringement date makes a big difference in what can legally happen to you. Once done, then remove the image. Remember, Getty or whoever sent you the letter already took a screen shot and downloaded the image and probably had this done by another source, so there is no way you can claim that you never used the image.

    Step 2 to is to demand from Getty (or whoever sends you a letter–let’s just call it “the photographer” from here on out) either a copy of the copyright Certificate of Registration or the Registration Number. Verify the copyright holder and the registration date. The certificate will have this information on it, whereas you’ll have to contact the Copyright Office to get a copy if all you have is the registration number.

    First off, make sure the person demanding money is the copyright holder. Second, check the date. If the date you first used the image is prior to the registration date, all the photographer can collect is actual damages (typical fees), and if you don’t pay he must take you to Federal Court. Lawyers cannot get their fees in cases where the infringement came after the copyright registration, so most photographers won’t take the issue to court since they will have to pay a lawyer and court costs. Of course, if you used the image to make a $1 million selling poster or greeting card, there is plenty of actual damages to warrant a court battle.

    If you placed the image after the copyright registration date, you are screwed. Lawyers can get their fees, you must pay court costs, and the minimum fine, in most cases, is $750, with maximum of $30.000. The key to the fine is proving whether you purposely used the image despite knowing that it was copyrighted. If proven, the maximum fine can go to $150,000. This is easy to prove if you published the photo with copyright information on it or if you purposely removed the removed the copyright information, which pretty much seals your fate. Removal of copyright information from the photo gets you an additional minimum fine is $2500, with a maximum of $25,000–regardless of if and when the photo was ever registered with the Copyright Office. Getty took one company to court that had removed the copyright information from six images and was awarded $48,000.

    Now, if you didn’t take the copyright off, which means you got it from somebody else or a web designer handed it off to you, and you legitimately didn’t know that you couldn’t use photos that were on the internet, while you will still be found guilty of copyright infringement, the judge may lower the fine to $200. This is known as an innocent infringement (though if it goes to trial you still must pay court costs and legal fees, which will probably be $10,000+). If that’s the case, I’d offer to pay $200 and no more, and let the photographer know how you came about this. Most people can probably get away with this claim. On the other hand, if your business is a major corporation with a staff of lawyers, a news agency, publisher, or any other business that deals with intellectual property, you are going to have a tough time claiming that you didn’t know the copyright law. Remember, copyright cases are civil cases, not a criminal case. Evidence against or for you just has to be enough to convince a reasonable person, not “without a shadow of doubt” like in a criminal case.

    If you removed the copyright, anything less that $3250 is the best deal you are going to get. Getty losers in the above mentioned Getty case not only got charged $8000 a photo, they had to pay court cases, their lawyer’s fee, and Getty’s lawyer’s fee.

    Another thing to remember is that if you infringed after the copyright registration date, the value of the photo is irrelevant. You are dealing with the statutory damages (fines) listed above. These are in place as punishments. It’s like stealing a car. If you got caught and all you had to do was pay for the car, what would stop anyone from stealing? At best you get a free car. At worst you just have to pay what you would have paid anyway. Thus, the law is that you go to jail. There is no jail with copyright infringements, so statutory damages have been put in place.

    If you use any image other than one you took yourself or paid for, you are breaking the law. Most people don’t know this, thus the innocent infringement clause.

    One person on this forum mentioned getting an image from a Free Wallpaper site. There is no such thing. These are just scumbag sites that make a living off of stealing content and selling ads on the site.

    • You got innocent infringement all wrong. Innocent doesn’t mean, “Gee, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as copyright law.” An innocent infringement is more along the lines of unwittingly buying a stolen car from your angelic grandmother who never did a dishonest thing in her life…until just now.

      Per §504(c)(2), the statutory damage minimum can be lowered from $750 to as low as $200 if the infringer a) was unaware that his actions constituted infringement of the copyright, and b) had no reason to believe that his actions constituted infringement of the copyright. The infringer is still guilty of violating copyright law, but he pays less in damages. Considering potential legal fees, the fine may be the least of his worries.

      To qualify for the reduced fine, it is up to the infringer to prove he had no idea, and no reason to believe, that he was breaking copyright law. Perhaps he got your photo from a website that claimed all photos on the site were in the public domain. Perhaps the person from whom he licensed the photo was fraudulently posing as the copyright owner. Regardless of the reason, he does not have to prove his case “beyond a shadow of a doubt” because copyright law is civil law, not criminal law. A “preponderance of the evidence” determines the outcome in a civil case, and that means the side with the most believable story wins.

      As a photographer, you can quash the innocent infringement defense from the start by simply placing a copyright notice on your photos.

      If you are a photographer, be sure to check out my book, Photo Repo: A Photographer’s DIY Guide To Getting Paid For Copyright Infringements. photorepoman.com

      • What about historical photographs? It strikes me that copyright can be used to limit the discussion of historical issues.

  • Great article, DanR!
    I also received this kind of a shitty letter from Getty before, but I just ignored them and nothing happened after that.
    By the way, what do you think of Copytrack, which is located in German?

  • Take the image down, deny you ever had it, and leave it up to getty to prove that you did. They can claim they have screenshots (which can easily be doctored in photoshop and thus immediately discredited) but outside of subpoena’ing your web host for the file information (which your web host would never in a million years comply with) there isnt really anything they can do to prove you had the image up. Unless you claim you did.

    So don’t claim you did.

  • Be carful Guys, the author is just pushing his affiliate link. He will get the commission from the attorneys he have mentioned in his post.

  • Getty steals free public domain images and then “sells” them to people. Here is a famous case where they stole one photographers work and when she used her own photos on her site she was sent a letter demanding payment – https://forbes.com/sites/legalentertainment/2016/08/03/pay-up-getty-sends-trolling-letter-to-photographer-highsmith-demanding-money-for-her-own-photos/#15ba7fc6596e – they use other artist’s work for free and profit from it but threaten other people for doing the same thing even when they don’t own the images.

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  • What about entertainment related images? For a movie or television series from the 1960s, publicity photos were often imprinted with a release saying permission is giving to magazines and newspapers writing articles or reviews. Getty has several of these images posted, and I don’t believe they own them. Their only claim should be providing the image. If you obtain an old photo (from a source like eBay) and scan the photo, you should owe Getty anything since you didn’t get the image from them.

  • Never imagined such complex situations for just using an image. But, thanks for creating awareness.

    And, I guess, this was a typo in your post. It is “highly rated lawyer” in the first point before “*Two things to note*”.

  • This is a load of crap. It’s scare tactics only. They won’t take you to court, and even if they do, they are only entitled to the copyright fee for the image, plus (at most) a small legal fee to cover a day in court. They will never bother. The business model is to scare ignorant people into paying them money. Just ignore the messages. We have received hundreds of these, and they have never once resulted in anything. After a year or so they will give up. Don’t reply, if you do you will move another step forward in their “conversion funnel” and they will try harder.

    • Good advice if you don’t have two nickels to rub together, but if you have a home or a business with assets, depending on the infringement, they may well file a lawsuit, and if you don’t pay the judgment, they’ll put a lien on your property. I just got a judgment from a company that blew me off, and then ignored the attorney, and the attorney just put a $5,000 lien on the property. I’ll probably never see a dime of it, but it happened.

      And before you go thinking I’m some scumbag photographer, I offered to settle the issue with the company for $295, far below the commercial license value. I enforce my copyrights myself, and in doing so, consider the infringer’s circumstances and the intent of the infringement and then make a fair offer.

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    • Hi guys, I know these discussions are about getty letters of demand. But recently, I received a letter of demand from KodakOne / Ryde also demanding a ridiculous amount of money, 800 Euros to be precise, for some images probably used by some web designers on our servers.

      They took a screenshot and demanded that we pay KodakOne / Ryde a few hundred Euros. We don’t mind paying the fair market value but the amount demanded is ridiculous and borders on daylight robbery and extortion.

      We are located outside Europe and the States and have taken down the images. Can we just ignore them as we think they are copyright bullies and their demands too unreasonable? Will they sue us outside of Europe and US or will they back off if we consistently ignore them? We just want them to STOP harassing us and stop asking for exorbitant amounts of money.

      If they had asked for a fair market value, we would have gladly paid them. What are your advices?

  • Let me start off by saying that I am a photographer who goes after commercial copyright infringements on my own. I’ve been doing this for three years, so the only ones who know more about the subject than I do are lawyers. I am the author of Photo Repo: A Photographer’s DIY Guide to Getting Paid for Copyright Infringements (photorepoman.com). Everything I know is in the book. You don’t need attorneys to get paid, and no need to give your cases to copyright enforcement services like Pixsy and Image Right and split the fee when you can do exactly what they do an keep all the money. With that said, I also know how to defend myself from Getty and photographers like me.

    First off, I seriously doubt Getty own any copyrights to. No stock photographer is going to transfer the rights unless he is insane. My bet is that the stock photographer signs some sort of agreement that permits Getty to legally represent him when it comes to enforcing copyrights, just as the agreement between a photographer and an attorney or one of the copyright enforcement services.

    If you get a letter from Getty, the first thing to do is ask for a copy of the Certificate of Registration, or the registration number. With the number you can contact the Copyright Office to see what photos are registered and the registration date. If they don’t provide the certificate, tell them you’ll toss their correspondence into the trash until the do.

    If the photographer never registered the photos with the Copyright Office, or if he did transfer the copyrights to Getty and Getty never registered them, Getty can’t file a lawsuit, so any threat to do so is just a bluff. And per the above article, they can’t turn you over to a collection agency. If they make that statement, get it in writing or record them saying so on the phone (if your state allows recording with only one party being aware of it). Then call my buddy Jim Feagle at Skaar & Feagle (skaarandfeagle.com). He’s a consumer protection attorney in Georgia, but he has partners around the country. He may not only be able to get Getty to leave you alone, he’ll probably get you some money as well.

    If the photo was registered and you posted it on your website longer than three months before the effective registration date (the date stated on the Certificate of Registration), then the infringement is not eligible for statutory damages and legal fees, which means Getty’s lawyers can’t be awarded legal fees if the case goes to trial, so either the photographer has to pays them—which isn’t going to happen—or the actual damages would need to be so high that Getty lawyer’s would be willing to take a cut of the proceeds. For the typical “my photo is on your website” case, actual damages are minimal, so they are not going to file a lawsuit, and any threat to do so is a bluff.

    There are very few photography cases where actual damages are substantial, and these are cases you read about in the news. For example, if you paid $2 million for a seat on the first commercial flight to the moon and somebody used your photos before you could sell them to National Enquirer, thus ruining the value because they are now all over the Internet, you might have actual substantial damages. Otherwise, statutory damages are what the copyright holder will seek—which is why statutory damages were created in the first place.

    If you infringed the photo within three months of the effective registration date, you need to find out the actual published date of the photo, if it is a published photo. Published photos get full protection if they are registered within three months of publication. This info is on the certificate. Thus, if the effective date of registration is June 3, 2019, and the photo was published on May 5, 2019, it is fully protected from May 5th on. If you published the photo on your website on May 25th, the infringement qualifies for statutory damages and legal fees; before the 5th, no. The effective date of registration for unpublished photos is the date stated on the Certificate of Registration. I’m not going to get into the difference between published and unpublished photos, but just because the photographer put the photos on his web site does not mean they are published. The Certificate of Registration will contain this info.

    Because the date you uploaded the photo to your website is important, do not remove it until you document the date. If the photo is in a published article, screenshot the webpage showing the date of the article (if the photo isn’t on the screen, be sure to get a screenshot of it as well). If it is not in a dated article, FTP to your server to reveal the folder in which all of your files reside. The date you uploaded it will be shown. Screenshot this. If you use WordPress, the files may be stored in dated folders, so you can screenshot the file path. This is much too complicated to explain here, but it is all in my book because the photographer must get this same info to prove you posted it after he registered the photo. Once you get the evidence, then you can remove the photo. If your upload was post-registration, you better believe Getty has screenshots of the evidence, but if it was pre-registration, Getty won’t get the screenshot—or at least won’t be able to use them against you—so you need to get your own evidence.

    Again, if they won’t provide a certificate, tell ‘em to f$^K off.

    If the infringement does qualify for statutory damages and legal fees, in most cases, you are screwed. The worse advice—and advice given in is article—is NOT TO PAY. In most cases, that’s just dumb advice. The exception is if you don’t have two nickels to rub together; it is doubtful they will come after you. However, if you own a house or have a business with assets, Getty may very well file a suit against you. If so, you better settle—and it’s better to pay up long before any suits are filed because things just get more expensive. Copyright law is Civil Law, so any judgment against you must be collected by Getty. If you don’t pay, they will put a lien on your property.

    The typical demand fee for Getty and others like them is $750 (the minimum statutory damage fine, in most cases). If you have to hire an attorney to get the price down—the attorney isn’t going to get you off scott free—I don’t see you coming out much ahead financially. You can probably negotiate yourself and do much better.
    On another topic, if you not only took their photos, but you also removed a copyright notice from the photos using something like Photoshop, that’s some serious trouble—I doubt they’ll be asking just $750. If you have assets, you better work something out. Getty won a judgment for $48,000 against somebody who removed notices from six photos.

    There is all sorts of stuff you need to be aware of, and my book covers it all. Again, it is written for the photographer, but as a defendant, if you know what your opponent is trying to do, you can defend yourself. There are a lot of books out there on copyright law for photographers, but they just discuss your rights and tell you to get an attorney. As far as I know, my book is the only one that not only educates you about your rights, but also how to take the law into your own hands and get paid.

  • I stumbled across this as I am having a clear out of old paperwork and found the Getty letter I sent them. This Getty image thing is a scam please do not pay them a penny. I hate stuff like this it’s hard enough to run a business without bully’s trying to con you.
    I requested proof of copyright and justification of the claimed lost review. I had/have a I-stock account (Getty) and all pictures are between .79p and £4.25p in cost for a lifetime royalty and similar pictures they had to the Royalty Free picture I used were .79p. As a reply they sent me to a debt collector who was abusive, I love it when that happens shows desperation. I played with them for the few threatening calls they made & I kept pointing out they have not sent me proof of copyright they eventually gave up trying to con me.
    Hope this helps.

  • Hi, I have a friend who owns a Facebook group, he has a member posting images from Getty every day, they are copied and not embedded which I hear that’s allowed now. But I’m bothered that he will get into a lot of trouble as he runs the group yet lets this person post stolen images.

    Images have Gettys watermarks, plus the photo number.

  • The first thing and most important thing is to do NOTHING. Absolutely no response, pretend you never received it and claim to never have done until the extremely unlikely even that you receive a court summons. Even if you hear from their solicitors (what they describe as Outside Counsel Attorneys) such as Pinsents or Simon Muirhead. The whole thing is 99.9% toothless and utterly ‘unhold-up-able’ for want of a better expression.

    Let me give you some background. Getty was only set up in 1992 and has gown to be the biggest image library in the world by aggressive acquisitions of smaller companies. These smaller companies paid their photographers well in most instances and had their own staff. Since being taken over by Getty any employee can expect to be made redunadant and any photographer can expect to receive about half the royalties they received previously. If you question this with their Photographer Relations Department you can expect to told to either accept or sell your imags elsewhere. This is not a nice company.

    However, legally they cannot be stopped from asking you guys for hundreds or even thousands of pounds as they are their images. However, if taken to court, it is so unlikely to be upheld as they have literally stuck their fingers in the air and guessed a figure for their Settlement Demand rates. They are entirely unjustifiable and that is why (with the exception of Germany) they have never taken an ‘Copyright Infringers’ to court. Especially in the UK or US, forget it. They wouldn’t dare. Their head offices are in these countries and the rollicking they would face from Senior Management if they lost the cases would not be worth it. If you are based in a continental European or Asian country and have entered dialogue with them then there is that 0.0001% chance you may be made an example of.

    This is why the most important thing is to not get back to them. No solicitor or lawyer would ever represent Getty if there was zero dialogue showing Getty to be fair and ammicable. So although the common sense approach would be to apologise, offer a reasonable settlement for what the usage is worth and expect to settle with someone who is fair and reasonable… forget it. This is not a fair and reasonable company and this is the most unfair and unreasonable department in the whole company.

    It is a farce. A genuine corporate charade. It is not illegal though so forget going to the police or Trading Standards as they cannot help. The only thing you can do is ignore them. Completely ignore them and their lawyers. If you have entered dialogue with them then stop immediately. If you receive a court summons, then hire a solicitor on a no win no fee basis. All I can gaurantee though is that in the US and probably the UK they will never ever dare.

    This all said though, you have done the wrong thing if you’ve received a letter from them and always be careful in the future. But the agressive formation and even more aggressive expansion of Getty Images can only be stopped by silence. Don’t buy images from them and don’t pay their settlement fees.

    They are not crooks but they are scoundrals.

  • After I received a letter from Getty Images claiming I should ‘pay a hefty sum for a single thumbnail image I had allegedly ‘used without a license’, here’s what I did. First, I swapped out the image they had referred to (even though I was certain it was one I’d used from a shareware site). Next, I filed the Getty letter away. I did NOT contact them, or acknowledge receipt or offer any confession for leniency. I received a further 6 letters over two years – I left every single one of them un-opened and ignored. They stopped writing in the end – and that was 6 years ago. The bottom line is – they will rob anyone who doesn’t hold their nerve. The other group to ignore are those so called “professionals” who offer to take on your case with Getty Images for a fee – don’t go there either as these people will just poke the bear for you! Its simple:- 1/ source images from legitimate shareware sites, and 2/ ignore Getty Images and their bullying tactics. So long as you remove any image they claim you shouldn’t have used, they won’t waste their time or money going after one silly little case.

  • I had the chain of these letters many years ago. I resolved it for $0 by looking up the image in their database, contacting the original artwork owner directly, and explaining the situation. They had heard about these tactics that Getty was using and did not agree with it either…they just gave Getty rights to consign their image and split profits…not intimidate people and scam them out of money. He simply had to send an email to them telling them that I had rights to use the image and that was that.

    One email, no pay.

  • I am a photographer who has been enforcing my copyrights since 2017. As far as knowledge goes, there’s an attorney and then there is me. My cases settle for an average of $25K, and I recently got an 80K settlement, so ignoring copyright infringement demand letters is dumb advice. But if you do get one, here’s what you need to do.

    First of, “ownership” of the copyright has nothing to do with whether Getty images can sue you. Somebody owns the copyright, and if Getty’s attorneys represent this person, they can sue you. I am not sure what the terms of listing a photo with Getty are, but most likely the photographer gives permission to Getty to represent them in copyright litigation.

    In order to bring a copyright lawsuit, the creator of the work has to register the work (in this case a photo) with the U. S. Copyright Office. Once approved, the Copyright Office will mail the creator a Certificate of Registration. If you get a letter from Getty or anyone else, do not pay unless you are provided a Certificate of Registration. They can’t sue you if the photo was not registered. The creator can, however, register the photo after the fact and then sue you, but this brings up another point.

    If the copyright violation occurred before the photo was registered, all the creator can get is the actual damages. The creator cannot get legal fees or court costs. In most cases these damages will be less than attorney fees, so any sane person won’t be filing a lawsuit. If the photos is a header on your website, actual damages may be nothing more than the standard licensing fee. However, if the image shows up on the latest Star Wars poster, now there’s a substantial amount of actual damages involved and every attorney in town will take the case on a contingency basis (you don’t pay unless you win). For the most part, attorneys are not interested in pre-registration violations unless they get paid by the hour or actual damages are going to be significant.

    If, on the other hand, your violation occurred after the photo was registered, the creator is entitled to statutory damages starting at $700 and running up to $150,000 (depending on intent), and legal fees and court costs. These are the cases attorneys want–assuming they are commercial uses of the photo. Thus, if Getty does provide a Certificate of Registration and your violation came after registration (the date is stated on the certificate), you had better settle the case. The only exception is that if you live in your parents’ basement and have no assets. Nobody will file a lawsuit against somebody with no assets, and the attorney staff will check into this. I have recently gotten two default judgements, one for $29K and one for $50K. Defaults are where the defendant doesn’t even respond to the case. What happens? The attorney will put a lien on the person’s house or other property, or if it’s a business, on the business property.

    Remember, if the case is eligible for statutory damages, the fact that you can get the same photo on any stock photo agency for a dollar means nothing. I had a guy pull that crap on me, offering $5 because that’s all my photo was worth. After settling for $19K he wasn’t running his mouth any more.

    Bottom line is that what the photographer might get awarded is insignificant. My cases settle for an average of $25K, and I’m not putting a gun to anyone’s head. The defendant has no defense, he’s going to loose, and he’s going to have to pay his attorney fees and my attorney fees if the case goes to court. Those fees may run $50K to $100K, and I might get $700. Thus, $25K is a good deal.

    My thoughts on Getty is that if it is sending out letters demanding $750 or something like that, they don’t have a Certificate of Registration or any intention of actually filing a lawsuit. My attorneys (and I have three law firms working on my cases, that’s how many I have) send out letters asking, at a minimum, for $30K. The reason? My photos are registered with the Copyright Office, the infringement came after the registration, and the infringement was commercial in nature.

    Now I’ll let you in on one other secret. Most attorneys have no intention of running somebody out of business. Yes, they will settle with a large company for a significant amount of money. But if you run a Mom-and-Pop operation, they are really just looking for insurance money. You might still end up settling for a few thousand dollars out of your own pocket, but most of the large settlements against small companies are through insurance companies. I sent my own letter to a seminary asking for $495 (I handle the small businesses on my own). The head of the seminary claimed they had no money, so I ultimately settled for $50 just to cover my time. The guy never sent me a check. I eventually turned it over to my attorney. Turns out the seminary had insurance that covered such claims and we settled for $20K. This happens all the time. Who knows how much money I’m losing by settling matters on my own for chump change. But I get enough small businesses that toss my letter in the garbage, ultimately getting the attorney’s involved and getting a huge settlement out of it with the insurance company.

    PS. I don’t send my own letters to large companies. Those cases go straight to the attorney.

  • The simple answer is DON’T STEAL images! If you went into a store and took a picture down off the wall and walked out you would rightly expect to have the police knocking on your door. Stealing a photographers image is theft but of intellectual property.

    Photographers like myself use Getty and other sites to licence our work and earn money from our skill. If a business is using stolen images for profit (ie for their own marketing) then they deserve to get sued!

    Blogs like this encourage people to break the law, DO NOT USE SOMEONE ELSES WORK without permission!

  • Do old photographs lose copyright protection after 75 years?

    My understanding is that Gtty does not own the copyright to many of their images and their claim is that they provided a service making these images easy to access. So you only get in trouble if you obtained these images over the Getty website.

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