Getting Harrassed by Getty’s Copyright Infringement Demands?
RECEIVED A LETTER ACCUSING YOU OF COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT?
Have you received a letter of demand from Getty Images, demanding that you pay between $700 and $800 (or even more), for the use of photographs or images on your website? If so, this blog is written for you!
I have had phone calls from several clients in the past couple of weeks who have received letters of demand from Getty Images. The demand generally states that the client has one or more photographs on their website which belongs to Getty Images. The letter usually demands payment of between $700 and $800, within 14 days of the date of the letter. In some cases, this is followed by a telephone call reiterating the contents of the letter.
My clients report that, generally, the images have been on their websites for years. In most cases, the website was developed by a third-party web developer and the business owner believed that the web developer had all rights to to the images which were placed on the business owners website. In many cases, my clients have had no contact from the web developer for many years and would not know how to contact them now.
DO I HAVE TO PAY THE DEMAND IN THE LETTER?
If you get a letter of demand, stop using the image or text right away and do not admit you have done anything wrong. You may want to agree to make a small payment to make the whole thing go away, but I know of someone who has not paid anything in a similar situation and never had another problem. She contacted Getty Images and told them that the graphic had been removed from her website, but that she refused to pay anything as she did not believe she was infringing their copyright. Anyway, you shouldn’t generally be paying hundreds of dollars, unless the copyright owner can show you proof that they license their images for use online and charge such an amount.
HOWEVER, if you have used such an image in a publication (or other commercial material) that you are selling (or have sold) you may have to pay a reasonable royalty!
Alternatively, you can leave your details in the form below, and I will contact you about assisting you to overcome Getty’s demands.
I GOT THE IMAGE OFF GOOGLE IMAGES, SURELY THAT MEANS ANYONE CAN USE IT?
The mere fact that there is no copyright notice or watermark associated with an image, whether on the Internet or from another source, does not mean that no one owns the copyright all that you have the right to use that image without permission.
DO I HAVE TO PAY MORE THAN THE IMAGE IS WORTH?
I recently read an opinion on social media that the inflated amount of the demand by Getty Images, was an attempt to punish the person who had made unauthorised use of the image.
There are no “punitive damages” for copyright infringement in Australia (to either punish or incentivize infringers not to infringe again). Just because a copyright owner DEMANDS a huge payment, does not mean that they are entitled to it. Where Getty charges $79 for 5 images (as they are charging on one of their websites, http://www.thinkstockphotos.com.au/subscribe?isource=viewplans_merch_home), no court is going to award them $750 if a person inadvertently used one of those images. All they can claim is “damages” ie. The amount the user should have paid them to use the photo. If Getty refuses to accept a reasonable settlement and sues anyway, they will be up for both side’s legal fees as an abuse of the court’s process. In extreme cases, copyright infringement can amount to a criminal offence, but such cases usually relate to the unauthorised mass-production and sale of dvds or some other venture where the infringer is making a commercial enterprise from the copyright infringement.
Most of the images Getty is pursuing are being sold by them for just a few dollars, Getty’s demands are generally considered to be disproportionate. See for example : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getty_Images – Where they threatened a church for allegedly using their images, and the church refused to pay the 6000 Brittish Pounds! The church reportedly never heard from Getty again. Several other documented cases exist where Getty has backed off when the person receiving the letter of demand refuses to pay their demanded amount or gets a lawyer involved. Getty admits that they claim an amount that includes an amount to “deter” would-be infringers (which is not permitted in Australia) – see for example, LA Times
HOW DO I AVOID HOT WATER IN THE FUTURE?
If you have the web developer who has developed a website for you, it pays to ensure that they provide you with documentation to show that they have either bought or licensed the images in question. It is important to know whether periodic license payments required, and whether all the uses you have in mind are allowed, especially if you’re using the image in multiple platforms or for multiple uses, such as, on your website, brochures, merchandising material.
In the last few years stock photo websites have become popular. These websites make available millions of images. Purchasing images from such sites can be a cheap and safe alternative to simply sourcing images from anywhere on the Internet, without the copyright owner’s permission.
When considering which stock photo option to use, it is important that you fully understand the terms of the license and select something that is going to suit your requirements.
If you need any help decoding the licensing agreements on stock photo sites, please feel free to be in touch with us by way of the form at the bottom of this blog.
One popular stock photo provider is www.dollarphotoclub.com – I sometimes use photographs from that source, because they cost $1 each and the license terms are what I consider to be very reasonable.
If you have any questions or comments, please complete the form below
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