Saturday, May 24, 2008

More on Getty Images

My earlier post on Getty Image's exorbitant demands resulted in several replies, which are posted here.

A couple of readers pointed to a site in the UK which has much info about Getty and a similar campaign by Corbis. The UK site summarizes the situation and also collects readers' postings.

I make no comment on the accuracy of these postings or whether or not the summary, advice and comments are useful, beneficial or harmful - but they are indeed interesting.

I will point out, however, that UK law is different than Canadian law in at least one material respect. The UK does NOT have Canada's draconian statutory minimum damages provision - which allows for a plaintiff to elect to ask a Court for a minimum of $500 per work infringed. Note that this amount can be reduced to $200 or even less by a Court, especially if there are multiple works involved.

Getty, of course, is asking at the outset in its formulaic demand letters for several times more than the $500 minimum that a Court might award - and in situations where a court might (no guarantees) award far less, even assuming that there is liability in the first place.

A test case on the discretion of a Canadian Court to reduce the statutory damages "minimum" to something more fair and appropriate where it doesn't fit could be interesting.

Once again, I'm pleased to note that David Fewer, Counsel at the wonderful CIPPIC clinic at the University of Ottawa' Faculty of Law, has agreed to keep track of these demands from Getty Images and to consider CIPPIC’s possible involvement. He can be reached at 613-562-5800 ext. 2558. His e-mail is:



  1. I am fortunate enough to have been involved in this debate on the site you mention, as a contributor who has not been approached by Getty or Corbis.

    As you say the UK has better copyright/IP laws than many countries, but the main difference here (UK) is that you can not breach copyright in good faith. You Must have it proved that you deliberately breached copyright.

    Many people have paid designers to carry out work, and it is the designer that has used the images that are alleged to be in breach. In this case and with documentary evidence, Getty wouldn't be able to get any kind of compensation, even through the courts. Yet they STILL use identical tactics in the UK as they do in the US etc where the law is different. Sadly I know of people who are settling just for peace of mind.

  2. I winder if Getty ever heard of the doctrine of unclean hands - a legal doctrine that denies a plaintiff's right to relief based on unethical behavior or actions done in bad faith.

  3. I am here in Canada and have received one of these payment demands from Getty Images.

    Actually, now the demands are coming from a USA collection agency.

    I would be interesed in hearing from other Canadians on the subject.

  4. If you have no contractual dealings with Getty and are not under court judgment for the amount, I'd simply advise the collection agency you have no contractual obligations with Getty and their invoice is in dispute. If they continue to harrass report them to the appropriate state agency.

  5. I am Canadian and also received one of Getty's infamous letters.

    I won't bore you with my entire sob story, but I did indeed contact David Fewer, Director CIPPIC. He certainly clarified the options for us Canadians. As usual, we're screwed!

    Here the salient points:

    I have chosen to kill my entire website and project. It didn't make 1 penny for me and was just a hobby. Getting $600 bills from Gettys (Bill Gates) isn't part of a constructive hobby.

    I have also chosen to boycott ALL image sites, especially "Stock" sites. They're all created with an intent to entice people to download "free" images and then bill them exorbitant fees when they inadvertently download one that has a licence on it. That's how I got burned. Shear stupidity on my part, but honest stupidity!

    Care to see the warning I left behind on my site , you can goto

  6. I too have just received this letter. I run a free site for artists. I don't make any money off the site and they want a total of $2800 for 3 pics I used that I found on google images...I don't know what to do, this is all new and alarming to me!