Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Watching Getty Images Watching Canadians

I have become aware of multiple instances recently in which Getty Images has been sending demand letters by e-mail to Canadians whose websites allegedly have unlicensed copies of images allegedly owned by Getty Images. They are probably using some sort of “bot” to find these images.

Assuming that these demands actually emanate from Getty Images, they raise some serious questions.

Getty Images is demanding exorbitant amounts of money for what appear to be trivial infringements at the most in the case of which I am aware, and the demands are far in excess of what any Canadian court would ever likely award even after a trial. The actual damages in terms of the alleged infringer’s profits are likely zero, since the alleged infringers are not selling the images as such or directly profiting in any way from their use. The cost of an actual license in many cases would be quite low and a very small fraction of the demand. Even statutory minimum damages would likely be at the minimum end of the scale, which is $500 per work, which can in turn be reduced to $200 in some cases, and even less still per work where there are many works involved in appropriate circumstances.

The settlement rhetoric I have seen or heard about is extremely formulaic, aggressive and threatening, and the settlement offers are still far beyond what a Court would likely award, absent commercial intent and behaviour by the defendant.

Naturally, it is rarely going to be cost effective for any of the recipients of these letters to retain counsel to actually fight Getty Images in court over a few thousand dollars. This is the nasty, brutish economics of statutory damages at work - as practised most obviously up to now by the RIAA.

But likewise, it may not be cost effective for Getty Images to actually sue someone where there is no real commercial aspect of the alleged infringement and the actual damages recoverable in court may be only a few hundred dollars at most, if properly defended. A bad result in a test case could prove very problematic for Getty Images.

This all raises questions about misuse and abuse of copyright rights. Read Justice Bastarache’s comments in the Supreme Court of Canada's landmark decision in Kraft v. Euro Excellence at para. 98 on this point. While these comments were admittedly obiter dicta, two of his colleagues joined in and the comments as such were not contradicted. The issue of abuse and misuse of copyright rights is now open for serious argument in Canada. . In principle, the copyright misuse doctrine could render any copyright rights unenforceable.

I have spoken to David Fewer, Counsel at the wonderful CIPPIC clinic at the University of Ottawa, who 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:


All rights holders are certainly entitled to enforce their legitimate rights in a legitimate way. But they should not be permitted to do so in a manner that is abusive and/or to misuse these rights. This is Canada and such behaviour is likely to prove most unwelcome in Canadian courts, especially after the signal sent by Justice Bastarache.

Policy makers thinking about a Canadian DMCA should take note. If this type of thing is happening now, what may we expect if these types of American enforcement techniques are made even easier and more potent?

Getty Images should know that they, too, are being watched.



  1. I'd suggest that copyright was only ever envisaged as effectively applying to commercial pirates and corporations (for whom litigation and bankruptcy are expected business hazards), not mere citizens.

    That copyright's punitive damages are being threatened against self-publishing citizens should be taken as a sign that the legislation failed to restrict itself to commercial infringers - and also that if copyright must be effective against the public (for whom it was supposedly intended to provide benefit) then this inherent contradiction betrays copyright as both an unethical and ineffective weapon against the public. Also consider that copyright is an inegalitarian privilege, requiring legal expenses far beyond the budget of most citizens.

    Copyright owners may threaten the public, but punishing them for what is essentially perfectly natural cultural exchange, will not reinforce the effectiveness of their commercial privilege but undermine it.

    So, let's see Getty Images bankrupt a few citizens and unwittingly hasten the abolition of copyright. They won't be able to help themselves - even if their noses were to be rubbed in the realisation of their folly.

    There is a possible solution (not that it postpones the demise of copyright) against the persecution of citizens by corporate copyright owners. See ACACIA ( http://www.digitalproductions.co.uk/index.php?id=80 ).

  2. The irony of this practice is that one day they will find that Getty Images is in fact the violator.

    There are already instances where a individual has copied images from websites and then sold them to stock agencies like Getty Images or iStockphoto as there own.

  3. I am a small business owner in the UK and I have just received such a demand fromthe mighty Getty Images!!!! demanding imediate payment by bank transfer. This alerted me straight away to other discrepencies in the letter of demand. The post code is nearly the same as Getty Images but not quite, the number on the address is not quite a match either, the VAT Reg is for an Irish company, the bank address is in a totoly different part of the UK than the supposed registered office and the telephone number is one digit off that of Getty Images. Is thi similar to letters received in Canada?

    When I checked I did indeed have an image that was on the Getty Images books but when I found this image on the internet it did not make any ref to Getty Images at all. Naturally I was worried when I received my letter but having read your blog I can see now that either Getty Images are trying it o with me or someone has formed a crude scam.

  4. I am a photographer of Getty and other agencies and I lose money every day from people that feel that stealing is OK, like yourself. I work very hard to create my work and if you feel that my work doesn't hold any merit or value then why are you using them..just create it yourself. OH that's right you don't know how to so you steal someone else's work and call it your own . When the company that looks out for me complains and demands payment you say that my work isn't of any value. Grow up! It is a very slippery slope when you take away or devalue the work of others.

    1. Question, why does Getty not use watermarks on their art to prevent internet theft? it sounds like they want to find ways to troll and misuse their creative rights. I don't want to sound mean but this is a simple way such a big company can keep this from happening.

    2. I agree Getty needs put a watermark on the photo untill it is paid for.

      You are just asking for misuse!

      I am being HARRASED by Getty due to purchasing an image from another "free images" site not even Getty's site and now they say I owe them, well I think the site I downloaded the pic from is resposible for this.

      I think Getty images is a terrible company and if I had any of my work with Getty I would be completely embarrassed to even be associated with the low life tactics they are doing. This is totally discussing and NASTY, you as an image provider are losing profit from them wasting time to harass people and track these images down. So don’t cry about us stealing your image why not represent a company that looks out properly for the supplier instead of wasting money on crap they could have prevented in the beginning with being proactive!!!

      So many other companies you can provide images to and they will be proactive instead of leaving the door open to misuse and wating money in Horrible harrasing tactics.

  5. Scott, no-one is suggesting that a photographer's work has no value, or should be valued less or even devalued.

    The problem is in the viability of being able to include the value of the work in the price attached to copies, when these days people can make and distribute their own copies extremely cheaply and easily.

    The solution is to permit a free market in copies, and restore the price and value of a work as attaching to the work itself (not each copy). Thus, the photographer gets paid handsomely for their work, and people who make copies are lucky if they make a penny above the value they otherwise add, e.g. with a picture frame.

    Obviously, while individual photographers can easily move to such a new business model, traditional commercial libraries such as Getty will find the transition a little more difficult.

  6. We've seen this several times, situations where a corporation has tried to take advantage of the law to expand the rights given by that law. Such actions should be punished, just as theft should be punished.

    The problem is that most existing legislation doesn't take into account illegal actions by rights holders, and this is one place that copyright law badly needs updating.

  7. In know of person who has received these letters from Getty for an image they found on a free gallery and inadvertently left on a web server. Despite them not linking directly to it, the bot Getty uses apparently found in and now they want over $1000 for something that was never really used in the first place. Even after my friend removed the file (just one - and a search of the internet shows it nowheerre to be found except on Getty's Chinese server and as a thumbnail icon on a California blog) they say that isn't good enough. After hearing all this I even found a huge forum topic (mostly UK) on the subject at www.fsb.org.uk/discuss/forum_posts.asp?TID=194

    Does Canada have the same protections the UK does for "innocent" (ie accidental" infringement? I know my friend is disabled and has his personal site as a hobby. $1000 won't bankrupt him but what Getty wants is about 3 times what the Government disability pays a month. This seems awfully heavy handed for one small image inadvertently buried on a personal site few ever see.

  8. I live in Vancouver, BC. A mere 3 hour drive from Getty Images HQ. I received one of the Getty letters over a month ago - demanding over $5,000 CAD for 4 images inadvertently used (through a 3rd party 'open source' template) on my website.

    Quite frankly, when I first read the letter my jaw dropped wide open! The strong, and legalese, wording of the letter was very intimating.

    After performing some research on the internet I found the excellent FSB Forum mentioned above by david stephens. Although it is mostly British experiences there are some Canadians participating. After reading through the now 69 page thread, I am quite a bit more calm and reassured.

    The first thing I did after the research was to remove the 'alleged' copyrighted images from the website.

    I then sent an email to Getty confirming the removal of the images and then requested confirmation/verification for a few items:

    * Proof of the title of copyright including exclusivity
    * The date of first publication and the date of copyright issuance
    * How many companies have been granted the rights to distribute the images
    * Proof that the images have never been contained, in any other image libraries
    * The date GettyImages obtained the legal right to distribute the images
    * A breakdown of the costs claimed to have been incurred as a result of the alleged copyrighted images being displayed on the website.

    I received the letter just 6 days prior to their 'demand settlement payment date'. Subsequently I then gave THEM a deadline of 10 days to respond with the proof. I stated that if I do not receive the required information by the date given that I would assume they are unable or unwilling to provide the information and I would be paying nothing.

    I have heard nothing back since - although I understand it can take Getty weeks, if not months, to respond.

    I will NOT be replying to any further communications they send me!

    Hope this may help to calm other people who may have received one of these strong-armed letters.

    Also MANY THANKS to Howard and his excellent take on the subject. Especially the contact information for Mr. David Fewer at CIPPIC. I believe I will now pen an email to Mr.Fewer and share my experience!

    1. How was this resolved. Its now december 2012 and i have a letter from a client where i as the web designer. used what i thought was an image that was not copyrighted in any way. I have removed the image as I am not certain of who has copyright.

  9. This is not just a Getty Problem. Corbis are doing it too. There is a useful summary of the situation (covers bot companies actions) here ...


  10. Our company has also received many letters from Getty images and have removed any images that they claimed were from their image banks. They have served us a summons to Canadian Federal court. We have hired a lawyer and it looks like this may actually go to court. Do you know of other Canadian companies that are on their way to having a case in the federal courts?

  11. Sorry for the ignorance - but what is a "bot" ?

    I just saw the legal agreement from a company "StockLayouts" - they are owned by Getty I think and they use images from Getty to sell brochure templates. Here is an extract from Para 2 of their agreement :

    2. Limited Rights. Your rights to use Product(s) are limited in the following manner, in addition to any other restrictions provided in this Agreement or by law:

    Product(s) are licensed with no rights protection on a non-exclusive basis. StockLayouts gives no rights or warranties with regard to the use of names, trademarks, registered or copyrighted designs, elements or works of art depicted or contained in any image in any Product, and you must satisfy yourself that all the necessary rights or consents, as may be required for your use of Product(s), are obtained.

    Is this for real ?? If we do use a template that uses images from Getty what is to prevent Getty from suing the person by saying you are violating the copyright ?

  12. We have just received a similar letter from Getty and also from another company Masterfile.

    They are demanding 5 times the license price - but the problem is how does one determine the license price ? Some of the images are royalty based and would depend on the period of use. Who is the onus on to prove the period of use and nature of use ? example inner page or home page or print etc.

    For example Masterfile is demanding $16,000 whereas the cost of the images would be only about $500 since they are all 72 dpi thumbnail images, only used on internal web pages for a very short period.

    Thanks in advance for any guidance on this subject.

  13. Dear Readers:

    There's clearly lots of interest here. Unfortunately, I cannot answer any questions or give any legal advice on this blog. I urge anyone at the wrong end of these letters to contact David Fewer at CIPPIC above.

    Or call me and we can chat briefly, with no obligation. If it's the right case for a test case, it's possible that I could get involved.

    BTW, a recent check on the Federal Court data base shows that Getty has only filed one recent copyright action in that Court. Masterfile, on the other hand, has filed about 20 copyright infringement actions in the Federal Court since 2005. There is nothing for Corbis. I have not checked the provincial courts.


  14. As copyright is a federal jurisdiction it would not be heard in a provincial court would it?

  15. Gee Howard, perhaps you'd like to represent me in some ongoing litigation for free? Or you can turn over your car to me as well. Or perhaps you'd like to come over and mow my lawn for free?

  16. I am in Oregon and I have received such a letter just today. I have had the image they are referring to on my site for over 2 years. What, if anything, would you suggest.

    Thanks very much.

  17. I am a publisher based in Columbus, Georgia in the U.S. I have just received a Getty Images demand letter like so many other people.

    I find the letter quite strong. I have sent an apology letter and reply to find a peaceful and civil resolution.

    Essentially, I was a victim of an unscrupulous graphic designer from India who decided to use licensed images in our web banner which we have immediately taken down.

    I would like to correspond with others to find out more how Getty Images operate and if what they are doing is truly legitimate.


  18. Yes, me too! I received the horrible settlement demand letter from Getty. Check this out.

    I purchased a professionally packaged CD from a company called Fit Stock Shots, Inc. N.Y. who had a trade show booth at fitness trade show. The company was selling low resolution images in quantities of 100, 250, and 500. They also said they were the authorized distributor/brokers for low resolution images for websites on behalf of Getty, Comstock, etc. (all the big names). I still have the sales receipt from my purchase.

    Well, of course, the whole thing was a scam (very gutsy) and the company is nowhere to be found.

    Nonetheless, I had no idea. And there were plenty of others who also bought the disks. The were also selling bogus music CDs.

    So I got the letter from Getty and replied outlining my situation and even sent a copy of the sales receipt.

    They don't care. They want their money.

    I contacted my attorney who has pointed out a couple of things.

    1. Getty never sent a "cease and desist" letter before their settlement demand. He maintains that is normal business practice and would, in fact, be a consideration if a case goes to trial.

    2.) He noticed that Getty does not water mark all images. It is quite easy for someone to download non-water-marked, low-res images, repackage and sell on a CD as happened in my case. At what point does Getty bear the responsibility of protecting its own copyrights as well as the rights of unsuspecting purchasers of web templates, CDs, etc.

    He believes their may be cause for class action against Getty. Is there already a class action in motion?


  19. BC Getty Victim,
    What has transpired since your last blog and when did you have the last contact with Getty?
    Ont Getty Victim.

  20. I have received a request for $5000 for 5 images that were dormant on my site.

    I removed them immediately.
    The letter was a form mail - not registered.
    Very aggressive and delivered late in the "21 day grace period" for payment.

    Has anybody had any follow thru in Canada?

    I understand they are using collection agencies in the UK.

    Any sign of a class action yet?

  21. I live in the United States and have also been dealing with Getty Images in regard to a copyright violation.

    I purchased resell rights to a collection of web site templates in 2003. I received what I thought was a valid license to distribute these templates. I used them as a free bonus for my web design course, Web Design Mastery.

    About a month ago, one of my customers contacted me stating that Getty Images had sent them a threatening letter demanding payment of $845.00 USD within two weeks or the settlement offer would be withdrawn and the price would then be doubled. They continued to harass him.

    I contacted Getty Images and explained that my customer nor I had any idea that one of the images within the template was theirs. They then sent me a settlement email and said that I could settle this claim on behalf of my client. However, I had to send them payment of $845.00 USD within two weeks or the offer would be withdrawn and the settlement price would more than double.

    I tried to explain to Getty Images that we were all victims here and that we hadn't done anything wrong. I explained that I had what I thought was a valid license to distribute the templates and that I immediately removed the templates from my web site and from my customer's web site as soon as I was made aware of the problem. I also explained that my customer and I are not large companies. We are both small companies of just one person. I even offered to provide them with a link on nearly 2,500 pages on my high traffic site, Web-Source.net, for one year; however, they declined my offer.

    As a writer, I can completely understand Getty trying to protect their images. I have had my work copied more times than I can remember. However, they aren't taking any prisoners. We didn't receive any notices to discontinue using their image or anything. We immediately received a settlement demand - pay up within two weeks or else.

    I paid the fee yesterday; however, I felt like they were extorting money from me just because my customer and I were small companies and couldn't fight back.

    Shelley Lowery

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  23. Hi

    We also did received GettyImages settlement letter for 2 small images we took from Google Images. They ask us to pay a generous 2900$ for both 72 dpi - 72 X 72 pixels.

    Our answer is clear - we're NOT going to pay such amount of money for such small pics... This is insanity.

    We're willing to pay advertised fees (49$/u) nothing more and this is generous, knowing that you can purchase similar pictures for 1$.

    I think that governments (in US, CAN, UK, AU, etc) should put laws in place to stop corporations like Getty to abuse from our legislation.

  24. My small British Columbia company website had an image supposedly owned by Getty as well. A 3rd party designed the site and purchased the image from a royalty free site.

    Five years later, Getty sent us a "Cease & Desist" order and a settlement demand after a "bot" found the image. After discussing w/ our web designer, they explained Getty had purchased the royalty free site 4-5 years after the image was used. We had the image removed imediately and ignored the settlement demand as well as all subsequent demands (there were 3 over 10 months).

    After 10 months, NCS Recovery (Getty's debt referral collection agency) started calling for payment. We ignored their calls for about 6 months until they finally "got" me by suprise. I explained the the image was royalty free when we started using it and that once we were made aware of the copyright by Getty, we discontinued usage immediately. I also explained that we never rec'd any change in status of the image from Getty prior to their settlement demand.

    I then explained that we won't be paying a damn penny and any further communication would be considered harassment and subject to legal action against them. She stated "that's all I needed to hear, thank you".

    Haven't heard anything since. It's only been a month mind you. If any further communication follows, I will update here.

  25. Has anyone received any letters from Master File ? We had a Russian designer do our flower shop and now Master file is demanding $30,000 or they will take us to court

    We took off the pictures immediately and not sure what to do now.

    Any help is greatly appreciated.

  26. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  27. About a year ago, I downloaded a free "polling" program. Contained within it was apparently a getty image. The polling program asked visited to my canadian site, what type of equipment they liked to use. Over about a 2month period, about 20 people made an entry. About 6 months ago, Getty sent me a letter claiming copyright infringement with an image of the photo. Sure enough, i did find the image, and then immediately deleted it and the program, asked my ip provide to sweep my site and delete any "back ups of my site" to ensure that no image was accidently retained in "backups" - Getty replied too bad, and we still want our $1000. I responded and said that I'd settle for $100 and if I don't hear from them in 10 days, I'd considered the case closed. Well now 3-6 months have passed, and I received a voice message from a recovery company demanding full payment.

    What are the options?

  28. I too received one of these letters as of (Nov. 21, 2008). I found it rather strange for two reasons. 1) I am the owner of an Ontario based ISP/hosting company. 2) I have a background in computer security. Being the owner of a business we ONLY use licensed images (ironically we have an unlimited member hip with iStock and 123rf). Therefore the images in question would have been licensed at some point or we would NOT be using them - period. Or at least so we thought. Also, having a background in computer security the first thing I did is look at the server logs (which I will have a colleague double check). Sure enough there is evidence of both automated and manual scanning and checks (IE. URLs being checked at an inordinately fast rate - humanly impossible). I really wonder about the legality of scanning another companies networks looking for IP content. Is this not illegal or at least unethical practice? Is it possible Getty has crossed the boundaries between protection of IP and is in fact violating the law or ethics of business itself? The RCMP need a warrant to review our content, how does Getty simply "scan" and attempt URL manipulation/cancatenation in order to view our customers content?

    PS - if the author of this Blog wishes to contact me for more information you may do so by posting to your own Blog. Thank you for taking the time to run such a Blog Howard - it is much appreciated.

  29. The foregoing poster seems very knowledgeable from a technical standpoint. He/she should feel free to call me in order to elaborate.


  30. I am the managing editor of a magazine and I used to buy stock from Getty until mid 2008. I have yet to fall victim of this demanding letter, but the situation comes as no surprise to me.
    After following acquisition after acquisition and receiving several marketing solicitations encouraging small businesses to purchase their overpriced imagery as a means to alleviate economy struggles, I decided I had enough!
    This is the perfect example of a fox in the cubs' den. It is time to face the facts. It seems amidst these acquisitions, organization has slipped and sales has taken precedence over quality. The company I once highly regarded is taking advantage of small businesses at the least appropriate time.
    Fortunately, smaller companies such as Alamy are rising to the occasion by matching quality and offering a reasonable price.
    Goodbye Getty.

  31. I am a small business owner in Nova Scotia, Canada and received a letter from Getty in January of 2007 which I thought was a scam and promptly ignored although I must say my jaw dropped when I read it. The image in question was somewhere on the internet available at no charge and my web designer and I can't even remember where we found it. Neither of us had ever heard of Getty Images at the time I received the first letter. I then received another letter which I ignored and my file has now been send to a U.S. collection agency, NCS Recovery. They are demanding $1200 Can. for an image that was on my website for about 1 year and which I have removed along with the entire content on that page. I emailed them to say I was willing to pay the $49 advertised price even though I still admit to no wrongdoing. I am so sorry to read that many other small businesses and larger ones are in a battle with this company over what seems to me is a typical attempt by a U.S. company to elicit money from unsuspecting consumers in a very unscrupulous manner. Having read all of the above, I will not be paying the fee and look forward to reading more.

  32. I have received 2 demand letters from Getty images regarding a small image of a coconut I copied from GOOGLE IMAGES. I am ignoring their request for over US$1,200 compensation even though I immediately removed the image. They state in their paperwork that they have an office in Sydney.

    So here in Australia in our state of Queensland for debts under AUD$2,000 there is a MINOR DEBTS COURT where you can represent yourself. This means the case is heard by the local magistrate. I have used this court for small claims debts before and they make every effort to settle your matter out of court before a ruling is made. So would be interesting to see what a local magistrate thought of the way Getty Images is so demanding.

    The question I ask is, if I had the image on my website which is on a USA based served, but our company is registered in Australia which country does Getty Images sue you in? I would image it would have to be Australia.

    I am happy to take my chances in an Australian Minor Debts court with a magistrate ruling on Getty Images claim.

    The other important question I have is if the image was on Google Images with no cross reference to Getty Images copyright shouldn’t they be the ones responsible for breach of copyright in the first place.

    I also originally had never heard of Getty Images and of course thought it was a scam. I will leave it up to Getty to take the matter to court and take my chances there. If I paid everyone who approached us over the internet and even go to the trouble of following up with paperwork in the mail I would have been broke long ago.

    Maybe this is the only way to find out if this is a genuine claim from Getty or just another very elaborate corporate scam.

    It usually costs around AUD$50 to lodge a claim in our local Minor Debts Court. So no fancy lawyers are required and quite frankly 'don't wash' in this type of court which is more for people to represent themselves. So bring it on Getty Images!

  33. I used a template company to create web sites for my customers. This was similar to Template Monster who just happened to buy out the company I was useing. Anyway I purchased the templates and then added my customers contents and hosted the sites. My customers have all received letters from Getty demanding thousands of dollars. I finally sent Getty a letter on behalf of all my customers stating that I designed the sites and bought the templates and included a copy of my receipts. I told them as far as I am concerned I own those sites and those images and if they wanted anything more from me they would need a court order. I did not remove the pictures nor did I pay Getty a dime. Thier problem in my case is with the template company. If they get a court order for me to take the sites down then the template company becomes my problem. Either way Getty is a bully telemarketing organization that sells over priced pictures. Don't fall prey to thier Bull S***. Don't take what doesn't belong to you, but also don't be scammed. Getty is full of hot air. They need to go after people that steal thier product but they also need to do it the proper way. They need to quit using Mafia tactics.

  34. Hi,

    I’ve went through this case since our first involvement many months ago and I see that Getty is still hunting down small businesses for insane fees that are way above the real market value.

    For those who read this thread for the first time, you probably have been threatened by Getty for 1500$, 3500$, 10000$ or even more. It is scary tactics from them and it works so well. I've read on some forums that some people just paid them as they could not even sleep well at night... This is disgusting...

    So read this well (and sorry for my poor English as I am French)...

    Do your homework - read and seek the internet about Getty Images tactics of getting money unscrupulously out of your pocket. You'll find out how this machination has been settled to entrapped people like you. And you all fall in the trap like mice seeking for cheese.

    1. If you surf Getty Images web site, you'll notice that most of their image bank is presented in an accessible web format to be grabbed in a click by anyone who design websites. Also, it is quiet curious this absence of watermarks on too many quality pictures. A simple right click and you grab whatever you need to build a nice website. This is the cheese part. On top many of these pictures can be found anywhere else on the internet…

    2. Too many companies wants to have nice websites but don't take the time to verify the origin of the graphic content to make sure if it's clean clear and legal. There are a lot of web designers out there who simply don't care about images rights and grab anything they can without advising their customers whose getting cut in the Getty hunting process later on. The rule is simple: always ask for proof of purchase for any images you will put on your website. They can be purchased for low cost today (1$ to 50$). So peace of mind is cheap for that part.

    3. Getty is using PicScout services as bounty hunters. They are the one who use spiders to scan every jpg, gif or png files on your hosted website. Their scanner algorithm can even track variations in the use of the picture they are hunting. This is technically pretty nice, I must admit. But where it’s questionable is when they collect 50% of all the money they can collect from people like you and I. I am not sure either if this intrusion (because that’s what it is) is even legal. This should be performed with a warrant but I am not a lawyer so don’t take this for cash.

    4. The threatening… This part is also very well done. It’s legal. It’s serious. It’s well prepared. It’s convincing and scary for normal people like you and I. But…

    This is where you must choose – being a mouse or not…

    - If you grabbed these pictures yourself without paying attention then I think you got your lesson…
    - If you’re a web designer and put your customer in such uncomfortable situation, (because Getty is intentionally knock at their door without any care who design the website and this is part of their strategy) I’m sure you got your lesson too - twice the dose!

    - Anyway, for both of you, just don’t pay!

    - Fist they cannot collect money out of you on the simple allegation that you are guilty. By paying what they’re asking for, is like admitting that you steeled these images. In too many case it works even if you’re not guilty!

    - Remove any claimed pictures. Remain polite no matter what. Offer them to settle the claim for the appropriate market value (50$ - 500$ depending of the kind of pictures you used – with or without royalty) in the case you wish to continue to use these pictures. Don’t worry, it’s not in their game plan to accept your offer and it’s not the goal. It’s just that you cannot play the dead.

    - Ask for proof of ownership. If they treat you like a criminal, ask for ridiculous amount of money, then you’re in your rights to ask for some piece of evidence that the pictures they pretend being theirs is really theirs! A print-screen of your website and nice written texts are not enough… You should ask for a copy of the copyright certificate for every single individual picture claimed. When you ask this, your interlocutor turns pretty impolite over the phone…

    - The final step, a collecting agency will call you there after and believe me, they will. These are the “hunting dogs” sent by them (it’s still not clear who’s behind – Getty Images or PicScouts). Their role is to bully you by threatening you. They will gauge you’re attitude. If you shake, they will call you back, again and again until you pay or pronounce the magic words: “harassment lawsuit”. Yep, harassment is illegal my friends. But my advice remains to stand still and make your self clear that you will not pay such ridiculous amount of money.

    These days, image purchasing is no longer a budget problem in any web design project. Here some sources to use for your future needs: www.fotolia.com and www.dreamstime.com just to name these two.

    www.istockphoto.com (the royalty free – and well watermark - stock pictures website – own by Getty images.)

    I hope this may help some of you who got cut in the Getty Hunting Ventures!

  35. I got a letter today stating to pay HKD 22500 for 2 small images, I am really shocked, the website has been developed 3 years back by a third party vendor. I don't know what to do next. We just a small business cannot afford to pay this amount.

  36. we did receive a threading pdf from getty today

    We have a NON PROFIT gaming forum (only) and one of our users
    used for making his signature a picture that they claim it is their picture.
    They asked $900 for a tiny picture that is NOT part of web site design
    only as a signature of a specific user.

    I am a photographer and i have taken MORE than 100.000 worth seeing pictures
    at least 300 of them are really nice pictures.

    I think i will do the same, i will create a website and then allow everybody to
    copy pictures and then use Getty MASTER PIECE threading email to collect money.

    I Knew some people make easy money out there, i just did NOT know it was so easy.

    They will get $0 from us,
    and I wish I could see in person the
    smart guy that decided this letter should be copy pasted to threat people,
    and also all ****** that work in that company and support these methods too.

    Makes you wonder, does those ***** have families and raise kids?
    Are they proud of what they do?

    I promise to update you here as i just started to look in this case
    it is very interesting how people without any creativity and NOTHING to offer survive in this planet.
    Forgive bad English as it is my second language.

  37. I too have just received a Getty Letter, and once my heart started beating again, I began my research. It seems that my story is similar to that of countless others. I am being invoiced for $1000CDN for the use of 1 image alledgedly owned by Getty. The letter was drafted on June 4th, and was delivered to me by standard post with a resolution deadline of June 25th.
    Naturally, my first instinct was to panic, utterly and completely. I immediately removed, not only the image in question, but deleted my entire website as not to encourage any subsequent letters.
    In the 7 days that remain in my allotted resolution time, I would like to gather more information. The entire process smacks of a scam, and I am not fond of the "guilty and yet to be proven guiltier" tactics that Getty is employing.
    I cannot stomach the thought of going to court over an image that from what I can remember of the source, was Google Images. I will be contacting Getty on this issue however, I feel that I have a long and confusing battle ahead. Are there any Canadians that are in a similar situation that have had to retain legal council? Can this affect my credit rating or involve the CRA in any way? I am petrified, not of Getty thugs, but of the possible scope of this issue in my financial life.
    The pride I felt in constructing my website has turned into an embarrassing nightmare. I will truly be rethinking all of my Internet activities from this day forward.

  38. Update:

    As of today, June 18, 2009, Getty Images has only sued twice in the Federal Court of Canada and has discontinued both actions. Getty Images appears to be far less litigious than Masterfile.

    I don't know whether Getty is suing in the courts of the provinces, though I would doubt it.


  39. I'm based in australia and have also received a letter threatening legal action if I don't pay. The image in question was part of a website builder package provided by my web hosting company. they have paid the license fee for the image but yet Getty are still trying to bully me into paying them.

  40. Dear Mr Getty, Every time I see a google advert for your website I click it, I'm going to do that for the rest of my life, hopefully another 40 years at least, how much do you think that will cost you? Getty that ?

  41. Our Web Design had a flaw and getty images found us.

    Getty is getting away with this and we cannot do anything against them!

    What can we do?

    I will come back here to check comments

  42. I received a settlement demand letter from Getty Images last week asking for $1000.00 or a discounted fee of $900.00 if I pay them before a set date. Their tactic is working by the looks of all the worried recipients of this letter, however I have been searching for cases or any court proceedings regarding Getty Images and I couldn't find anything. It seems to be a clever money making tactic to scare people to pay money from in most cases are innocent people who used webtemplates or hired professional contractors. I hope this type of offensive fear mongering from Getty Images is illegal in Canada.

  43. as a getty photo contributor who lives off of my royalties, it is very irritating to read all the excuses being made by your posters for their illegal activities.Getty is doing what every agent should do to protect the rights of their clients. I personally have contacted many of these so called small websites and other businesses who "innocently" purchase or use my images. Bull-hooky, these guys are professionals who scan magazines articles , change the IPTC data imbedded in images and not only use these images but turn around and sell them to autograph collectors.Clearly they are stealing my wages, and then complain when they are caught. Getty is only doing what is right so that photographers like myself can go out every day in produce image s that these same complainers desire greatly so as to enhance their own private wealth but are to selfish and greedy to pay for. I stand by Getty's actions and wholly support them and will continue to report on all instnaces of copyright abuse be it be by one man sites or larger companies.If Canadians and Brits are so offended by Getty, how about just not stealing our images, use your own generated images, don't try to hide behind soft Canadian enforcement of copyright laws, be strong Canadians and Brit and stay away from our images .Nuff Said

    1. You want to sue the internet for your gain but don't take responsibility for watermarking your photos. Grow up. Nuff said.

  44. I, like so many others on this site, have received two threatening from Getty Images regarding a photo I used on my small business website. Unknowingly, my website designer acquired this image as a royalty-free picture from Google images. I am so glad to have found this Canadian resource dealing with this legalized scam by Getty Images, and will be reporting my case to The University of Ottawa. I will not be paying the $1300 that Getty Images is demanding, and look forward to dealing with their collections agency. I would be a willing participant in any Class action lawsuit agains Getty images.

  45. UPDATE

    Once again, GETTY IMAGES has not sued anyone in the Federal Court in Canada since March, 2008. I can't speak for the provincial courts.

    If anyone gets sued, let me and David Fewer at the University of Ottawa clinic www.cippic.ca know ASAP.


  46. Received first typical Getty ploy letter in October 2009, removed pic right away(third-party web page designed). After reading blogs etc...decided on no-reply approach. Received 2nd letter today (they must think we are idiots). Their payment recovery is out of Bank of America Canada-Toronto (Canadian address more intimidating!). I feel real sorry for other innocent Canadians being intimidated,distressed. If anyone else in Montreal has been targetted, let us know your status. I have also contacted Mr. Fewer at U of Ottawa dfewer@uottawa.ca)who is following this case. When the collection agency calls, I know exactly what to say. Please share any updates.

  47. Last autumn we received a letter regarding a part of a picture used on our company homepage. The image was produced by a third party. The image was removed directly upon notification.

    We replied that since they could not verify that they have exclusivity and therefore guarantee us that not similar claims against us from other sources could surface we did not want to pay. Their response to this was a letter signed by a director that the owned the picture exclusively.

    I still think they need to show some sort of agreement from the photographer that states that he leave the rights to Getty. Right now we don't know how to proceed.

  48. I have also received such a letter from these people. And like another comment above the address does not quite match up.

    We are only a very small company (2people) and the wording and demand for £800 is to say the least intimidating!

    I have used a web company to put my site together and even they are gobsmacked at the demands. They got the said photo from a free site which made no reference to it being a Getty Images pic. Also my web people DONT use Getty Images because they are so expensive!

    How are we supposed to know that we are infringing copyright!!!

    I don't know what to do! They say we have to pay by 4 Feb. They also want my VAT number Why is their bank in Widnes but they want payment sent to London?

  49. My wife and I run a small business in Alberta. We have recently received a letter from Masterfile regarding copyright infringement, concerning a photo posted on our website. Never hearing of this company before, or expecting a copyright issue, I dismissed this letter, fearing a scam. I ignored it for a couple of days, then thought I'd do some investigating. In an attempt to ascertain the legitimacy of this letter I had politely asked the Compliance Officer for the following information:

    * Proof of the title of copyright including exclusivity
    * The date of first publication and the date of copyright issuance
    * How many companies/persons have been granted the rights to distribute the images
    * Proof that the images have never been contained, in any other image libraries
    * The date Masterfile Corporation obtained the legal right to distribute the images
    * A breakdown of the costs claimed to have been incurred as a result of the alleged copyrighted images being displayed

    I thought that would be enough to discourage the writers of the letter if they were indeed scam artists. Evidently this is not the case. The Compliance Officer responded with most of the above information, and of course an extremely short deadline.

    My wife had commissioned a designer to build our website close to 6 years ago, as we have no experience in this field. This company assured us they had thousands of stock photos to help fill our website. As my wife had just started up our company, and we had very few images of our own, we used some of these images. This design company has unfortunately ceased operations, and we cannot track down the owner of the company or designer of the site to verify how they obtained the image in question. Our website does not directly generate any money of our business - we do not accept payment through our site. Masterfile has demanded a payment of $6030.00, and claims that this fee is "fair, balanced and reasonable". I vehemently disagree.

    Could anyone advise on how to proceed? Thanks!!

  50. I'm in Australia and I too have received a very threatening letter ( and two subsequent emails) from Getty.
    Like many other people here, these images were from a template from a reputable company, which for all intense purposes a reasonable person would assume had all the correct copyright issues sorted out.
    Most certainly I support the pursuit of companies and individuals who steal the artistic work of another - that is not the point of these discussions.
    I - like many others - were under the assumption that the images which came as part of our package - or template - were 'ours' - given we'd bought the product.
    To blame the end user is outrageous.
    I've had legal advice and am awaiting the next onslaught.
    It would seem Getty are picking on small companies and individuals and leaving the real crooks who are stealing images alone.( it would be too hard and too costly for Getty to pursue them... so they are going to harrass the soft targets.)
    I wish everyone the best with this...

  51. Has anyone in Canada managed to get Getty off their backs? Have they accepted anyones offer to pay a smaller fee? They really seem heartless and unwaivering. A letter from a lawyer 'might' help I suppose, but it might just cost more in the end.

  52. I am an attorney whose client has been threatened by Masterfile. No initial cease & desist letter. Three-thousand dollar demand for one pathetically mediocre commercial image that I couldn't image anyone paying a dime for.

    We offered a $750 settlement, which is the minimum statutory damages that may be awarded in a US Federal court. MF said no, but they would accept $2K, which is calculated as $1,000 for the artist who is "owed" his licensing fee and $1,000 for MF's costs in pursuing my client as an infringer.

    The $1,000 fee "for the artist" can actually be calculated on MF's website. However, I am sure that most of this fee is going to MF for the cost of providing its services to the artist anyway. Additionally, the $1,000 "cost of services" that they claim is roughly equivalent to being awarded attorney's fees in court, which are definitely not guaranteed after going to and winning a trial.

    What is most frustrating is MF's claiming of a moral high ground with respect to protecting the artists rights. Nonetheless, they are trying to extort a significant amount of money from my client, a hardworking independent business owner, and probably pocketing at least 75% of that $2K settlement.

    Furthermore, MF stated that if we did not settle, they would sue for the maximum amount allowable by statute, $30,000. Seriously?! This is one reason why US courts are so slow, over-burdened, and inefficient!!! Actual damages here are zero.

    Companies like MF, and apparently Getty, and many others, I'm sure, are involved in a highly unethical practice. Any thought or suggestions on how to stop them (class action or otherwise) would be strongly supported and appreciated!

  53. I will never use Masterfile Stock Photography again. I purchased a nondescript photo for a brochure in 2000 which I used in a 2 inch square. I gave those files to the client who created a web site with them. Several years later, I got an angry call from the client saying that Masterfile has contacted them and told them that they owe money on a photo that they used on the web site. I contacted Masterfile and paid the additional cost for use on the web. I just got another call from my client that several hundred more is owed on this photo. Had I known that I would have to continually pay for this photo, I would have asked the client take it off the website the second time I paid for it. I asked them today and they took it off minutes later. The photo was approximately 1 inch square on the site.

    I strongly believe in intellectual property rights, and I also want to pay for whatever I owe, but I also believe that the right thing for Masterfile would have been to alert ME, since my name is in their file, and tell me that I was about to infringe on their rights, rather than waiting years, and contacting my client and making it appear as though I am intentionally stealing from them. I have paid the additional money, but I will not deal with this shark of a company again. In all, I paid $1,300 for this crappy little photo. I made a huge mistake by choosing Masterfile and will absolutely not do so again.

  54. I received a letter today from Getty Images with bank and routing information to send $1,775.00 for the use of images that I had no clue were theirs.

    I have spoke with live chat and of course saved the transcript and my next course of action is with the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney Generals Office.

    I think I should do what I heard a Canadian did and I laugh everytime I think about this story. A man was charged excessive fees for the use of a credit card and he sent them numerous 1 cent transactions and shut down their system.

    Now that was creative!

  55. As a contributor to both Getty Images and Masterfile , I completely support their efforts to sue and collect fees for non payment of rights protected images. Passing the blame onto a 3rd party is not the answer here. As a user of images , you should demand to see where the images were obtained from and demand to see a copy of license that goes with the images. I doubt many graphic artists , which you may be one , would warm to this idea , as many of you enjoy the practice of buying images for a dollar and selling them to clients for $500.00 . I am not a believer in what you call free natural cultural exchange ?!?! Where the hell did you dig that up ?? Adobe sues for infringement and this images are the sole source of revenue for many photographers. ASk me after I have spent $3000 on a photoshoot if I'm happy to see you share my material in a free cultural exchange program. Go to hell - I spend money to make money and all of you scammers , cheaters , web designers have to learn to respect copyright and if that means sueing the hell out of you , then I'm all for it. As a photographer , I can tell you that images are cheaper now than ever before to buy so why even think of stealing them.
    My advice - demand to see copies of licenses and at the same time check out the mark up your design company is charging you , although they will hide behind words such as research fee , etc.

    1. I've taken your advice, I now take all my own pictures and apply my own copyright. I no longer need to pay for images taken by a professional and sold hundreds of of $/£ and sold times over. And once I'm done with them I publish them under creative commons so others can use them.

      Do not pass go, do not collect £200.

      Getty have done photographers no favours by alienating large sections of their potential market. Instead of inticing in new customer they've lost them forever. But then again we're all lairs, cheats, scammers and thieves. Not potential customers. Wheres the common sense here?!

      You are right that its the photographer that loses out. Getty have priced you out of the market.

      Webdesigners aren't so dumb they can't learn to frame, bracket, aperture-prioritize and learn a bit of Photoshop ;) Why settle for a stock shot when you can encapsulate exactly what you wanted with ur own composure!

  56. What if you run a commercial website, but the image in question was taken from the manufacturer of the products you sell?

    So we're an official dealer of this product, we took an image from the manufacturer's website and used it on our site to promote that product only. Turns out the image contains photos owned by Getty. Were we allowed to use that image since it was from the manufacturer's own website/brochure?

  57. I too unknowingly used a getty image and even though I have taken it off my website, the hounds are after me. Thanks so much for your blog site it has given me hope. I make my money the honest way. These people are heartless bloodsucking scum. One lousy image is not worth $950.

  58. Anonymous September 14, 2010 7:10 PM: So you "unknowingly" used a Getty image? Did it not occur to you that it belonged to somebody? You thought you could simply use someone else's photo without paying them for it. That's making money the "honest way", I see.

    FYI, that "lousy image...not worth $950" may well have cost the photographer several thousand dollars in expenses and overhead, paid out months and years before he or she would see a return, if any. (And it might have been a Canadian photographer, BTW.)

    The above goes for some of the other anonymous complaints. By the logic I'm hearing, a $40 parking ticket is exorbitant, it should be for a hundred times less, just the 25 cents or maybe loonie that one would have paid if one hadn't miscalculated. If that were the case, no one would ever put any money in the meter.

    The stock agency that represents me often pays tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, sometimes overseas, to pursue copyright infringement cases where it has little hope of recovering anywhere near that amount. It has no choice. Otherwise there would no restraints on the theft of the intellectual property of its photographers, and we would all be out of business. Just how big a problem this is in the industry is quite self-evident from the number of complaints, not just on this blog but elsewhere, from people caught out by Getty, Masterfile, and other stock agencies.

  59. We have already posted here, and now, after ignoring the letters from Getty Images, we have received an emailed and mailed letter from NCS Recovery in Florida. I am not sure if they have an actual claim here.

    As a side note, our web guy assures us he got all images for our site from royalty free etc. places, but it was some time ago. We did ask Getty to tell us when they aquired the rights to the images, but they just said that that information would be told in court if it went that far.

    Too much bullying here. No chance they could have said just "stop, or else". We certainly need more support for stuff like this in Canada.

  60. Got my pay by Oct 20th & get a $200.00 discount (from $1,200) for 2 picts found on an Old web site that's long gone. I'm in British Columbia. I agree with copy rights and am willing to pay the $90.00 for the prior use of the photos, my mistake. but for the demand letter! and the way the telephone answering service presents itself..I'll take my chances in court

  61. seems to be enough of us for a class action law suit against getty??

  62. We received our first letter last October '09 with images of the offending web pages and like others on this blog was astonished at Getty's demands, especially since no one recognized the images. We of course went to our computers and linked to our web pages through the internet and STILL could not find the pages presented as evidence supporting Getty's claim. As it turned out the pages that Getty send were found using Internet Explore (IE) as a search engine and we, here, are Mac users and only use Mozilla. After further investigation it was determined that the images in question were part of a test site used by our designer ( the third to actually work on the site) and it was never meant to be published to the web. But, somehow IE linked to thoses pages on our server while Mozilla and other search engines linked to the correct web pages approved for publication....which is why we never saw those pages during the normal course of working online with our web site. Bizarre, but true.....a mistake, pure and simple. I even called their people and had them search our site, while on the phone, using Mozilla then IE. They, too, could not find the offending photos on Mozilla but amazingly they are there when the site was searched using IE. She was speechless and could only saw "I've heard a lot of excuses but this is a new one".
    Problem solved ?....No!
    It doesn't seem to make any difference. We are now getting letters / offers to settle for the same outrageous amount from their lawyers in Seattle, we are in Canada. We have not responded to them since our initial telephone explanation with follow-up letter....and we won't. This was an honest mistake but they don't want to know...they just want money. The company is incorporated and has very little cash flow and no assets so I'll close the company down if there is ever a judgement against it in Getty's favour, which is unlikely, according to advice we received. They get nothing !! Despicable conduct by Getty Images. They are thugs and this conduct should not be tolerated.

  63. My company received the same letter for 1 picture our overseas web designer used. Good thing someone in our office had experience and knowledge of this kind of matter. We sent the e-mail off saying that we had taken the image down but did not say anything regarding if we were going to pay. Upon examination of the picture by the IT guy, it appears there is no way that the picture we used was what was copyrighted by Getty Images as our picture was facing a different direction and had a lot more back ground content that was not there in their "proof" picture. Also, they told us they found the picture 3 months prior to their letter. They did not send us a cease and desist letter at the time and is demanding $1300 for its use.

    The IT person has recommended we ignore all letters/e-mails from them and, if they take us to court, just prove that the photo they claim copyright on cannot be the same picture. Has my e-mail saying we are removing the picture in anyway considered an admission of guilt?

    Do you have any accounts of anyone encountering anything similar?

  64. Everyone is posting messages about receiving Getty's threatening letters however has anyone had the experience of Getty taking them to court? I'm just curious if they actually take it that far.

  65. In answer to the previous comment- we will never know, as Getty puts a gag order on any settlement -in or out of court

  66. We are in a dispute with Getty where we purchased 10 images for a web site ($400) of which we only used 2 in the end. We bought them without realizing that the rights were only for 90 days.
    Who would imagine that anyone would sell 90 day rights for a web site? It takes longer than that to finalize a decent sized site. We also paid a premium price for stock art compared to other sites that offer a perpetual license so we had no expectation that the license period would be so short.
    Two years later, 3 months after the site had been replaced, Getty is claiming $825.00 for using the image past its limit.
    We respect author's rights and do not have any problem paying for assets.
    However, there are 2 problems with Getty's practices.
    1) The term should be much clearer on the site. The images were purchased using a credit card so no one ever saw the invoice that they say was part of the purchase process.
    2) They should have contacted us within a reasonable time before the end of the rights period to request renewal of the agreement.

    The day that they informed us of the violation we took down all our sites so that we could go through all of our current images to ensure that we were no longer in violation. This was not a cost-free step on our part but we wanted to make sure that no inadvertent license violations remained.
    We are now trying to negotiate a settlement that is reasonable since we did actually use the images.
    We want some assurances that this will be the end of their claims for past transgressions.

    We are inclined to pay them but their business practices make it really hard to feel good about paying them double the revenue that they would have received if we had renewed the license each quarter.

  67. First off, I am in complete support of photographers being paid for their work, and stock photo companies representing their work online as a gateway to the thousands of great images out there on the web. Without both these entities it would be very difficult for creative individuals and businesses alike to be able to publish great visual marketing collateral, be it for web or print.
    For decades the model of rights-managed and royalty free (more recent) has been successful. Since the Internet started, and moreover any digital medium (software or creative) piracy and copyright infringement has been rampant. There needs to be some effective monitoring and enforcement to prevent this type of thing by heavy abusers or knowing fraudsters. People have a right to their creative material and means to earn a living.
    That being said, the Getty is taking the wrong approach. It is a cash grab, targeting a legally unsophisticated and in most cases completely unaware offender. It is a bullying tactic and very carefully and well orchestrated extortion across a large number of victims. While I agree that the photographers and to some degree stock companies are victims in this, it is very similar to record labels slapping million dollar lawsuits on the 14 year old kid who downloaded a MP3 file.
    PicScout: Getty, I have some software that can make millions . We’ll scan the Internet and bill everyone that is using your images. Some won’t pay, but those that are scared will, and we'll be rich.
    Getty: Sounds great, most of these offenders wouldn't have been our customers anyhow, might as well squeeze them.
    So they shoot first, ask questions later. I bet they are raking in money. Sure many will not pay, and for the $900-1300 average cost it is not worth suing. They will simply send it to NCR for collections and NCR buys the debt for pennies on the dollar.
    I always purchase images whenever I can. I support photographers and I need good images. I will buy pre-designed templates, or commission designers to do creative to me. I assumed they were licensing or had royalty free/open source and I did not have to worry. I was wrong, and I have passed the company/individual names to Getty so they can enforce their copyright, but Getty does not care, or asks for money from them too (collect X2). I have removed all alleged offending images to be cooperative. I am certainly not going to be shaken down Getty.
    Unless you have used enough copyright images to warrant a lawsuit (likely costs Getty $10k+ to sue) then I would not worry and just stop using any images or pay the license cost. If you did use $10k+ of images, well you probably knew you did not have the rights so you should at the very least pay the license cost, but I would forget about all their inflated settlement offers.
    Bottom line, copyright images should not be used without permission. I bet the majority of the users hit with this were not intentionally stealing, but relying on bad advice or ignorance etc. This is not an excuse, but once notified you should stop immediately, or license for fair price. Getty is being way to heavy handed with this. They should go after the companies selling the CD's and web templates, or those they can try and determine that are knowingly abusing the copyright on a grand scale for profit. The unknowing victims in this should be sent a cease and desist, and option to license the images. They would probably make just as much if not more money and it would not be a PR and litigation/collections nightmare. If any alleged infringers refused to cooperate then begin collection attempts in the manner in which they have. They had a fantastic opportunity to approach this to build a great reputation, additional revenue streams, and thousands of new customers in a positive manner. They managed to completely and utterly failed with this draconian, arrogant, and completely detached tactic. I wonder if the CEO who authorized this method is a descendant of Queen Marie Antoinette, as their head must have been in the clouds when this was decided.

  68. To December 21, 2010 6:00 PM Anonymous, good post. Artists must be compensated for their work but, as you say; Getty's tactics are similar to the RIAA.

    I would love the get a comment from photographers whose Getty hosted images were abused. What percentage of the settlement did the artist receive?

    In any case, I've purchased a significant amount of stock photography in the past from a big and well know firm. And, I feel I paid well for them. Was the content so impressive that I knew we couldn't build our own photography library? No. But the stock photo quality was good, there were some great creative shots, and it relieved our business of the hassle of building and refreshing a portfolio.

    I will tell you that as a business we investigate the litigation history and the reputation of any business we license IP from and enter into with significant expense.

    When I see the number of problems with some of these providers such as Getty, I become concerned.

    1) I envision being sued by one these firms for an image we utilize even though we own a license. We'd win but it's the added cost and time that is the issue.
    2) The term's of use (in many cases) are ridiculously complicated to point where it would be nearly impossible not to infringe (even if in good faith paid for a license). Just try to figure out how to license a photo for web use in a international sense from Getty. Lot's of room for error.
    3) The point of diminishing return has been crossed. For the amounts being extorted, one could hire a local photographer to built a portfolio for which no one can sue.
    4) The stock houses are continually changing and merging with each other. In fact, they seem to have a hard time keeping track of our past orders as they merge and spin-off (fortunately we keep good records).
    5) I rely on the license agreement on the day we paid for the IP. As a consumer, we have no idea of what agreements are being created as these entities merge and spin-off.
    6) It seems these entities change the TOS and licenses on a regular basis. Are they keeping track of the license in effect at the time of the sale? How does PICSCOUT track this?

    So to the photographers backing Getty, I agree you should be well compensated for your work. I would expect the same. But keep in mind, there is a point when your PAYING customers are going to walk away.

    I, being authorized to bind our company into business contracts, am becoming hesitant to purchases any further stock photography from these entities. As I mentioned, we are reaching the point of diminishing return and would rather build our own private portfolio just to avoid ANY possibility of having to deal with aggressive firms such as Getty.

  69. Getty Images is going after anyone they can find who has an unlicensed image. The issue is that many images they own show up on other searches and often without watermarks. So it is easy for a small time designer to get in trouble with Getty unwittingly. They are also doing this to companies who are using the images longer than their license allows. My advise is to stay away from Getty images and use a more fair and reasonable outlet for your stock photography. It is just better not to get involve the them.

  70. We also have received a letter today for a 2cm x 2cm image that our webdesigner got off of a royalty free site. Now Getty wants $600 when an image of that size can be purchased for $$4-$15 CDN.

    I am going to send a note asking for proof of copyright, proof that the image was stated Getty Image and proof that someone was harmed by the use of this tiny picture.

    I will keep everyone posted. Any advice is appreciated. Canadian Small Businessman

  71. I am from Australia and developed a website for a client a few years back and used a few images from Getty Images without knowledge of the consequences. I always purchase images and have proof for 99% but on this occasion I didn't.
    My client received the Getty letter back in 2009 and we responded by taking the images off the site and server and advised Getty of this.
    Jump into 2011 and they have now received a letter from an Australian lawyer claiming they are acting on behalf of Getty and asking them to pay $1800 into the lawyers trust account. If this doesn't happen the lawyers will be seeing further instructions and further action will be taken.
    Has anyone else received similar letters from laywers acting on behalf of Getty Images?

  72. Is this in Getty's business plan?

    Since their art cost a lot more than most small business would pay, is it possible that Getty wants their photo's scattered around the internet??

    Where DOES Getty makes more money, from selling on their website, or going after people who thought they were getting it for free???

    I watermark all my work, why doesn't Getty????

    Would most business owners or designers knowing steal photos, they know all too well the pain of someone stealing their hard work?????

    Is this just another example of large companies abusing the laws to make money??????

  73. C'mon people it is really simple

    You get a letter from getty --> delete images; ignore all payment requests

    you get any more letters form getty --> ignore
    you get a letter/email from collection agency --> ignore
    you get a call from collection agency --> get an answering machine and ignore

    Ignore, ignore, ignore. never pay.

  74. Does anyone have any idea in this situation:

    1) You discover you have copyrighted images on your site so you take them down and change them (this is before getty or anyone else sends you a demand letter).

    2) as expected you get a letter from Getty 1-2 months after you have taken down the images (snapshot is before images where taken down but letter send 2 months after).

    thanks for your input,

  75. Yes, I believe this is a more recent practice due to new technology, which Getty may possess. I too was victim of a threatening letter from Getty. I live in Canada, and I originally found the image in question on one of many websites (not Getty's), which was promoting the use of such images, without any watermark. For example: http://www.animalpicturesforkids.info/wallpaper/ga01089/

    It says here, without any indication of copyright permissions, to make this image the background of your website, and even provides the end user with the code to do so!!!

    Why doesn't Getty go after these guys instead of picking on small businesses and extorting the maximum amount from them even after the images have been removed, WITHOUT EVEN A CEASE & DESIST LETTER!!!???

    The best advice that seems to repeat itself on all these forums is simply to remove the images in question, ignore their letters / calls and never to respond. It will most likely cost them more than they are claiming, and certainly more than they have invested in the investigation of all of this, to pursue their claim in court.

    I buy all the images I use from legitimate Stock Photo websites. In my case, I used one tenth of the actual image in question as I cropped it, modified and flipped it horizontally. Let alone the fact that they should have pursued this earlier with their tracking software... Otherwise, such accusations and demands could easily be interpreted as have been conspired, calculated and organized by Getty in the attempt to increase revenues. So they really have nothing to pursue in my case... Stay away from Getty, Istock and all connected sites. Use legit stock photo sites only and for love of God... Don't pay them a dime.

    It's sad that many people mostly likely get scared into paying such exorbitant amounts of money for no reason, without even a cease & desist letter...

  76. Hi, my name is Travis and I own a web company in Portland, Oregon.

    Not sure that this is really useful information for anyone, but I thought I would share my outrageous experience with Getty on the phone this afternoon, 11/22/2011 at about 12:41 PM.

    I'm a web developer and was recently sent one of these infamous Getty demand letters, actually 3 of them all for the same image that was used on 3 different websites my company had built. As with many other companies, we immediately replaced the image with a copyrighted image in all cases and called Getty expressing our apology and agreed that we definitely owed someone some money, but wanted to talk about the amount.

    They were completely unwilling to discuss anything to that regard. The three demand letters were all for the same image, but for 3 different dollar amounts ($825 to $995)! I asked them to please explain how they came to those numbers and why it was different on all 3 claims and that we would be happy to pay whatever was reasonable following that breakdown. The woman on the other end of the phone flat refused to provide those details and said that by law they didn't have to provide me with that information until the claim went to litigation.

    Needless to say, I became very firm, but remained calm, and said that it was unethical to send someone a bill for something without explaining to them how you got to that number, especially when their were 3 different dollar amounts for the same image. She then told me not to use that kind of language or she was going to hang up. I ask what she was talking about? "Unethical" is not a "bad word" that I'm aware of.

    And I assure those of you reading this that I was not loud or aggressive with my tone. I'm a very calm person, I'm 40 years old and have never been in a fight in my life. And I guarantee you, anyone who knows me will say that they've never even heard me raise my voice before.

  77. (Continuation of post by Travis of Portland, OR)

    Anyway, back to the discussion.

    I then told her I would like to talk to her supervisor. She then said she would be glad to take down my number and would have someone call me back when they had a moment.

    I sat there in silence, stunned at how they had me backed into a corner with no options. I wasn't asking to not pay I just wanted some details. As a matter of fact, I settled and paid an $11,000 claim filed by MasterFile over a year ago for $4,000 on an image that an ex-employee had posted on a customers website when they were building it. I didn't have an argument because the employee was not available so I couldn't argue where the image came from and I was also very unaware of how this all worked.

    "Many of the targets of [undisclosed company] suits appear to be individuals and non-profit organizations who lack the economic resources to defend themselves against [undisclosed company's] claims.... "

    The above quote, from the LA Times, is exactly how I feel about Getty's approach. They know I can't afford to take this to litigation and therefore will be forced to just pay whatever amount they tell me I have to pay.

    Needless to say I'm very disappointed in the laws around this process and the power that has been given to the accuser to just pull a dollar figure out of a hat and slap it on a demand settlement letter. Knowing that the cost to take it to court and hire an attorney out weight the expense of just paying them to go away.

    What is most disappointing is that I am finding myself afraid to buy any images online now, in fear that I might have the wrong license type or the image might not really be legal. So I've asked my staff to remove all images from our library of images that we thought we had the right to use and we have purchased a $1500 camera so we can shoot everything ourselves from this point forward.

    So, in the end, the copyright owners/photographers that we were buying images from just lost a customer. And we've built over 3000 websites in the past 10 years. I'm pretty sure this wasn't the end goal when they signed over the rights to their photos to Getty in the first place.

    Additionally, I'd love to talk to the photographer of the image that we are obviously going to suck it up and pay for, and find out how much of the $2700 they will actually receive from this claim.

    I'm fairly confident this is not how George Washington intended the copyright laws to be enforced when he signed the first federal copyright act in 1790.

  78. First of all thanks a lot to all of you by putting your valuable experience with the getty scam.
    I live in toronto and i get there letter yesterday claiming that i was using there picture on my company website created by a web designer in usa.
    I am firm and very clear that i am not going to pay any single cent and would like to see them i the court .
    thanks again for all yours feed back Folks

  79. Got a letter yesterday. %850 bucks. Did not even know that the image was a getty image. It was not even the whole image but rather a small part of their image that was in a collage of other non-getty images that I got from another website that I thought was free.

    I removed the photo about 3 or 4 months ago, but I got the letter a few days ago. hahaha.
    Do not bother trying to be sorry on the phone or trying to explain yourself, they are cold and don't care. They want the money. I even sent them an email saying that the company was no longer in business since last year. They replied back to me that they want to see the paperwork when the company was dissolved and they would look into it.

    Copied from email:


    Dear ....,

    Thank you for your email. I appreciate your follow up with on this matter. You and I spoke on the telephone on February 2, 2012.

    Please note that http://www.ca is still online at the time of writing, albeit with our represented photographer’s image having been subsequently removed. While we appreciate the removal of the imagery from the website, the prior unauthorized use of the imagery on this website is considered copyright infringement. Since copyright infringement already occurred, payment for that unauthorized use is necessary. We are acting on behalf of our represented photographers who are entitled to compensation for the use of their intellectual property. Please understand we stand to protect our photographers from copyright infringement even if it was unintentional.

    If you would like to provide formal documentation with respect to this entity having been dissolved, we will gladly review that information.

    I look forward to your prompt reply regarding this matter.

  80. im Nick, a web designer from Malaysia, my client got the Getty Letter, asking my client to pay them thru HSBC bank, i adv my client not to respond or pay a single cent and willing to be fully responsible for any action from Getty. ( i hv remove the photo Getty claim to be theirs from my client web). Im waiting for Getty next move. (will update)

  81. We received a letter from Getty a couple of weeks ago now. We're in BC. I'm a volunteer who agreed to maintain the website for a non-profit group. I'm not a professional web designer - just a volunteer. Now we have a bill for almost $800 for an image that was removed from the website 4 months before we even got the letter.

    The image that I used was on a website that said the images were free to use on websites. There was no copyright information or watermark on the image. I did not grab it from Google images - it was a website had both free and paid background images for websites, and I selected a free one.

    I have no proof that the image I used is in fact a Getty Image. All I have is the grainy black and white photo of our website on the letter I received.

    I don't particularly like the idea of paying them to make it all go away, especially since I have to pay it personally - our group doesn't have $800. But I don't feel right ignoring it, since it's not my personal website.

    My question is this.. To everyone who said they've decided to ignore the letter, what has since happened? Did they just go away? What happened next?

    1. Hi, it happened nore or less te same thing to my company. We got a web develoment company to build up our web site (10 yrs ago) and now, Gettz sent us a letter telling that the imagies tehy used were "stolen"...how did you end up your situsation?

  82. This is referred to as scare ware or essentially extortion letters. Getty provides no proof that theses images are theirs except for the demand letter. Myself and one of my clients received these letters from Getty a couple of years ago. We paid zero on the basis of their demand. We have not heard from them since. We did remove the image in question.

    Now on to the finer points. in order to PROVE that this is a violation of copy right, Getty needs to provide your lawyer proof that they OWN the image. Not act as agent to, but they actually OWN the image. This isn't the same as the music industry. They also need to PROVE exclusivity to the image. And they need to prove that they have been damaged by your use of the image.

    Secondly they need to PROVE that the image is indeed copy written. Simply claiming copy right without actually filing a copyright is a misleading claim. There is legal paper and costs involved with copyright and their copyright must be in effect BEFORE the date of their claim.

    Lastly, to sue you in Canadian Court, they have to serve you, and pay for everything up front. This isn't like America where anyone can sue for any reason without concern for costs. Only the actual OWNER can sue you.

    On the internet these days there are many scams going about that request money from you with or without any value attached to them. In every case you could be 100% aware of what you are paying and WHY you are paying before you pay anything. In this case I would pay Getty NOTHING, so they could take me to court. When the Canadian court finds that the damages suffered by Getty are nominal (1-5$) their entire empire of scareware would collapse. Might explain why we haven't been reading about all of the lawsuits they have filed.

    In all cases..buyer beware.

  83. Hi Anonymous of April 23,2012. I'm curious too as to the results of all the above posts as a Getty letter just came into my hands, two weeks after due date, of course. And to all of those 'offended' photographers out there, I'm a website designer that purchased some software to use on the non-profit website in question. It has a license agreement with it that states the Software designer is the owner of ALL elements, including photos, backgrounds, etc. and I can only use the Software. So how am I supposed to assume that the image in question was not paid for or licensed by the Software seller? Although since it's an extremely reputable Software company, I figure the image probably was paid for by them.
    The Software using the image in question has not been in use on my website for the public for two years. However, the files were still up on the 'Net simply because I hadn't gotten around to removing them, so the only way they could be found is by a bot. How are there any damages or anything owed to Getty or the photographer when the image on the Software was not viewable by any human being?
    I'm in Canada so I'm frankly not worried because like the Australians, we have a small claims court here where we can represent ourselves at little cost. However, I would rather see this go to Court because I've got a Brother-in-Law in law that would drool at the prospect of taking this on. He's known as the Lawyer that sues lawyers, I can just imagine how his company would like to take a shot at this.
    In any case, for any of you that may still be reading this, or to you Howard, any law updates in this regard would be much appreciated!

  84. I just received a letter from Getty Images yesterday. I am in Canada and this image was used in an open source program we purchased on the internet. Someone put this image in, not us. I am curious as to what the outcome was for others. I am not sure what to do.

  85. I received a letter from Getty Images over a year ago. They wanted $1300 for 1 small image I had on my website for 3 mths. I have a small pet sitting business in Canada. I removed the image right away and contacted them regarding the exhorbitant amount they were asking. They offered to drop it to $800. No way I can afford any of that. I ignored them and forgot about it till a couple months ago when I started receiving letters from NCS IP solutions in Florida demanding that I pay. April 23 I received their 'offer of settlement'; May 21 I received their '2nd request'; and the latest letter dated June 23 states 'final written request'. Not sure what to do.

  86. Hi I live in Canada and have ignored the letters - it will go away.
    Be sure to remove any images in question immediately AND be sure to NOT contact them - once they know they have a live person to direct their attention towards you'll be on their radar.
    Just ignore, ignore, ignore . . . it will go away.

  87. Hi, Folks,
    I just received the Getty letter today demanding for CAD $840. I live in Toronto, Canada. By read through many threads on US website. We all agree this is the robbery in a "legal" manner. I wish some Canadian and US law firm can standup for the lawsuit against it.

    I did searches on Canadian Intellectual Property Office for the image Getty claimed. There are no evidences showing that neither the author(Photographer) nor the agents(like Getty)had registered the image at CIPO.

    Now it is the time to say "FXXXXX U".

  88. Hi,

    I received a letter from Getty Images demanding $850 for one photo that they claim I used that was their property. My web site was designed by a web designer. After reading this whole blog about Getty, perhaps we can create an FAQ on how to deal with this matter.

    Some suggest to ignore all correspondence and it will eventually go away.

    Some suggest to contact Getty directly. I do not recommend this in anyway! NEVER contact them
    as they do not have any sympathy for you no matter what!

    Some suggest to request a whole bunch of info for Getty to prove that the photo is actually theirs.

    Some have given advice to press charges for harassment if a collection agency calls.

    In conclusion, I deleted the photo in question and will ignore the first letter. If a second letter arrives, I will request a whole bunch of information to prove that they actually own the photo.

    Lastly, for those posters who say they lose money as photographers because people steal their images, have you ever heard of watermarking your photos???? Because 90% of the time the photos in question do not have watermarks. No one wants to steal, but if they accidently use one of your photos without authorization, then yes, we are willing to pay but NOT $850!! Your photos are being sold on Getty for $45 and you want $850????!?!?!??!

  89. Add me to the list.

    Check this out. November 2012 I get the infamous letters demanding $850/image. No warning, possible dispute, please take it down otherwise we'll pursue - nothing. So what do I do? I call them the next morning and ask: How did you find images on my website which only has 21 likes, not marketed, not live, etc? The images in question, how do you know they're yours? Nothing proprietary about a guy with a rugby ball and another one of seeds. Also, one image was buried 4 levels deep under my about us page. www.FoodAthlete.com

    I then say, let me guess, you ran an illegal bot to crawl through my servers locating a pixel you planted that identifies your image. Did you know that is unethical and possibly illegal? Phone went silent. It's also a form of entrapment. I then go on to say, any ethical business practices would give a warning to take it down, and if you don't then pursue - makes sense. I then say, Getty images use to be a respectable brand but now when you Google Getty images by page two it talks about these scammy lawsuits. My grand finale, I say, your actuarial calculations probably said, hey, if we get 10% of the people to pay we'll make millions. What you didn't realize is that you'll lose the respect you once had. I then volunteered to take those images down which I did. All of this in a span of 24 hours. Hit it head on and be done with it - Canadian way. We got nothing to hide.

    Now 6 weeks later, today, I get the same letter. Their left hand doesn't know what their right hand is doing.

    I pay .35/image from Shutterstock and I have 20M images to choose from so why the heck would I take anything from Getty. I'm a small company and not even off the ground yet.

    David and Goliath time.
    Support me on facebook and twitter as I wait for their call.


  90. I got the same bullying letter as everyone else here, demanding $950. Like most everyone else here, I will be taking the images down and ignoring them. The image in question was purchased as a piece of a group of templates, one of which was ultimately used in a website promotion for a few short months. I sent one single email to their license compliance office which stated that as far as I'm concerned, I purchased the right to use that image when I bought the templates, there is no watermark or identifying mark that I am aware of that would have led me to Getty Images, they did not contact me first with a request to remove the image, and finally that any further discussion on this topic would take place in a the Small Claims court in Victoria BC (where I'm located) and that any further contact would be construed as harrassment.

    My advice is the same as everyone else's here... grow some thicker skin and tell these trolls to get the hell off your lawn.

  91. I did the same as S Sm for my wife's blog, which is connected to her yoga practice. I told them we would consider future threats harassment and countersue. We just got email #1 from NCS IP, more gently worded, stating they'd be willing to negotiate a fee less than $950. But that we owed $950.
    My wife's blog was not for profit, was for educational purposes only, and she used a photo from an educational institution for educational purposes. She took the image down immediately and only uses personally generated images now. We're ready to assist in a class action suit to have Getty cease the harassment.

  92. Our story sounds like many of those found here. Small, not for profit company which used a tiny slice of an un-credited photo I found on a site which seems to have vanished (probably due to Getty.) I took the fragment down as soon as I got the extortion letter from Getty, and that seemed to be it. Today I got an email from NCS IP Solutions with a less bullying tone, but still demanding the $850. I welcome any updates from Canadian organizations who have been contacted by NCS IP Solutions. We were advised that there would most likely not be any further action if we can dig in and wait. I am tempted to reply and ask the series of pointed questions mentioned in one of the above posts - however, I don't want to engage with anyone having anything to do with Getty if I can avoid it. Does anyone have any other anecdotes to share? Can I ignore this email from NCS IP Solutions? What a nightmare.

  93. Getty & AFP Appeal $1.2 Million Copyright Infringement Verdict http://bit.ly/1m4TvUU [maybe just karma for #getty http://bit.ly/1eIdN5O]

  94. I got an email yesterday from NCS IP Solutions demanding $1050 CAD for an image that I found on Google Images and downloaded it from a royalty free site. They sent me 2 letter by post, which were going to a virtual office address, which I rarely used to go to check my mails since, this particular site/business has not made 1 cent in last 1 year. Hence, the delay in taking down the image. I received email yesterday and removed the image. I am based in Toronto. I have not responded to anything yet as there is no clear answer to how to react to this. My heart sunk when I saw this. I am a small business owner. I am not sure if paying up would get them of my back. I will wait for their response and follow up with another comment. I don't want to ruin my credit if they decide to do report to a credit bureau.

    Any inputs are greatly appreciated.
    Thank you

  95. Over the past 3 years I have received 5 letters. The first 3 from Getty then 2 from NCS IP Solutions and today an email from NCS IP. All have demanded $850 for a single image that was on my website. Upon receipt of the first letter I removed the image and also removed the website archives from Wayback. I have not responded to Getty or NCS IP. This sounds like a total shake-down to me based on the wildly large amount being demanded in the 'settlement'. If they were acting with integrity and had asked for a few dollars for the use of the image which i likely would have paid. Has anyone been taken to court yet in Canada?

  96. I agree with many of the users here as it is very unfair, as specifically and relatively there aren't any "water marks" in any of the images,even now. The things is unless your blog and website isn't hosted by a 2nd or third party which holds the responsibility for the images., It could be a legal case here for your individuality, some of the e-mails, even though they don't respond quickly, they would again threat to sue after months or maybe years depending on the circumstances.

    Also they have purchased a 20 Million worth of a robotic system from a site which allow them to detect any of the images in the server uploaded anywhere, no matter which ever the alteration it is. They sometimes even use screenshots to prove it in their e-mails. Sometimes depending on the situation they might reduce the amount, like if you are unemployed and other valid reasons. And remember that istock.com is also a co-site from the Getty but as many of the users here said, pictures taken from legitimate free image offering sites can also be attacked, that's why you should always write the image URL of the image you use, in another blog or a protected document etc for later use. So that you could produce them as evidences.

    I remember reading a live experience from a business manager, who was an owner of a small business as well. He was able to overthrow Getty's threats from the e-mails not sure if it's legitimate, but if you google around you maybe able to find it. IF you have used a getty image please do delete them from the website/blog and make sure to DELETE it from the servers as well. Seriously Youtube is 100% times more fair than Getty's because at least loosing your account after a few bans and not being have to pay thousands of dollars. And those are videos. It is really hard to think what a small image could do. Best to use your own photos for personal websites, even though how quality seems to be reduced.Take precautions and educate people who don;t know this, if they can sue people for 1000 bucks, it is only fair that they at least inform it to the mass media.

  97. some other considerations

    determine whether different legal entities are claiming copyright in the same image ie masterfile and visualphotos.com - may be that masterfile has an agency agreement with VP but VP claims copyright in the image. You cannot have 2 different entities claiming the same rights, otherwise it is not exclusive and then neither party can sue if I understand the law in Canada correctly

    Secondly, mitigation - I find it hard to believe that a stock agency always seems to claim 3 years of infringement in Canada - they use Picscout that has the ability to troll the internet quickly. I suspect the stock agencies sit on claims and then attempt to maximize damage claims. Claims in Canada seem to be limited to when the agency knew OR ought to have known of the infringement - I am not aware that this has been tested in the courts in Canada

    Thirdly, amounts claimed. If an agency offers deep discounts on its website as a promotion for image purchase ie licensce what is the cost the agency can claim as actual damages? Again not court tested but an interesting consideration.

  98. The trick is to do NOTHING.
    No responses. No return calls. No replies.
    Give them silence and let them punch themselves out.
    They sent me "infringement" letters for almost 2 years... then just went away. Do nothing -- and they will disappear.