I haven't posted in a couple of weeks, but have been occasionally checking in and following the thread. I must say I'm a bit disappointed in the 'degeneration' of the posts, but it is somewhat understandable as when livelihoods are involved emotions will flare...
Getting back on track (and contributing a post that will perhaps help others in the same boat) I wanted to present my experience. My thread goes back a few weeks so I'll refresh...
I received my first letter from Getty in October with the usual verbiage for two thumbnail-sized photos on a second-level page of my site. I got scared because of the size of the fees ($1,000 per image). I don't have that kind of money. My husband recommended ignoring it, so I did.
I received a second letter, including the same "discount offer" of reduced fees for penalties in November. I had to act, my conscience required it. I'm an ethical, responsible business person and I was, in fact, guilty of using the images in question. I had pulled the images from Getty and used them as placeholders on my local computer while I was redesigning my site, which is enormous. After over a year later I'd forgotten about them and posted everything to my server, where they 'lived' for two years on a deeply-buried, little visited page. I am a regular customer of Getty Images and have given them thousands of dollars in business over the years. This infringement was entirely accidental and unintentional.
Again, I admit my guilt in using the images. But the fees were outrageous. I read the "Usage" in the Invoices, which was not at all in line with the actual usage I had incurred. SO, I went on to Getty's site, pulled up the images, added them to my shopping cart and purchased the LICENSES for the actual usage and period of use ($240 USD). I forwarded the e-mail receipt from Getty with the licensing certification to the e-mail contact for the infringement letter and included the following statement;
This is a formal communication regarding Customer Number *******.
Below you will find a copy of the sales order and invoice for the license purchase of the two images that were being used on the [website], but have since been removed. The "Unauthorized Use" letter sent to me shows the "Usage" of these images being for "Web - Corporate or Promotional Site", of which the site is neither. The licenses purchased for these photos is for "Editorial - Web or Electronic" content, which is a more accurate description of the actual usage of these images.
The [website] does not, is not, nor has it every been a "Corporate" website, neither owned, financed, or controlled by a Corporation or business. The site is owned and operated by an individual/sole proprietor as a hobby only. Furthermore, the [website] always has, and continues to be, editorial/educational content. The materials which constitute the website were originally researched, authored, and created by [author] without remuneration from anyone (bank, VC, organization, or institution) for the sole purpose of publishing educational material for 9-15 year old students. No products or services are offered for sale through the [website]. It is a content-only site.
I have paid thousands of dollars of my own money to finance years of web hosting services (and bandwidth overage fines), domain name registration, copyrighting and applying for and successfully obtaining a registered trademark for the site. It is a "black hole" which I continue to pour money into to expand interactivity, new content and creating a community all for the sole purpose of sharing my love of science and inspiring young students to pursue higher education in science and technology. The fees you are asking me to pay for use of these photos are way out of proportion to the actual usage of them.
I will acknowledge that these images were used without authorization and license from Getty Images and I apologize for this accidental oversight. I accept responsibility for my actions and offer the attached, purchased licenses and use fees as retribution for the offense."
I also provided a link to the U.S Patent office's online Trademark database to my specific trademark, wherein the type of site is clearly listed, as evidence of my claim of "non-commercial" usage.
Well, yesterday I received I received the following e-mail from Getty;
"Thank you for your attention to this matter, we are in receipt of your e-mail dated December 15, 2006. We have reviewed your case and decided not to pursue [website] for the images on your companies website, after reviewing your website we have decided that the images were used for editorial purposes. We thank you for licensing the images for editorial use, as we have contracts with photographers to whom we pay by commission only.
At this time, Getty Images considers this matter closed. Please be in touch with me if you have further questions or concerns. "
Problem solved. My conscience is cleared.
Getty made $240 today, but they just lost potentially thousands of dollars in future business from me and from any clients I do business with, as I will never do business with them again. Had they sent me a cease and desist letter ordering me to remove the images I still would have done so, and I would have blissfully continued being one of their regular customers.