ACTUAL Copyright of Getty Images?

I received 1 of their well known letters stating that my website is using 1 of thier images.

1 forum poster stated that many photographers do not actually copyright ALL thier images. The letter Getty sent only gives a catalog number - not any type of copyright identification info.

Are all Getty images ACTUALLY copyrighted?

IF not, can they enforce copyright infringement?

Has anyone ever asked them to prove an image is OFFICIALLY copyrighted?


(BTW, I would have added to the other thread, but the page said, “Warning! You are replying to a thread which is more than 35 months old. Please consider creating a new thread instead.” Plus, my question is more specific in nature.)

Getty purchases and/or manages the licensing of photos from professional photographers. When a photographer submits work to Getty they have to submit the work along with paperwork documenting that it is the original work of the photographer. All the images on Getty are either copyrighted by Getty (if they bought the copyright) or by the artist which has an agreement to allow Getty to license these photos under agreed conditions between Getty and the copyright holder.

Depending on the deal with the photographer they may license the image as limited use, royalty free or variations (such as the number of runs for print, non-profit usage etc).

I recommend contacting Getty for the catalog number of the image and then searching the site. If the photo you have matches, and you don’t have a receipt where you have licensed the photo, then you are in violation of copyright infringement.

According to U.S. law, any original work is automatically considered copyrighted material of the creator.

On the flip side…as a photographer myself, I’ve had to deal with people stealing my work inadvertently. After talking with a copyright lawyer the advice he gave me was to contact the party and ask them to remove the work, if they do fine, if not, then file a civil suit. I’m of course talking about professional images (or taking a photo of Mickey Mouse and selling it on a postcard), not a snapshot of a bridge that would be so common that there is no artistic value.

So, ask yourself this:

  1. Did I take the photo? (and do I have the model / property release paperwork)
  2. Do I have a receipt or document showing that I may use this photo?
  3. Do I have proof showing that the photographer has put it into the public domain and licensed it free for use (and I’m abiding by those terms)?

If you answer no, then your using someone else’s work without their permission.

This may help clear a few things up too…

I really appreciate you responding in such detail.

As far as at what point an image is copyrighted, thats a seperate issue, but it still interests me. I always thought copyrighting things required such a process.

The link you provided says a photo’s copyright is instituted upon creation, but there seems to be a lot of websites explaining the process of copyrighting photos.

I tried to find clarification on, but no luck. Have you seen it there?

Thanks Again!

It comes down to three things Actual damages and Statutory damages when you go to court in addition to your ability to sue. Here is good, and short, article about the topic:

To understand more about Statutory damages then check this, again short, wiki article:

Also google terms like “copyright lawyer sue.” Lawyer sites that deal in specific areas of the law sometimes have a clearer description of certain laws and punishments versus trying to dig through state and federal statutes. A dui lawyer / or criminal lawer site is a good example, they sometimes list crimes & punishments really clear on their sites to let potential clients know what they are facing (and why they should hire the lawyer of course).

At what point is not a separate issue. It is the issue. The US Copyright office explains is quite understandably in their FAQs.

When is my work protected?
Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

Well I wondered if ALL Getty images are copyrighted. The answer is YES. Whether that image is protected upon creation or when they partnered with Getty is irrelevent at this point in the situation.

Although I really appreciate you finding that blurb in the faq on I viewed that same page, but somehow missed it.


I wouldn’t worry. Unless you have deep pockets, Getty won’t waste its time actually going after you for the copyright infringement over 1 image. Any more-or-less qualified lawyer would bog them down in procedural issues so much, that they will end up spending hundreds of thousands before they see any settlement, let alone - a verdict.

Throw the letter out, remove the image and forget about it.

They want $1000 for the image. I want to offer them a replacement :slight_smile: