WARNING: Corbis Images may also Cracking Down!

I am new to the forum and I must say that it looks like an excellent resource. I hope to be around for a while!

I came in here while searching for information about threatening letters from imaging companies and I noticed the thread about Getty. I was about to contribute to this but it was suggested that due to the age of the thread that I start another. Moderators please feel free to merge it with the original thread if you think it is more appropriate.

It may be that CORBIS are now jumping on this image litigation bandwagon. Last week I received a letter from a law firm in London who represent Corbis. It pointed out two places on my website (c/w screenshots) where I was using an unauthorised image of a shopping cart. I am genuinely not sure where the image came from but I suspect that I copied it from a vendor’s site a while back when I was offering several different versions of shopping cart software. I have searched around and all of their sites have changed in the interim so I cannot find it. I will admit it was on my site (I replaced it immediately) but I was not aware that it belonged to Corbis. No doubt like many of you, I did things that were a bit naive when I got into this business more than five years ago.

Under threat of court action they say that I must now pay them almost £2400 for the use of this image for the last year. The image, which is a stylised shopping cart icon, is very old. As far as I can see it has been around since 2000 or before. I have searched the Corbis website and I cannot find it under the reference number they quote.

From the other thread I understand that in the UK they have to prove that I used the image knowingly, which I did not. the other thread also suggests that they would have to take me to a small claims court where the maximum costs they can be awarded are £100. I am not sure if this is true and I am based in Scotland which has a different legal system.

Can anyone help with this? Has anyone else been affected?

Booler, the images I used were on a new freelance site I was creating to earn extra cash on the side. I think they thought I was some big megabucks company and were trying to stick the arm in when of course the company is just wee me!

I have to say I had a few sleepless nights over it and the letter caused my wife and I great concern as we didn’t know where the money was going to come from. Part of me is glad to have heard nothing back but another part wants confirmation that the case is dropped and also is mad because of the stress they caused.

The charges were a joke as they were charging me from a date way before I even bought the domain never mind put draft pages up. They gave specific dates to reply etc which made it all very worrying, I wonder if my apology in my response helped? It was genuine as I said before, I really didn’t know I was doing anything wrong and most certainly didn’t make a single penny out of doing so.

Daz, this pretty much confirms what has been happening so far but not the amount of damages claimed. I used one image, which was a drawing of a shopping cart, in two places on my site and was asked to pay almost £1400. There does not seem to be a formula involved in the amount they request.

The fact that you have heard nothing probably means that you are off the hook. If, like me, you are freelancer trying to scrape a living and you don’t have any resources then they probably don’t see a court case as being productive.

I suppose they could take our houses but just think of the kind of publicity that would generate. :wink:

This is the line I now take! In the past I stupidly thought royalty free meant you didn’t pay any royalties so the image was free. I actually discussed using such images with colleagues and no one ever queried me so they made the same assumptions. Yes I know it’s explained on these sites if you read the small print blah blah but really I think these companies need to make people more aware of what they could and couldn’t be sued for.

Bottom line is now I will just use my own photos.

Im even afraid to post here in case I scud myself but I received a threatening letter from this firm in London, acting on behalf of Corbis, back in June 06. I had used 3/4 thumbnails images not realising they were copyrighted and immediately took them down. The site they were on was still under development!

Anyway, I phoned the company, they were very unhelpful and put the fear of God into me. I explained that I didn’t have £1900 odd to hand and they suggested I responded with some sort of compromise and explain my financial situation.

So I did and its Feb 07 now and still no response from them.

I will never spend a penny with those fools.

Call them what you like but they are not fools. They have been making millions for this for years now.

I have fallen foul of using third party designers who used images from both Getty and Corbis and in time both agencies wrote bullying letters to my clients.

The more you stand your ground the better it gets.

In the three instances this happened: 2006 (Corbis) and 2008 twice (Getty) I wrote to them challenging their misplaced assumptions that they can play judge and jury. In each case the images were not used for gain other than page illustrative (page fills). The catalogue prices for the images in question were around £75. So I kept sending replies thanking them for pointing out the error and that the images were removed and enclosing a cheque for £75 as full and final settlement.

I kept that up and they kept replying with threat after threat but the cheques and letters were returned.

In the end they gave up - the images were never used again and the cheques never cashed.

Don’t give in to the bullies - if you used (or another did) an image by mistake and that you removed it immediately the error was pointed out and offered a reasonable solution (what they could sell the thing for) Corbis or Getty for all their puff and bluster don’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of a successful prosecution. And they know it.

Stand your ground - I did and never parted with a penny. I now use Fotolia who sell images at really good prices and as long as I live I will never spend a penny with those fools.

Anyone have any updates to add to this?

Web use of photographs makes abuse of copyright so much easier and so much harder to trace.

Over four years and they are still at it.

Got an email from a client today who’s sites I host and the web developer who designed it 6 years ago used a Corbis image.

I’ve had the same problem with Getty and ignored it. It went away.

Simple advice:

Take down the image and ignore them. If you do correspond, they will try more scare tactics to get you to part owht your money.


Do not let them in. Ask to see their I.D., their certification of corporation and debt collection agency number. Phone the FSA immediately

If you do get a debt collector knocking on your door, without actually being notified by a court of law that you do owe money, report them immediately to the FSA and OFT and tell the collector that you are doing so and expect correspondence from them.

If they are not a registered collector, there are serious penalities and this will also come back on Corbis/Getty

You might want to check that, Vodaphone sold an outstanding phone bill debt to a private debt recovery firm - it was my debt and I got the call and letter from the collectors.

thanks for the advice - personally, I haven’t had any problems with them, but you never know.

In the UK, debt collection agencies are licensed and regulated by the Office of Fair Trading[15]. The OFT sets guidelines on how debt collection agencies can operate and lists examples of unfair practices[16]. These guidelines are not law, but do represent a summary and interpretation of various legal areas. Compliance with these guidelines is also used as a test of whether the agency is considered fit to hold a credit license.

Examples of unfair practices include misrepresenting enforcement powers (e.g. claiming that property may be seized), falsely claiming to be acting in an official capacity, harassment, claiming unenforceable or excessive charges, misrepresenting the legal position to a debtor), and falsely claiming that a court judgement has been obtained when it has not.

Collection agencies in the UK should not be confused with court-appointed bailiffs.


They cannot forceably take property seize goods or hassle you into giving money. They HAVE to get a court order to do so.

Getty/Corbin are using scare tactics, the debt collectors (if any) they employ will also try to use scare tactics. You have to play them at their own game. Obviously, to work for major companies like Getty/Corbin, you would have to be legit, so use the scare tactic on them of having their credit licence revoked.

I would also add that due to the complexity of UK law, the chances are really slim they would employ a debt collector anyway, unless you are just taking the persistant pillaging of their images.

I found time and time with people that host websites with me that if they remove the images and then do nothing, everything stops.

They are threatening me with legal expenses of up to £5K.

What I do not understand about this situation is that we are essentially talking about web designers getting taken to court. I cannot find a single reference on the Internet about a successful prosecution. If there had been one, and bearing in mind its implications to web designers, would it not follow that the Internet would have been full of reports on this?

Did you ask the lawyer if he could give you any examples of cases where people have been prosecuted by B&M?

They also will have to prove it originally came from Corbis. If they cannot give you a correct reference number then they are also at fault and they must supply you with the correct information.

I am not a legal professional and since I’m American I have no idea how Scottish law works. However, in the other thread, some of the members suggested that unless Getty (or in your case, Corbis) sends you mail by registered post (you have to sign proof of receipt) in order for it to be legal. In any case, I would seek professional legal advice. You don’t want penalties to escalate if Corbis does indeed have a case.

I think you need to challenge the validity of their case - ask them to prove right of ownership and when it took effect, its possible they purchased the rights to the icon after you put it on your site - and its possible that the person who sold them the rights, had no right to do so.

These cases are so open to interpretation if they’re not providing a summary of facts, showing you a screen shot and saying its theres, gimme gimme gimme - is a fishing expedition.

Also - say and admit to nothing, your rights include the right to remain silent which I’d recommend you do until they provide overwhelming evidence of any wrong doing.

I have decided that since the mail arrived by regular mail I will take no action at all at this stage.

I have called a couple of lawyers here in Scotland. One could not really help without taking the case on. He advised me that what I had done was wrong but I am not sure that he fully understood the situation. The other could not say anything because of some sort of conflict of interest.

I hesitate to enlist a lawyer because legal fees are likely to exceed the amount claimed.

I guess it makes sense to always make sure that images are free to use … geez, this stinks.

Conflict of interest usually means they represent the opposing side.