WARNING: Getty Images Cracking Down!

Just a warning to everyone that may be using or has used unauthorized images from Getty. They are making a big sweep of sites and sending out bills when they find one of their images being used without permission. They are charging $1,000 USD per image. They are pursuing the site owners for this money. They are not sending out warnings. They do expect to get paid. If you have unauthorized Getty images, take them down.

A fellow designer just had 2 of his clients busted. One for $2,000 and the other for $4,000. The client wants the designer to pay since they weren’t aware of him grabbing the images from Getty. Getty’s stance is that it’s the clients fault. Either way, not good business.

With sites like sxc.hu and a dozen others, I don’t understand the need for copyright infringement. You can get images without paying for them, and you can do it legally!

Oh well, it’s probably good that Getty does this. As they do it, they will push their potential clients away, and send them all to lower cost alternatives.


I’m curious as to what type of professionals would pay that sort of money for stock photo at Getty?

They don’t cost that much. Sounds like they are only charging that much to the ones they bust. But I wonder how exactly they are “scanning” the Internet for the images? Doesn’t seem like a feasable task to me.

Actually, I’ve heard the same as well about the scanning. Can anyone clarify how this track this stuff?

Sorry to bring this thread up - just to answer your question - Getty signed an agreement with a company in Isreal called Picscout, this happened to me last year.

First I noticed a bot going through the site using loads of bandwidth and then several months later I got an invoice from Getty for something like $2K for just one image. They wrongly accused me because it was a user signature not hosted on my website and apparently deleted months prior. So I thankfully escaped.

Do you, by any chance, remember the UA string of that bot?

I have to ask, how did you do that?

Just check the user agent via PHP for example, all I remember is it had “picscout” in it… like I say, they hit your website out-of-the-blue, then you forget about it (so I don’t have the user-agent any more) then months later you are rewarded with a fine if an image somehow makes it onto your website.

Thanks, ticksoft, “picscout” should be enough to identify it… I don’t remember seeing it in my logs, though, maybe my sites have been spared so far. Not that I’m using any Getty images, I’m just not too fond of rogue bots eating up lots of bandwidth…

What does that mean “if an image somehow makes it onto your website”?

If it’s your website then how does an image “somehow make it there” unless you put it there or authorize someone to upload it there? (assuming someone doesn’t just hack in, or something).

Speaking as a photographer, I think it’s GREAT that Getty is enforcing their copyright. Legally, web-publishing is still publishing and all the laws regarding copyright, model- and property-releases, etc, still apply. No one should be using an image on their website that they are not 100% sure is legally theirs to use.

I don’t understand why a bot should consume anymore bandwidth than it takes to copy the picture(s) to their own server to analyze it.

I think he was pretty clear. At least, I understood him. He had areas on his site where people can add sigs or avatars (or something like that) and that area – like SitePoint and every other forum – does not require approval by the owner. Some forums allow attachments to posts, and those attachments are not “blocked until manually approved” either. I don’t think he’s unreasonable or irresponsible for having his site work exactly the same as everyone else’s.

The laws don’t quite agree with you. Yes, copyright is a valid law and should be enforced. But even DMCA doesn’t get that hard-line about it. The DMCA acknowledges that certain content providers may have more data coming in than can be manually verified. So it provides a “takedown notice” system, where the copyright holder has to inform the admin and give him 10 days to work it out with the person who posted the material. If the material comes down, I believe the DMCA says you’re protected from harm. If Getty isn’t following the procedure outline by law, I’m not sure anyone is obligated to pay their extortion money.

Most normal humans view a large, photo-heavy site in small chunks. I’ve never viewed every image hosted by sxc.hu, for example. A bot will suck down the entire site in one session, which can be a shocking burden.


Protecting your copyright certainly isn’t a bad thing. And as a webmaster whose images are regularly copied, I can even understand why someone would want to go to such extremes as Getty. But this kind of exhaustive search for stolen images comes with a price tag – and it’s not Getty who pays the price, but lots of website owners who have to pay for the extra bandwidth usage without any benefit to them.

I don’t understand why a bot should consume anymore bandwidth than it takes to copy the picture(s) to their own server to analyze it.
It consumes exactly the bandwidth it takes to copy the pictures to their own server. No more, no less. But if you have a website with large photo galleries with, say, hundreds or thousands of photos, then we are talking about a lot of bandwidth, especially if the bot comes by regularly and not just once.

Another problem is that bots tend to download large amounts of data within a very short time (whereas humans download one image, view it, download another, view it, …), which may well choke the entire server for a while.

It’s never that simple. We run a website that has GBs of images provided by PR companies to promote their products. Everything should be 100% licensed by them through the appropriate groups, but there’s always a remote chance that we’ll get fined $2K for one random image…

They’re actually uploaded to you server, and not linked? If they are then don’t they have to sign a contract with you and can’t you stipulate in the contract that they are responsible for any financial or legal harm you suffer if they give you an image they don’t have copyright to?

Someone else here mentioned that it’s common practice for websites to allow third-parties to upload images to their sites but I think that’s the exception, not the rule.
I’m a photographer with about 250 images on my own site (but they’re all mine) and I’m very active on lots of photography discussion forums and all but one (photo.net)that I use simply have participants LINK to their images, so the actual image is served from the participat’s server, not the forum host. That way they avoid both the legal issues and bandwidth problems.

I was recently hit with a letter writing campaign from Getty Images claiming that I had used one of their copyrighted images. I had not actually used their image, but rather the photographer had put his work up on several sites - one of which was www.SXC.hu. I obtained his image from SXC, but because Getty also had the image - they believe I obtained it from them.

Messy stuff. So now I’m trying to fight of what amounts to extortion from Getty Images. I have since gone back to SXC and printed all of the license agreements of all images I use from their site in case this should ever happen again. I doubt the photographer whose work is in question is even aware of what’s going on. It’s an interesting business strategy, but not one that will win over any fans for Getty, who I will now never even consider using in the future.

As webmaster of a village website in the UK the owner of our space has just received a demand for £1,500! Scary stuff and we thought at first it was a scam. Have had calls to the US and an email is in preparation. We cannot afford to pay. The offending image was not known to originate from Getty’s stock and looked more like clipart of very average quality! Advice has ranged from ignore it or face the demand head on. What does anyone here think? The image is charged at £205 pounds on the Getty site but, as I say, their threatening letter asks for £1,500. During my phone call their legal office acknowledged that our site was an amateur, non-business one and ‘generously’ began to offer 75% off. Umm, just £350 then!

Sorry if this would sound stupid, but i have to ask, do they also go after those who got images from their royalty-free collection? I did save and use some for my client’s website, though altering it a bit (cropping, adding overlay text etc). So will that cause me or my client trouble?

Royalty free != Free. Generally it means you have to buy a license to use the image in the first place, but you do not subsequently have to pay royalty payments for it’s continued use.

Take down the image and see if what KOSH said was true… If you take it down and didn’t know about the infringement then they most likely can’t charge you (i would think)… Also be sneaky and look to see if the same image is on SXC then say you got it from there…