WARNING: Getty Images Cracking Down!

I have a policy of only using images that are completely free & clear. I don’t even use “royalty free” because that still allows for an initial one-time purchase fee. So everything I use is free like GPL free, or free like Creative Commons free.

I will sometimes make my own artwork from scratch. Takes more time and the quality is not always 100%, but I like having the control.

Of course, somebody could submit a photo to sxc.hu that they didn’t really own, and we’d all use it for free, and then we’d all get busted. But that’s partly why I’m posting in this thread, even though Getty has never bothered me – because it bothers me that somebody else can screw over a site admin, and Getty goes after the duped admin instead of the perp. And it doubly bothers me that they don’t seem to honor the CDA & DMCA laws as they go around busting everyone else!


Just got the same letter blaming me for use of 9 images… Said they sent me a letter before, though I never received it. The site is so old they are blaming I have no idea where the images came from, but I have never used Getty. Sounds like reasoning with them is futile…any other updates?

Take the images down immediately and replace them with some that you are absolutely sure are from legal sources. Once you’ve done that you can either ignore the letters or speak to your solicitor/attorney/local source of legal advice/do nothing and see what happens. From the sounds of it, they should be sending out a cease & desist letters before they invoice you for anything.

I had the same letter about 2 days ago. Demanding nearly £4000 for 2 photos.

Now I’m a little stressed - well perhaps more than a little.

I’m a housewife, I don’t earn any money, my husband doesn’t earn a lot and my website was about aromatherapy and how people can use it to help them. I wasn’t selling anything or making anymoney.

Now I got much pictures from a 3rd party website, claiming that they were copyright free. Obviously they weren’t.

Now I can’t afford to pay this, and my pictures were all taken off 3 months after I put them on, as I re-did my website.

Since having the shock letter - which believe you me isn’t good when you suffer from anxiety problems already, I went to seek advice.

Now here in the UK, the letter they send makes reference to the Copyright and pantents act of 1988. Which is very interesting. As there is (as there is in the UK), a fair use clause, which says copyrighted material can be used if it is for non-profit, educational or research purposes. Now mine I believe to be both non-profit and educational.

Secondly according to this act, any photos taken after 1988 the copyright belongs to the photographer and not the company.

So I’m just a lowly housewife, with far to much time on my hands. But I will not be standing for this. I understand completely the problem of image piracy etc on the internet and other places. However, I’m sure the correct way to go about this would be to send a letter telling the people that they are using copyrighted images and to stop, after which then taking action if they don’t stop.

I’ve also found that, if the images are used to make a profit, you have to give the profit to the copyright holder, and then any damages, and the damages are about $1500 per photo (or so I read). Now they can only claim damages if your use of the photos has prevented or slowed their sales and caused them loose money.

So on those facts, it’s all a bit iffy. Surely it’s not up to Getty Images to decide if you’ve infringed on copyright, but up to a judge in a court? So this is the line of action I will be taking. Although I’ve not heard of anyone actually being taken to court by Getty over this yet. But be sure to watch out for me on the evening news, as I’ll make a big song and dance about it all - after all that’s one thing us housewifes are very good at!!!

Best of luck all


Ok after my last rant about this I’ve been and found this law they are quoting.

Now here’s the link to the part I’ve just read, I’ll look and see about other things on there too:


Have a look at number 97.

Now I’m off to write letters of complaint about this to various companies, I’ll let you all know how it goes.


Not sure if this covers end users but it does have a safe harbor clause. If material is removed in 10 days then copyright owner has no case.

How many of you paid and how many of you ignored the letters?

I ingored my letter from Getty, but so far only got one letter. Somebody made me my website and used several pics he said were in the public domain, but now Getting is coming after me for one of those pics to the tune of $1000. The guy who made my website lives in another country so going after him ins’t an option. I took the pic down right away as well as all the other pics. I can’t pay $1000 for something I did not steal.

I was wondering what has happened to the other people in this post who have received these demand letters from Getty. Much like all others I today got a letter wanting £1400 odd for a small image I had on my website. I got the image back in 2003 as a small part of a website template that was on a magazine disc. (.Net I think) I still have the original image so I checked it and could see no watermark or digital rights information.
I spoke to a legal advice line I have access to as part of the FSB here in the UK. They said they have had other members calling in with the same letters and have advised people to remove the images, write to Getty saying where they got the image from and apologise for using it without knowing it was rights managed etc. The legal advice chap said he hasn’t had heard of any further action taken by Getty against FSB members.
So, any further news/action from anybody else in relation to these letters?

The last letter I received from Getty was on 9/12/2006. This email was in response to my email to their first letter. My email said:

“The image in question was included in a template that I purchased on 07/05/2003 from 2CO.COM*WEBTEMPLATES 877-294-0273 OH for $38.00 The image was removed from my website immediately after receiving your first notice. There is no way I can afford to pay $1000 for an image that is really of no use to me anyway.”

Their email response was as follows: (I took out the name of my company so people on here don’t think I’m advertising.)

"Thank you for your attention to this matter and we apologize for our delay in getting back to you.

Getty Images (“Getty”) understands that … may have purchased a web template from 2Checkout for the use on the … website. … may have believed to have purchased the appropriate image licenses related to the purchase of the web template. However, your company’s purchase of this web template from 2Checkout does not grant license to use the Getty represented images found on the … website.

… unlicensed use of Getty represented images constitutes copyright infringement. Getty understands that this misuse may have been accidental, however, these factors do not excuse … full liability in Getty’s claim of your company’s copyright infringement of its represented images.

As you can probably understand, Getty Images looks to protect the intellectual property of its represented photographers. These images are available for licensing exclusively through Getty Images. We not only have a duty to appropriately license the use of our photographer’s images, but to also protect their overall interests.

Absent any licenses specifically related to the use of these images on your company’s website from Getty, the invoice presented represents … unauthorized use – or copyright infringement of Getty represented images on your company’s website. Getty highly encourages … to settle the balance of this invoice to avoid further escalation moving forward."

I forwarded this email to templatemonster’s legal person and he emailed me back and told me I didn’t have to pay the invoice, and that he was trying to contact the author of the template. I do not know if he is/was planning on contacting Getty.

So there is a clueless completely innocent housewife in the middle of a Getty legal(?) person and a templatemonster legal person (both of whom probably don’t care much about the housewife). If anyone comes after me, I will join purplepixi on the evening news.

Scare tactic crap.

Unless you willingly pay Getty (don’t) it would cost Getty more to take you to court than what they are asking…

This isn’t like the RIAA suing “little people” to make a point - you don’t have the image on your site - you can prove it - you have a record of your proper correspondence with Getty (perhaps you should never have responded - those of us that try to do the right thing get scr#wed all the time) - any sane Judge would throw the case out in a heartbeat.

If this situation is as you describe it, just disengage and/or tell them to take you to court for it - again it would be absurd for them to do.

They have no case so they will bug off.

Here are some key points to consider

  1. Almost anyone who uses a copyrighted image on their website for design purposes without the permission/license of the author is violating US Copyright Law.

  2. The legal remedies available to an author is dependant on the following:
    a) Did the infringer willfully violate the copyright
    b) Does the author have an actual registration number filed with the U.S. Copyright office for the photo in question 3 months prior to the infringement?
    c) Did the infringer remove the material in question once notified?
    d) What was the actual damage (in our case cost of purchasing the photo through getty).

While there may be other factors to consider these four seem the most important when evaluating your strategy. In my case (and I’m sure for most of us) I can answer no to (a). Related to (b) - I looked up the author’s name identified in the picture sent to me on the Getty Website. I then proceeded to the U.S. Copyright Office website where you can search registered copyright’s by name. In this case, no registered copyright existed for the photographer and Getty could not provide one either. You will see why this is relavant in a minute. (c) Absolutely. (D) Going to the Getty website and purchasing the same image with the size, use, and duration as it was used for my site is currently $370.00

Ultimately, money is the bottom line. Getty wants me (us) to pay $1000.00 for the copyrighted material. They would have me believe that this is fair and signficantly less than what they are entitled to. This might be true if I had intentionally violated the author’s copyright and the picture in question was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office three months prior to the infringement. If this were the case, Getty to take me to court for the greater of actual/statutory damages as well as legal fees. This could get expensive.

In my case the acutal damages to the author is $370.00 as described earlier. The statutory damages for a non-willfull violation starts at $200.00 and goes up at the courts discretion and when you add in both your and Getty’s legal fees there is no question that a judge may award the plantiff more than the $1000.00 they are demanding now.

However, this is why the copyright number is important. Should the image in question not have an official copyright filed with the U.S. Copyright Office three months prior to the infringement then the plantiff can only be awarded the actual damages - no legal fees, no statutory damages. See this link for more details: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html#cr

Now, while I agree that if you take the image off your site and tell Getty to go pound sand you probably won’t hear from them again - should you be looking to settle for the peace of mind, you might want to look into the same type of things.

I too received the same letter from getty demanding $6000. I immediately took the images down and phoned them to tell them I have taken the images off. I did not make the site where the images were. I was told all the images were ok to use by my designer. I was not reselling the images and not making any money from the site. They did not send a C and D order before the invoice came. They didnt seem to care, they just wanted their money. It truly does seem like scare tactics to make people pay. For big businesses, they probably could pay something for the use of the images. For small, one man businesses, its ridiculous to pay the amount they are demanding, if any. I have not responded to the second letter. I have spoken to a few attys who basically say if I want to fight in court it will be far more then the $6k Getty is asking for on both sides. Or I can do nothing, wait and see. They will probably send it to a collection agency. The agency gets their percentage for collecting. If I pay a very small amount monthly, $25, the agency will probably keep 10-20 percent. It would take forever to pay Getty. Lots of options.

You say they have to use it for design purposes. It seems like every top blog out there uses images. I’m not sure if they pay for them or not but I guess a lot of them don’t. Drudgereport.com, deadspin.com, etc, do these sites pay for images?

If not are they allowed to use images on their site?

I do see a viable class action lawsuit against Getty here - easy - a big one at that. If they had a good name to besmirch it would be one thing, but theirs is the legacy of Robber Barons.

They are entrapping people. A decent lawyer could easily prove this.

In comparison to Getty’s peers, they clearly do the least to protect their product, perhaps even to the point of inviting improper use.

Getty needs some perspective (and a good long look in the mirror):


See if you are popular and conservative like Matt Drudge, they won’t bother you but if you have some little site they will turn the screws to you…nice, eh?

It is great to get so many views on this as it appears to be happing to a lot of people,

We purchases a template for our web site 3 years ago and recently got a letter from Getty stating that one of the images is unauthorized etc.etc…

I sent a copy of the Invoice I got from the template company onto Getty, but as seems to be the case with the others on this thread the replay was along the lines of don’t care just pay.

I curious if anyone has refused to pay, did they go to court? Is there any historical ruling for these type of invoices in the UK or Ireland. Getty are valuing the image at €2000

If the template company still exists and sold you copyrighted material that they were not allowed to sell, could you take legal action against them?

We’ve had the threat letter to!

We designed a site in 2004ish. One of the images we used on the site was apparently a Getty Image. The image came from a third party site somewhere and to the best of our knowledge was not subject to any copyright.
(BTW, how do you find out? do you have to ask everyone in the world if they own the image?!)

Out of the blue 2 weeks ago the client who the site belongs to recieved an invoice for £1,350+VAT (UK sales tax). The invoice came from Moreton Smith International on behalf of Getty.
A covering letter said:
“Our client has given you prior warning that your company has utilized a represented image without a valid license from Getty Images, and that you have failed to pay our clients invoice…”

This is untrue as there was no prior warning.

I have spoken to a couple of copyright lawyers in the UK who have given me the following advice.

1, take the image off the website - you are in breech of copy right, even if unintentionally.
2, ignore the letter and see what happens, they might not follow it up
3, if you want to appear to co-operate, write to them telling them they did not send you a warning letter, but as soon as you were made aware of the copyright breech you removed the image immidiatley. Ask the for proof of copyright. (as far as i can see the photographer of our image does not have it copyrighted with the US copyright office)

If they do take things further, they are only entitled to damages. In this case, the only damages are for loss of earnings. Go to Getty’s site, find out how much the image costs for the period they are invoicing you for. Thats what they are entitled to. If that is less than £3000, they are not entitled to claim back their legal costs.
In our case, the most they can sue us for is £360ish + court costs if they win of around £100.

If it comes to that then the advise is to them the £400ish.

As seems to be the case, from my perspective, and all that I read, and from information from attorneys, I believe, and I know others have stated a class action lawsuit against Getty Images for entrapment seems to be a viable solution for their letters of harrassment to small business owners, non profits, and unsuspecting elderly web site owners. There are hundreds of thousands of images availble on websites which may be downloaded as royalty free, if there is not an associated watermark on them, how is anyone to identify it as a Getty owned image?

I personally would be interested in participating in a class action lawsuit against getty images. I believe a large NYC law firm would love to sink their teeth into such a case if enough people agree to participate. I would be interested to see if anyone else on the board feels as strongly as me that this could be a winning case for entrapment.

[LEFT]Hi again,

This post is a bit long, but worth a read, especially if you are in the UK.

  1. How does one check/find if the photographer has the image copyrighted with the US copyright office ??

  2. And yes how do you find out if an image is copy righted if it either is not water marked, or the metadata contained in the jpg doesn’t list any copyright or owner details ??

  3. Do USA copy right laws apply to the UK ??

The image they claim I took (which I didn’t) is portrait in style on their image databank. The one I used is from 2003 as part of a magazine website template (the meta data states that date) is landscape and has a whole big chunk of image/picture that is not on the Getty databank version. Therefore it looks like the photographer has listed it on Gettys site at some point after changing the image. Or Getty have bought up a image bank costing them $$$’s and now using the Israeli firms web bot, is searching websites for those images (it is not there any more, I removed it, as is the correct thing to do) and is trying to recover their money.

My demand letter also says £1350 + IE VAT. Using contacts I have in UK HMC&E I am having the legality of the UK address and IE VAT number looked in.

I sent a recorded delivery letter to Getty & Co yesterday, and again after speaking to a lawyer via the FSB advice line, the advice is to wait and see what happens as they have had lots of members calling in with the same demand letters but have not yet heard of any further action being taken if the image didn’t come from Getty image bank.

The following is applicable to the UK and are my views and information I have found out:-

I have logged a complaint about these demand letters at the UK Trading Standards, I would suggest more people also log complaints. The Getty London address as stated in the demand letter is under Camden Trading Standards area.

Complaints about their tactics can also be logged at:-

If they are a Ltd Company

Cross Border complaints to governments can be made at:-

For anybody that has received letters from the debt collection agency in the UK, write to the agency with a recorded delivery letter, inform them that the demand is disputed and
“It is an criminal offence under Section 40 of the Administration of Justice Act 1970 and Section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 to harass of debtors with a view to obtaining payment including the issue of letters which convey a threat or false information with intent to cause distress or anxiety.”

No letter or bill can be enforced unless it has been issued by a legal court. Unless it is a court stamped document or Government/Police issued warrant, it is just some fancy words on a bit of paper from a person.

More infor on the act can be found here:-

The debt collection agency emntioned above, Morton Smith, are members of http://www.csa-uk.com/index.htm
And therefore must follow their code of practice
Which includes the Administration of Justice Act 1970 Section 40. If they don’t, complain to CSA at the website above.

This shows the debt collecting agency you are disputing the debt and know your rights which should make them think twice before harassing you again and going to court.

Don’t get into a war of words with Getty or the debt collecting agency via email, it is all too easy to write an email and click “send” without really thinking it through. Send recorded delivery or special delivery letters that can be tracked by the Post Office.

My civil court judge (i.e. UK Magistrate) friend has advised me that a judge will look at the facts, most of us here have got the images from free sites or templates years ago, not stolen them from Getty. That will be looked at by a judge if it went to court and the Getty case would be thrown out of court if you dispute the debt and could show that you did not take the image from them. You don’t even need to attend, go to a local solicitor and swear a “statuary declaration” stating/showing your case/the details etc.

I would also support a case action for entrapment by Getty.

If Getty and Co wants to continue actions against us, we can do a lot to hold things up and defer action which will only cost Getty & Co more money and time. Don’t pay, we haven’t stolen anything.[/LEFT]