Getty Gets Serious About Pursuing Infringers

Posted on 2/10/2014 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

International Business Times reports that in January alone Getty filed five lawsuits for the unauthorized use of single images.

While Getty has been aggressively pursuing infringers with “settlement demand letters” for some time, lawsuits are unusual because the monies involved usually don’t justify the expense of going to court.

Once Getty identifies an unauthorized use their normal practice has been to contact the user, make then aware of the copyright violation and the normal fee they would have charged if they had been contacted before the use and try to negotiate a settlement.

Unfortunately, a great number of user consider such requests “extortion” and a “scam.” These people believe they should be allowed to make free use of anything they find on the Internet. A large number of websites, blog posts and message boards have sprung up that offer advice on how to respond to such letters and avoid payment.

In a typical thread found on Reddit one writer suggested, “They don’t actually want to go to court. They just want you to get scared and send them money.” To this one writer responded, “Yea, that was pretty much what drove my decision making process.  The amount of money they were asking for was far less than the amount of money it would cost Getty to take me to court so I figured I would call their bluff.”

In a statement provided to IBTimes by a Getty spokeswoman, the company admitted that the recent lawsuits were filed, in part, to “send the message that we will take legal action when someone uses our content and is not willing to pay a license fee.”

One of the major sites where infringers can get advice is Extortion Letter Info (ELI), founded by Matthew Chan.  In an email to IBTimes, Chan said “They are using the court system as a collection mechanism with little intent on actually going forward,” he said. “Many judges have gotten wise to these trolling operations of using the court system as a tool to force out-of-court settlements. If Getty continues to do this, I believe they eventually will be ‘discovered’ and called out.”
    (A Copyright Troll is a person or organization that purchases copyrights for the sole purpose of making money through litigation, not the normal licensing of the copyrighted material it owns or represents. Clearly, this is not what Getty is doing.

    For information about Trolling check out this story on Patent Trolls or go to Wikipedia.)
Getty disagreed with Chan and said it has resorted to litigation only after repeated attempts to reach fair settlements. “We have no economic incentive to use the court process in place of a business process,” the company said. “The parties in these cases have refused to pay the appropriate licensing fees for the use of creative content that does not belong to them.”

Getty says the amounts it seeks from alleged infringers are based on its actual license fees, plus a portion of its enforcement costs -- a financial hardship it doesn’t believe it should shoulder. “We do not believe it is reasonable that, upon being identified as having used an image without a license, an image user should only be accountable for the cost of licensing that image alone,” the company said. “If that were the case, there would be little incentive to license images properly in the first place, and we would be doing a disservice to our existing paying customers, and to our contributors who rely on the correct licensing of their images as a source of income.”

Getty Images, says its recent lawsuits are evidence that is working to protect intellectual-property rights and “the creative process of artists and photographers” around the world. “It’s a shame that anyone who does this these days is labeled a troll,” the company said.

Copyright © 2014 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


Be the first to comment below.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff