Business Copyright

How to Respond to a Getty Images Extortion Letter

Getty Extortion letter
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Getty Images has created an entire business around sending letters to suspected copyright infringers and demanding exorbitant payments in return for not being dues.  Getty’s heavy-handed approach has been the topic of angry conversations throughout the blogosphere, claiming they are nothing more than extortion.  By praying upon those without legal knowledge, the company scares people into paying exorbitant fees far beyond what is required. Unfortunately, the majority of people don’t know how to respond, so they comply with the demand.

Several weeks ago, I wrote an article suggesting tips for responding to Getty Images should anyone find themselves a recipient of a Getty demand letter. Given some of the questions readers have been asking me about this issue, I thought that a sample response letter would be helpful.

Background for Responding to a Getty Images Extortion Letter

This response letter is not designed to alleviate anyone’s responsibility if they are infringing on Getty Images copyrights. However, while infringers may be liable for damages, they are not necessarily as high as what Getty is requesting.  A copyright holder has several options for receiving damages from an infringer.  First, an infringer cannot make money from someone else’s copyrighted material unless they are authorized.  So, any profits derived from the infringement, must be paid back to the copyright holder.  If you are infringing and that infringement has generated income for you, then consult an attorney before proceeding.  This letter may not be enough.

Getty Images

Infringers are also responsible to pay the copyright holder’s for lost profits due to the infringement, which in this case, could be the licensing fee that the infringer failed to pay. However, the licensing fee amount is not based on what Getty charges for an image, but rather it is based upon the fair market value for that image in the marketplace.  If similar images cost $10, then the damages are $10, even if Getty Images charges $800 for that image.  Of course, you have to prove that the image is only worth $10.  That may be harder to do in court, but our goal in writing a response is to make the Getty Images attorneys work for the money.  Every hour is expensive so if there isn’t enough reward, then the case will be dropped.  Attorneys general get about $300 per hour, and filing a case could cost $400 or more.  So if the attorney has to work for several hours to receive $300 or $400 dollars, then it just won’t be worth it to them.

You will need to calculate the fair market value, which is a simple process in so far as this letter goes.  To calculate the fair market value, just use the average price of comparable images found on stock photos sites. If the image in question is a dog taking a bath, then find 8 or so images of a dog taking a bath; use the average price as the fair market value. You should be able to find comparable images for under $10 at the size used on websites. The response letter offers $20 as a settlement.  That number is derived from the minimum number of credits that can be bought on Getty Images iStock Photo and so is the minimum that must be paid to receive and image.

Unless you are completely sure that there is no copyright infringement, you should remove the image from your website, as well as any versions in your server’s media folders.

Also, if after this letter goes out and Getty actually responds with proof that the image has been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office prior to your infringement, then consider paying their demand because registration would entitle Getty to at least $750 and you would have to pay their legal fees. The demand payment is probably less.

Finally, while the letter below should work for most Getty extortion letters, each case often has unique issues, so if possible, have an attorney look over your letter before sending it.

Getty Images Response Letter

 

[DATE]

Copyright Compliance Team
Getty Images Inc.
605 5th Ave. Suite 400
Seattle, WA 98104

Getty Case Number: [CASE NUMBER]

 

To Whom It May Concern:

Thank you for your letter dated [DATE] notifying [COMPANY NAME] (“SHORT COMPANY NAME”) that the website [WEBSITE NAME] (“Website”) may have used an image represented by Getty Images (“Getty”), without authorization.

If the alleged copyright infringement did take place, be assured that it was entirely innocent and unwilling. However, until this matter is resolved, and as a good-faith gesture, the potentially infringing image has been removed from the Website, and any other location on our server, including any server backups.

As a proposed licensing fee does not determine copyright infringement damage awards while admitting no guilt or wrongdoing, we are willing offer reasonable settlement based upon the fair market value. As noted in Davis v. Gap, Inc., 246 F.3d 152 (2d Cir. N.Y. 2001);

“[C]ourts have construed “actual damages” by examining the fair market value of a license fee that the copyright owner would have obtained for the infringer’s use of the copyrighted material” . . . . “The question is not what the owner would have charged, but rather what is the fair market value.” 

We have found dozens of nearly identical or similar images that could easily replace the image at issue here. In some cases, the photos are available for a fee while others require credits. Below find some of the many functionally identical images from comparable stock photo sites. All prices listed are for sizes equivalent to the image in question, approximately [SIZE IN PIXELS].

  • “[IMAGE NAME]” (available on [STOCK PHOTO SITE] for [Price or Credits]:
http://[LINK TO IMAGE]
  • “[IMAGE NAME]” (available on [STOCK PHOTO SITE] for [Price or Credits]:
http://[LINK TO IMAGE]
  • List at least 8 images

Based upon our analysis of easy-to-find comparable images to the one at issue here, we calculate that a small sized, unremarkable image of a [IMAGE DESCRIPTION], has a fair market value of [FAIR MARKET VALUE]. As such, we are willing to offer Getty Images $20.00, which is equivalent to the minimum 10-credit purchase on Getty’s iStockphoto.com site. We hope our offer will amicably and expeditiously close this matter.

If you choose to reject the above offer, we ask that you provide the following information to establish your rights to the Image and to further support your settlement demand amount.

  • Please provide proof of Getty Images right to manage the Image.
  • Please provide proof of proper copyright registration and the chain of title for the Image.
  • Please provide a clear explanation as to how Getty Images has determined the valuation of this image as being so far above comparable images.
  • Please provide sales data for the Image for each size and use.
  • Please detail your costs incurred related to the pursuit of this case.

We will expect and require the above information before proceeding further. Thank you again for notifying us of this alleged infringement. We respect and appreciate the fair and reasonable application of copyright law. I hope you find this settlement offer adequate to close this matter prior to both parties investing more time and resources.

Sincerely,

 

[NAME]
[COMPANY NAME]
[TITLE]

About the author

Steve Schlackman

As a photographer and Patent Attorney with a background in marketing, Steve has a unique perspective on art and law. Should you have any questions on Intellectual Property contact him at [email protected] His photography can be seen online at Fotofilosophy.com or on display at the Emmanuel Fremin Gallery in New York City.

81 Comments

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  • Steve, thank you for this information on the Getty extortion. They’ve started with me on a small image I found on Bing (no watermark) and they have followed the pattern here almost to the letter. Fortunately I googled, “what to do when threatened on copyright” and found your postings!

  • I have been in contact with Getty, refuting the $1085 charge for a copy write infringement on a photo used 8 years ago, without knowledge of it’s copy write protection. They emailed back with a copy of a check written as settlement by a company in another state, along with the settlement agreement signed by the party. #7 of the settlement agreement states both parties agree to keep the details of the settlement confidential. Yet, they sent it to me, apparently reinforcing the fact, companies do pay!

  • My client received the extortion letter via email with a phone number to contact someone, so I called. After we got off the phone, the guy sent a letter to me via email. I am wondering, should I EMAIL him this response letter or should I snail mail it to Getty? Also he told me the longer we have had the image up on the website the more the copyright infringement fee will cost. Is this true?

    • 1) Whichever. Email is free.

      2) It’s not untrue.

      If you keep it up despite now explicitly knowing that you have no right to freely use it, it won’t bode well for you. If you keep it up for a period longer than the one defined by their standard license (should one exist), you could be liable to pay them once for every license period that you had the image for, which could exponentially increase the amount you owe them.

      But, more importantly, at the end of the day, the amount they’re demanding is wholly arbitrary, and, if they want to charge you extra because you kept the image up longer, that’s within their rights. They can legally say “You owe us $1,000,000,000,000 for every second that image is up on your site”. It falls to you/your client (and possibly the court, should it go that far) to determine if the amount is fair. A settlement negotiation is just that–a negotiation.

  • I responded to my Getty letter with the format you laid out and received an email back from NCS IP Solutions saying that my support is invalid because they are RF and the image in question is rights managed. Is this another tactic? I am receiving emails from this company weekly now and feel like they are harassing me at this point. I appreciate any advice you have! Thank you.

  • Just got the Super Stock / LCS Copyright infringement letter for a photo on a website I built from Godaddy.com. Probably looks the same as most, …photo with website screenshoot with photo used. They wanted $740 for one image and I have 7 days to respond, etc. I contacted Godaddy.com and they said the images were licensed stock images and everything was fine. I sent an email to Godaddy.com legal counsel and they responded to LCS/Super Stock for me and copied me on the email with all the licenses and receipts. In the email, the attorney stated that LCS/Super Stock keeps contacting Godaddy customers with this infringement letter and Godaddy has an unlimited license. Beware if you get a letter from LCS as this is just a money grab. Call Godaddy and they will help you with this BS.

  • We found the image in question on at least seven other sites. Is it advisable to ask for proof of license on these usages?

    Also, why would they make this statement: “The terms of this settlement offer shall be kept confidential, except as may be required by law.” Is it boilerplate or is there more to consider?

    Thanks for your thoughts, they are appreciated.

    • Settlement offers are always confidential because the one making the settlement doesn’t want anyone to know the price they are willing to settle at. It would hurt future negotiations with other defendants. In fact, if you break that confidentiality, there are usually additional penalties.

  • Hi, Steve. Below are excerpts from the Getty response to the first mail. Below each are my questions or thoughts; your comments would be appreciated.. Like many others, Steve, who are commenting we are small company with few resources and certainly not enough to “pay off” the Getty demand. Once this process is concluded I’ll be happy to share both outcomes and steps taken with you readers. Again, thanks for your consideration and any comments. I need to respond tomorrow, Monday.

    Larry

    “Your letter quotes On Davis v. The Gap Inc. as support for your offer of the cost of a royalty-free image license. As you correctly point out, the question is not what the owner would have charged but what the fair market value is. What you failed to identify, however, is that the Court goes on in On Davis to acknowledge that, “many copyright owners are represented by agents who have established rates that are regularly paid by licensees. In such cases, establishing the fair market value of the license fee of which the owner was deprived is no more speculative than determining the damages in the case of a stolen cargo of lumber or potatoes”.

    This is about two-thirds of the way down paragraph 59 of the cited case. If this is not refutable then their chain of evidence supporting their agent management must be provided? Verbiage?

    “The current situation is exactly what the court described [referring to the above paragraph]. We license millions of images each year at fair market prices. There is no need to speculate as to what the cost of a license for a rights managed image would be. We offer an online price calculator that provides transparent pricing. The offer of settlement in this case is based on established rates for like license terms of images of like quality. In fact, it goes further and it is based on the exact license terms you would have required for the exact image. Your reference to the pricing of royalty-free imagery is not valid in this case.”

    “The settlement amount offered was based on the actual cost of the license that you should have purchased in order to display the images on your website. The use identified on your website, would have required a digital media-email marketing license. “

    Is a document that is behind the website and not visible on the website, considered to be “on the website” as suggested above?

    “The terms of this settlement offer shall be kept confidential, except as may be required by law.”
    This does not sound appropriate. Are they may be using it to cover themselves?

    “Your request for license data is not relevant, as our settlement offer addresses the cost of a license for your specific use. “

    I know that it is germane but help with verbiage to respond would be appreciated.

    Too, I have found this image in use on no less than 7 websites. Is it appropriate to also demand rates paid or evidence of licensed usage without, in the first instance, naming the sites?

    • The reason we have you find similar images from other sites is to show the fair market value. It is true that agents may have established rates, but in most cases we run into, the images have no sales or not enough to show that the value that they ask is a market value. If nobody is buying a photo at that price and similar images are being sold for less, than it is hard to claim that the agent’s price is valid. It is then up to the agent, (Getty, LCS or whoever) to prove that the price they are asking is the market value. They also usually add in money for legal fees which they cannot do. Legal fees are available only for registered works that are registered prior to the infringement. If they can show sales figures, then one might consider paying. However, these seem to be money grabs wherein the legal team has decided that they do not want to do that kind of work. They want to take the easy money and if there is pushback, then they tend to walk away. There is clearly infringements here, but the question is the value. The letter is designed to start the dialogue but very rarely do these companies wish to engage defendants. If they answer the questions and take the case seriously, providing the information necessary to prove the validity of the price, then the defendants may have to pay. t just doesn’t happen. As for whether the image is visible or hidden, doesn’t matter as far as an infringement. The copyright holder has the exclusive right over copies aso any image on a server is a copy. However, as far as damages go, that would change the outcome because they are basing the image use on a license which is probably based on visibility. How miuch us a license for an image that isn’t visible is probably minimal. That of course depends on the licensing language.

  • First of all, Steve, Thanks for posting this. I have been engaged with LCS after a client of mine got an “extortion” letter back in Jan. I used your template – thank you so much for that…and more importantly, thanks for making this information public and explaining the argument in detail so that people like us can avoid undue expense when dealing with this. I followed your template pretty much exactly and then got a response with a lowered settlement fee of $525 for my alleged single image offense. I won’t repost those as they are virtually identical to the ones others on here have posted. I will post my response for anyone to read and consider….i’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice lol and i really have no idea what i’m doing…but i do have a sense for what is reasonable and what is right…so here it goes:

    Thank you for sending over the document informing me of your right to represent your client and the signed claim that your client is the copyright holder. These documents alone do not indicate 2 important factors that are needed to determine the legitimacy of the complaint. I agree that it is ideal to settle this matter amicably and without litigation.

    1. It is reasonable to assume that LCS, Inc would not take on a client without doing diligence to confirm copyright ownership beyond a signed statement. Therefore, it would be extremely beneficial if you could share proof of copyright and chain of title for the image in question. I’m sure you can understand that as a small business owner, I must be prudent in all financial matters related to the business. While damages are not necessarily determined by presence of registration, evidence of copyright ownership by your client would show that this is indeed a legitimate claim and not one of the many internet scams that so many small business owners fall victim to. While I understand that these documents would naturally be presented should we have to move to litigation, I am asking that you please provide them in good faith so that we can avoid costly litigation.

    2. In order to come to agreement on a settlement fee, it is imperative to support your claim of $525. You stated that: Settlement amounts are based on the average cost of licensing, quantity of uses, plus a portion of costs incurred in the pursuit of the unlicensed use. In my research (as provided in the previous letter) I have found many examples that would indicate for the cost of licensing and quantity of use for an image of comparable size and quality to the one asserted in this matter is around $14. In the absence of documentation to indicate a clear explanation as to how your client has determined the valuation of this image as being so far above comparable images, sales data for the image in question for its size and use and costs incurred related to the pursuit of this case, I cannot reasonably justify the fee of $525 to settle this matter.

    It is clear that LCS, Inc has represented hundreds if not thousands of copyright holders in their claims to collect compensation for infringement. It seems reasonable that as a normal course of doing business, LCS would have access to the information being requested so as to avoid many costly court cases. I am concerned that your lack of cooperation with regard to furnishing these reasonable requests for supplemental documentation is an indication that you are not willing to settle this matter out of court or that LCS does not have access to these documents. You must understand that any prudent business owner owes a fiduciary responsibility to his partners and employees to be diligent in all financial matters. Therefore, I am proposing again that you please accept my settlement offer of $14 to close this matter or provide evidence of copyright ownership and supplemental documentation supporting your claim of $525.

  • I have been reading all the comments and it appears that your sample reply to their extortion letter does not work in all cases. You were lucky enough to not hear back from Getty images.

    It seems that Fair Market value is not the point of the matter as licencing of an image is a different kettle of fish. In most cases they are willing to negotiate to a lower amount but still insisting on a ridiculously high amount for a small time struggling business.

    Seeing there is not much history of them actually going ahead and suing any company/taking legal action would it be best for me to simply ignore their emails and letters in the hope they will go away?

    • The fair market value is important because it shows the company that you have a leg to stand on in your refusal. Copyright, in the US, is a no-fault law. if it is up on your site, or in a pdf somewhere, then you are guilty unless you can claim fair use. So the issue then isn’t about guilt, it is about the amount of damage. Damages are traditionally calculated as lost revenue and lost profit. Without the claim of fair market value, then you are merely hoping they won’t sue you.

      What the letter attempts to do is let them know that their tactics won’t work, and that there is strong legal argument to back up your assertions. It is not a perfect argument, but one that lets them know that if they sue, it will cost them. And, that their potential revenue from the suit will be low.

      Now it’s true that the price they are requesting in many cases is probably too low anyway, so they probably won’t sue, but you never know who they might make an example of. But the real value is that they go away, since there is a good argument. Many other people who have tried to ignore these companies have been harrassed, with emails and phone calls, mailed letters etc. then they go away and come back again and again over years, as your name cycles back into the database.

      Also, almost always, the infringements are valid. The issue isn’t the infringement, it’s the price and the tactics. If you have infringed, you have done something wrong and should pay something. The letter tries to establish an acceptable value based on the real world, not what Getty or other people think or want their images to be worth. And at the end, you are making them an offer, which is the right thing to do. And that offer is backed up.

      However, the thing I don’t understand is why they never take the offers. It’s easy money. They don’t and just walk away as if all these $20 or $50 offers aren’t enough to bother. Anyway, I hope that helps.

  • Well… I received this SCAM email. I ripped their A%& open. One you have my personal email. How is that? They also sent it to my business email. So two letters. They tried to extort payment via email. The idiot gal on the phone was rude, unprofessional and had not a clue what she was talking about.

    They sent me a copy of the photo in question. I asked the the gal to open the image, she refused. It’s because their is NO such image on my site. She then proceeded to tell me it was from March 2015.

    Is the photo watermarked? Should it be watermarked if no one should be using this? If you don’t want people using this, photographers have the ability to make this so you cant copy, such as keeping as a web page format or other saving format eluding people from saving. Is Google liable for uploading and posting freely for the world to use? What accountability to they hold? What accountability does the originator hold when placing on the open internet without considering their rights to usage? Where in the open images on Google does it say you can purchase these photos? Does it say click here to purchase and then you may walk off with the image? Or …. does it say check this box as you understand the copyright infringement? Why didn’t the image warrant its given rights to protection?

    SCAM!

    I filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
    https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/

    FBI (Internet Crime Complaints)
    https://www.ic3.gov/faq/default.aspx

    Your State Attorney General

    License Compliance Servies.
    http://www.lcs.global/

    Send everyone a copy of the communications and billing and photo in question to the govering and federal agencies

  • It occurred to me, Steve, to offer a word of background. The image in question was never on the website per se, it was one of 11 images embedded in a by-request-only pdf information piece behind the site that described different assessment tools; there was no solicitation, only description of the assessment’s use. I don’t know that this is germane but I thought I’d pass it along just in case. Thanks for insight and direction; both are appreciated

  • Hi, Steve. I responded to Getty with your letter and 9 examples of similar images. Their image was removed from the site. I sent the response via USPS a week ago and received the following response by email yesterday. Any suggestions for a follow-up mail to Getty would be appreciated, in particular v.v. the cited case. Thanks, in advance, for your assistance; it is much appreciated.

    “Thank you for your email. The image at issue in this settlement is a Getty Rights Managed (RM) image, exclusively available for license through Getty Images and would have required the appropriate licensing prior to its use on your website. Getty Images has been unable to find the necessary licenses for this use. As you may know, Getty Images is one of the leading providers of Royalty Free (RF) imagery and Rights Managed (RM) imagery.
    • RF imagery can be licensed with a one-time fee and can be used in a flexible manner for an unlimited duration of time.
    • RM imagery has a very restrictive licensing model that limits use of an image to the specified size, type of use, placement, and duration of use set forth in the license. RM licenses are not transferrable. That is to say, a specific license is required for the use of the image on any given website.
    The “Fair Market Value” comparison (Getty Images Response Letter) refers to Royalty Free images, as stated previously the image in question is Rights Managed.
    Your letter quotes On Davis v. The Gap Inc. as support for your offer of the cost of a royalty-free image license. As you correctly point out, the question is not what the owner would have charged but what the fair market value is. What you failed to identify, however, is that the Court goes on in On Davis to acknowledge that, “many copyright owners are represented by agents who have established rates that are regularly paid by licensees. In such cases, establishing the fair market value of the license fee of which the owner was deprived is no more speculative than determining the damages in the case of a stolen cargo of lumber or potatoes”.

    The current situation is exactly what the court described. We license millions of images each year at fair market prices. There is no need to speculate as to what the cost of a license for a rights managed image would be. We offer an online price calculator that provides transparent pricing. The offer of settlement in this case is based on established rates for like license terms of images of like quality. In fact, it goes further and it is based on the exact license terms you would have required for the exact image. Your reference to the pricing of royalty-free imagery is not valid in this case.

    Please visit our website at http://www.gettyimages.com and enter the image number [ba00521] into the search field. When you have found the image, please click on the thumbnail. This will open the image in a new window, at which point you will be able to read the details on the image. If you click on “Rights-managed” (next to “License type), the Getty Images Editorial, Rights-Managed and Rights-Ready Image and Video License Agreement will open up. We direct your attention to Sections 5 and 6. Section 5(ii) is Getty Images’ warranty that it represents the image. In section 6, Getty Images indemnifies the licensee for any claims of copyright infringement. These two sections confirm that Getty Images is legally entitled to manage the image.

    Getty Images is currently only requesting actual damages in settlement of this matter. Therefore, copyright registrations are irrelevant at this stage. Images are protected by copyright the moment they are created. Copyright registration is not required to protect one’s copyrights, nor did the settlement offer by Getty Images contemplate the statutory damages that you would be responsible for if there was a copyright registration. Any copyright registration for this image will be produced in accordance with a court process that may be initiated if we are unable to come to an agreement on settlement.

    The settlement amount offered was based on the actual cost of the license that you should have purchased in order to display the images on your website. The use identified on your website, would have required a digital media-email marketing license. At the very least 1 months use would have cost $440.00.

    Your request for license data is not relevant, as our settlement offer addresses the cost of a license for your specific use.
    Getty Images respectfully declines your $24.00 settlement offer. We are, however, willing to accept $843.98. as full and final settlement. This offer is made conditionally and it will automatically be withdrawn if full payment is not postmarked by February 29, 2016. The terms of this settlement offer shall be kept confidential, except as may be required by law. Getty Images expressly reserves all rights and remedies available under copyright law.

    • I got almost the exact same reply (different amounts). Seems like we both used the template in the post above and they have learned to recognize it as the lengthy response came back in minutes to my email.

  • Great information. An agent at my brokerage received a letter recently from LCS, claiming copyright infringement based on a photo that was randomly syndicated by a multiple listing service to the agent’s Web site. My agent has no control over the site which initially published the offending photo (it belongs to an agent who is not at our brokerage), nor has she any control over which listings are randomly shared across her site through MLS IDX. In fact, that same image was probably shared on multiple associate’s sites without their knowledge or consent, other than an agreement allowing the syndication. Seems like LCS might have recourse against the initial agent who posted the original photo, or against the syndicator — but going after perhaps thousands agents whose sites carried that photo randomly and momentarily seems excessive. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  • Dear Steve. Thank you for this post. It was very helpful in responding to a recent letter from LCS for nearly $1100 for use of an image. Their response was to lower the ask to $800, but the wording in their response (excerpt below) suggests they have a registration for the image and are asking this amount for damages. Curious if you’ve seen this language before as I understand from your blog a registered image is treated differently. Thank you.

    “Images do not need or require copyright registration or notice of copyright in order to be protected. A copyright exists automatically from the moment that a photograph is taken. Federal copyright law does not require us to provide anyone with certificates of registration during an out-of-court settlement. We are attempting to settle for actual damages. Registration are not required with regards to settlement. However, should this case be escalated to litigation registration will be provided during Discovery.”

    “Resolution for this federal violation includes the removal of the imagery and the payment of the settlement fee for the unauthorized use.”

  • I received a letter from LCS stating that they are representing on behalf of Alamy and that I used one of their images on my website blog. They are asking for a settlement fee of $98.70. I looked on Alamy website and found that they charge $50 for the image (for websites and blogs). So should I just purchase the image on Alamy and provide LCS with proof of purchase? Is this a scam or is it real?

  • Mr. Schlackman,
    I have recieved a letter from (below) on January 30tb
    this is the 2nd one

    ************************************************************
    License Compliance Services, Inc. on behalf of StockFood America, Inc.
    701 Fifth Avenue, Suite 4200
    Seattle, WA 98104, United States
    Email: [email protected], Telephone: +1 855 387 8725, http://www.LCS.global

    Further to our prior correspondence to you, we hereby reiterate that unauthorized use of StockFood America, Inc.’s represented imagery is considered copyright infringement and entitles StockFood America, Inc. to seek compensation for infringing uses (Copyright Act, Title 17, United States Code).
    Please note that removal of the imagery alone does not resolve this matter.

    You have previously been notified of this matter and to date, we have not received payment or any proof of a valid license.

    StockFood America, Inc. is willing to offer you one more opportunity to resolve this matter.
    Your failure to make payment immediately will result in escalation to our legal representatives and the possibility of legal action being commenced for damages exceeding the amount presently being offered by way of settlement.

    To avoid the possibility of legal action, you are required to immediately remit the $578.00 settlement payment by one of the following options:

    ***********************************************************************************

    and gives the choices of online or check.

    I removed the image, I got some of my images from searching google images either Labeled for Reuse or Labeled for Reuse with modification. I can’t find this image there now. But I can find several of the same type.

    I am sick, I try to use my own images for this reason, but have a very small local business and wear every hat. So up to this point had made use of google images as above labeled.

    I am on the verge of closing my doors as it is, I can barely pay rent and am not really ‘earning’ money just covering rent and expenses the past 5 months.

    Do you have a lawyer you can recommend look at the letter I create to respond?
    I don’t know what to do,
    1- of course I will pay fair market value even if it was labeled incorrectly, but I can’t imagine that the price they ask is fair.
    2- I am afraid to even purchase images when I can afford to because how do I make sure the license doesn’t change?

    I understand photographers, artists, etc need to protect their works, I worry about my images being stolen.

    I am sick and worried, I need to take care of this, without making myself a bigger target.
    thanks
    Cas

  • hi guys, i recently received a letter from Getty images for $550. my website was outsourced and nowhere to be found to ask him about the photos. how would i find the image to see what the actually cost to purchase would be… any advice would really help…

    thanks

  • Thanks for posting this useful information, Steve. Maybe my experience will help Sara. I also got a letter from LCS. They demanded a settlement of $510 in the letter or $408 online. SuperStock priced the image at $290. After reading the following in your article “If similar images cost $10, then the damages are $10, even if Getty Images charges $800 for that image. Of course, you have to prove that the image is only worth $10“, I searched other sites for the image and found it on Alamy for $45. I purchased the image and replaced it with the original on my site. I then sent LCS the following “I have attached my valid license”. 22 hours later, I received the following from LCS “After further review, we would like to notify you that we have closed case ref: XXXX-XXXX-XXXX. No further action is required on your part”. You saved me 90% and I’m glad to give the money to the photographer, not LCS.

    • C: they didn’t argue that the license was dated after they found a copyright infringement? This is very interesting. I hope you can share more.

      I recently received an LCS threat for an image on my business website blog which is informational. Not everything on the blog is related to a service I provide, particularly the page with the image in question. I thought the blog was fair use because I’m not promoting my services. This company and their threats are really a pain in the a$$. I don’t understand why they don’t say buy the image license or we will proceed with legal action. I’d be alright with that.

  • I was just looking back at all the conversations I have had with LCS and the amounts of money that they say I need to pay are all over the place. The original letter said $830. I got online to look at the link they asked me to go to and they messaged me immediately asking how they can help resolve this. They said they would take it down to $725 and when I didn’t respond right away they said they received approval to reduce it to $700 if paid that day. Then I get their response letter (I posted earlier) to my response letter and they say there is limitations on how much they can settle for, offering me $750. Then they attach a settle and release agreement for me to sign with the wrong amount of $745 on it. Seems like they copy and paste all these letters and they forgot to change the amount? I am so mad and scared at the same time.

  • I just wanted to share how LCS responded to the response letter I sent (like the one above). I am a one person tiny company that makes very little each year and only put up an image to test what a website would look like since I have never made a website. No body but me and my best friend saw this site. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t freaking out a bit about all this. $750 is a ton of money for my little business. I am not sure what to do and it makes it worse when they put timelines on me. I don’t even remember where I got the image and feel like I can’t possible collect all the information I need to know if they have the right. Anyway, as time is ticking for me any thoughts are greatly appreciated.

    Please find the attached a Statement of Authorization, authorizing LCS to act on our customers behalf in cases of copyright infringement. Also attached is the rights holder form demonstrating that our customer holds the necessary rights in order to license and distribute the imagery, as well as the rights to pursue available legal remedies with respect to unauthorized use of the imagery. When copyright infringement occurs, the copyright holder is entitled to compensation.

    Registration is not a requirement of copyright law and only an issue at the time a lawsuit is filed or if statutory damages are being sought. Currently, The Licensing Project is working to settle the matter constructively, without litigation, and without the pursuit of statutory damages. As such, registration information is irrelevant at this time.

    While we leave the option of registration to each contributor, the calculation of actual damages does not change if an image is not registered with the US copyright office prior to the infringing use. It is up to the owner of the copyright to determine whether and how they want to publish their works.

    Settlement of this matter is two-fold: (1) removal of the imagery from the website; and (2) payment of the settlement demand. We acknowledge removal of the imagery; however, absent the appropriate licenses surrounding the specific use of the imagery in question, the settlement amount presented represents what The Licensing Project would expect to receive in a matter such as this for this unauthorized use. Settlement amounts are based on the average cost of licensing, quantity of uses, plus a portion of costs incurred in the pursuit of the unlicensed use. Using the image without a license ultimately costs more than properly licensing the image before use. Had the infringement not occurred, The Licensing Project would not have had to deploy the additional resources needed to pursue this matter with respect to the website.

    This is an out of court settlement and since it has not gone to litigation, we are not required to provide contractual information regarding the photographer’s contract with the imaging company, the sales data for the image, the fair market value of the image, or the proof of registration of the image. Any information other than the Rights Holders Form and the Statement of Authorization cannot be provided outside of litigation.

    This message contains all the documentation we will provide in an out-of-court settlement.

    Being that this is an out of court settlement, there are restrictions in how much the settlement fee can be reduced. In an attempt to settle this matter amicably, we are reducing the settlement fee to $750, which will be in effect until 02/29/2016.

    This offer is without prejudice and reserves all rights and remedies available under copyright law.

    If this settlement demand remains unpaid, further legal proceedings may result and all previous offers of reduction will be revoked and attorney’s fees will be added to the settlement amount.

    • All I can say is that nobody has ever contacted me to say that Getty or any other company using this model had gotten sued, except for one case in Florida, which was particularly egregious and the images were Registered with the Copyright Office. I am also not sure if that situation started with these letters or whether the suit came through traditional legal channels.

      If anyone else has heard of anyone being sued through this Getty model, please let us know.

      • Seems like their model is just a sales pitch, scare tactic. Not worth suing small mom and pop shops for 2 images. Even their emails bounce to insure they talk to you, or bargain with you.

  • I got 2 of the same LCS letters for 2 different images. I received the first complaint on Dec 17, 2015. At that point I went through my entire website and cleaned out any further possible issues. However, today I got another letter for a new alleged infringement. They showed the screen shot dating Dec 4. 2015 but mind you, on Dec 17 ot 18th, I cleaned all that out so they seem to be goinig after stuff I did in the past, even though I removed the images prior to receiving the letter. This is scary. I am a one person small business and barely break even at the end of the year. The pics I used were from one of the so-called free photo sites and the pics were in a pdf on my site. I thought I was so careful in not using photos that weren’t mine. Not sure where to go from here.

    • The thing about copyright is it doesn’t matter that you took it down. They had probably been scraping your site and had the infringement in their files, but hadn’t gotten around to sending it yet. But don’t worry, if you snd the letter, it should work. Just treat each of their infringement letters as a new case. They probably don’t even realize that you hav two cases, since much of the systems are automated.

  • Hi Steve, thanks for your advice, I had sent the letter, and how now had several correspondences with them. The last reply from them was simply “This will be the last time that we reply to your demand. We have provided you everything required. We recommend consulting with a copyright attorney that is well versed in the law.” They refuse to give me any of the documentation that your letter requests.

    These are the replies to the requests.

    Q:Please provide proof of your right to manage the Image.
    A:The Statement of Authorization that was attached.

    Q:Please provide proof of proper copyright registration and the chain of title for the Image.
    A:Copyright exists the moment an imagery is created. Registration is not a requirement of copyright law and only an issue at the time a lawsuit is filed or if statutory damages are being sought. Currently, Science Photo Library is working to settle the matter constructively, without litigation, and without the pursuit of statutory damages. As such, registration information is irrelevant at this time.

    Q:Please provide a clear explanation as to how you have determined the valuation of this image as being so far above comparable images.
    A:Restricted Rights content is priced and licensed based on usage, including how the image will be used, in what format, in what size, and for how long. Restricted Rights content is also available for licensing with exclusive rights either by usage type, industry, territory, or combinations of all three (e.g., to prevent competitors from using the same image in a similar advertising campaign). This is high-end creative content that often has high-production costs, and is suitable for license by large corporations for major advertising campaigns as an alternative to custom shoots. The settlement demand is not only the average cost of licensing the image, but is also the cost incurred for the pursuit of the infringement.

    Q:Please provide sales data for the Image for each size and use.
    A:Science Photo Library will under no circumstances provide its confidential sales data or costs incurred to an infringing party or indeed any legal representative thereof. This information is irrelevant to these settlement discussions.

    Q:Please detail your costs incurred related to the pursuit of this case.
    A:Science Photo Library will under no circumstances provide its confidential sales data or costs incurred to an infringing party or indeed any legal representative thereof.

    The image in question is http://www.sciencephoto.com/search?subtype=keywords&searchstring=c0041783
    The one on our site, I am not sure where it came from, is actually only the upper part of that image without any houses. It is close to this image http://www.allposters.com/-sp/Jet-Flight-Composite-Image-Posters_i9996655_.htm

    They do acknowedge that the photographer is “Victor De Schwanberg” and looking at his stuff I see that both the above images as well as the links below are all composite images, using the same background.
    http://fineartamerica.com/featured/5-food-miles-conceptual-artwork-victor-de-schwanberg.html
    http://www.allposters.com/-sp/Seedling-Composite-Image-Posters_i9996775_.htm
    http://www.allposters.com/-sp/Food-Miles-Conceptual-Artwork-Posters_i9996889_.htm
    http://www.allposters.com/-sp/Alternate-Dimensions-Conceptual-Artwork-Posters_i9995812_.htm

    And also Victor is offeringt the exact image they have on these sites.
    http://www.allposters.com.au/-sp/Low-Flying-Plane-posters_i9996903_.htm

    So since they say they will not talk to me waht do I do?

    • In my opinion, they are just playing hardball. Of course, every case is different and I don’t know the company in your case, but suing you is going to cost them money, in both time and courts fees. Writing a complaint, even if it is a form, will still take an hour and submitting it to the court will cost them $500. If you respond, then they have to respond and on it goes. They are only entitled to the license fee, not court costs or fees so even if they believe that they are entitled to let’s say $750 or even $1500, the company has to spend $500 to file and then another $200 for legal time, since the lawyers are probably charging by the hour. it just doesn’t pay to sue. They scare people, get what they can and if it doesn’t work, they walk away. Unless of course, the work is registered, in which case they would have mentioned it. There was a case here in Florida where a company had used 11 images, many times for their clients. two of them were registered so the company sued but only on those 2 images. You can read about it here http://artlawjournal.com/getty-images-wins-300000/ so even though they were all infringing, they didn’t even bother to sue on the other 9. That case is crazy though because the infringers just kept infringing and so the court threw the book at them. Anyway, I can’t definitively say you won’t get sued, there are too many variable that might make it possible but the odds are against it.

      • Thanks, so the main thing is if it is or is not registered. And they will now show me one way or another if it is or not, strange to me they would do that, and apparently they feel it is “irrelevant at this time”. Is there a way for the avg Joe to see if it is registered?

        Q:Please provide proof of proper copyright registration and the chain of title for the Image.
        A:Copyright exists the moment an imagery is created. Registration is not a requirement of copyright law and only an issue at the time a lawsuit is filed or if statutory damages are being sought. Currently, Science Photo Library is working to settle the matter constructively, without litigation, and without the pursuit of statutory damages. As such, registration information is irrelevant at this time.

        Thanks

        • You can go to the Copyright Office database, but unfortunately, it is horrible. The main problem is that there are no images, just descriptions and the creator’s info. On the other hand, the company may not even know since the author would need to provide the information. They probably don’t. Even then, the business model, in general, seems to be scaring and quick money, not protracted lawsuits on behalf of their clients. In most cases, even if their legal fees are paid for, that doesn’t get Getty anything. That goes to the firm and Getty only gets the licensing fee anyway. The Florida case was a special one because the company wouldn’t stop. so they had to take them to court. I don’t know for sure, but it’s possible Getty didn’t even find out about the registrations until they decided to do something about the continuous infringements.

        • Hi sorry should have found this sooner. I did a search on “United States Copyright Office website” (just like I found described on LegalZoom) for “Visual Materials” and searched multiple things

          The image in question is http://www.sciencephoto.com/search?subtype=keywords&searchstring=c0041783

          for “science photo library”.. only 3 results not the image
          http://cocatalog.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?Search_Arg=Science+Photo+Library&Search_Code=NALL&PID=5Z2dATXdrUS4aLJiaj-ifmcSvxr7&SEQ=20160122134111&CNT=25&HIST=1

          for “Schwanberg” no results
          for the title on their site no results
          for their catalog number c0041783 no results
          for the collectors name “License Compliance Services” no results

  • I have been going back and forth with a company called License Compliance Services, Inc. over an alleged copyright infringement. After several emails back and forth using the suggestions listed in the Getty Response letter, I took the image off of my sight, noted to them that I was not able to find the image on the sight of the company that they are representing (after an exhaustive search of their sight for the image) and offered them $20.00 as a settlement for an innocent infringement, based on fair market value. Their first asking price was $500 which was discounted in the first email to $400, then $375.00 in the second ask.

    I just received a third email stating that as we could not come to an amicable agreement, they are turning my case over to their legal department. My question is, as a very small business owner with no budget for a lawyer, should I be worried at this point? I have been pondering a free consultation, but would like to know what others have experienced at this stage of negotiations.

  • Hi! thank you so much for this information. I received an email today, and almost fell for sending in the full payment before coming across this site. Would you mind if I used the above letter? Thanks!!

  • I agree. The automated system doesn’t have enough info and likely has a lot of false positives. And while Getty, or anyone else who finds their copyrighted work being used without permission, are certainly entitled to compensation, but it shouldn’t be a blanket automated scar letter. They don’t seem to care whether the item was used for a month or a year. If the fees were prorated, and even with a legal fee on top for their trouble, I think most people would pay without complaint, as it would seem fair.

    • I designed a simple landscaping service website for my brother-in-law in 2013. I used a snow plow image from google. The truck was the same Ford truck as his landscaping company so I doctored it up. Two weeks ago, my brother in law received an official notice from LCS on behalf of Aurora Photos. I contacted my legal shield lawyer, but did my research. The Domain is owned by Getty who is owned by Amazon. Aurora Photos is a fairly new 2015 entity. My lawyer said to pay the fine, but did not offer to send a letter on my behalf. All the correspondence is being sent to my brother-in-law but I designed the site. I am so exasperated!

  • Hello Steve,

    Thank you very much for this information. If the company was dissolved, and they sent the letter 3 months after the fact, would the former owner of the dissolved company still be responsible?

    • It’s hard to say without seeing your company operating agreement and how the image was used and som other things. In general, the company is on the hook and if it is closed, then there is nobody to go after. Management is protected by the corporate veil but there are ways to break through the veil if certain business practices are sloppy, such as mixing personal and business funds. Of course, breaking the veil costs money, which I am sure Getty won’t spend in pursuit of a small claim, so if you let them know the company is closed, the case will probably also be closed.

  • I was unemployed for a period over the summer last year and started taking to writing blog posts for a variety of clients to help make ends meet. I did my best to source images from Wikimedia commons and etc., but it looks like I got lazy at some point. I haven’t been working in this business for a while, but had a former client of mine contact me this morning telling me she was being fined for the use of an image on her site. She forwarded me the email, and it’s pretty well the same as the ones that have been listed here (SuperStock Images, fining $740.)

    I don’t want to leave my former client on the lam, and will take full responsibility for this, but don’t know what the best way to follow this up is. Should I proceed as you have recommended? Will it make a difference if I’m replying from my personal email on behalf of my client?

    • You can respond for your client. Just use the letter here. Make sure you indicate that a correspondence should come to you. Of course, every case is different but if it is like most others, you’ll probably get another letter, but just reiterate the points from the first letter and they should stop.

  • We received a demand payment letter as well. It appears that the image we used was not copyrighted when we used it on our blog (or not available for sale), but now the author has signed up with 500px and so it’s copyrighted now. How would we know when it became an image we had to purchase? This is part of the response we received after sending your letter (thanks btw!). What do you think?


    The way in which copyright protection is secured is frequently misunderstood. No publication or registration or other action in the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright. A copyright exists automatically from the moment that an image is created and the artist has owned the copyright since its moment of existence. Copyright registration is not a requirement of copyright ownership. We have contracts with contributing imaging companies and their artists who own the copyrights in their images, and who represent and warrant that they are the sole copyright owner. Consequently, we do not require contributors to provide us with certificates of registration and leave the option of copyright registration to the individual artist.

    Restricted Rights content is priced and licensed based on usage, including how the image will be used, in what format, in what size, and for how long. Restricted Rights content is also available for licensing with exclusive rights either by usage type, industry, territory, or combinations of all three (e.g., to prevent competitors from using the same image in a similar advertising campaign). This is high-end creative content that often has high-production costs, and is suitable for license by large corporations for major advertising campaigns as an alternative to custom shoots. The settlement demand is a flat rate for the infringement itself and the cost incurred for the pursuit of the infringement.

    While we leave the option of registration to each contributor, the calculation of actual damages does not change if an image is not registered with the US copyright office prior to the infringing use. It is up to the owner of the copyright to determine whether and how they want to publish their works. The act of taking away the choice of the copyright owner means that the owner has suffered harm and should be entitled to recover damages.

    • Chuck,

      Lets address your statement, “It appears that the image we used was not copyrighted when we used it on our blog (or not available for sale), but now the author has signed up with 500px and so it’s copyrighted now.” Whether the author was signed with 500px when you used the image or not makes no difference, the image was copyrighted the minute the author snapped the picture. Sorry to say but the letter you received was absolutely correct in that matter.

      Your question, “How would we know when it became an image we had to purchase?”, you should treat every image on the internet as one you have to purchase. If you do not have the permission of the copyright holder, or his/her designee you cannot use the image period. Even images posted on Wikicommons require some form of attribution or permission, they have the requirements a restrictions posted with the image.

      As to the letter that you received, what you posted it is very accurate, and all of the same or similar information can be found on the copyright offices website. This statement, “Consequently, we do not require contributors to provide us with certificates of registration and leave the option of copyright registration to the individual artist.”, will make it difficult for 500px to file a court case against you but not impossible and the photographer will always be able to file a case. If you have removed any credit to the photographer and placed it on your site that contains a copyright notice that adds a possible DMCA claim against you as well as copyright violation.

      This statement contained in the letter is also very accurate, “While we leave the option of registration to each contributor, the calculation of actual damages does not change if an image is not registered with the US copyright office prior to the infringing use.”, the key words contained in that sentence is “actual damages”, that means that the rights holder may only collect the actual value of a license on the image, not the higher numbers that an image that has had its copyright filed timely.

      It is what they are not saying that should be of your greatest concern, they are not saying that the image was not registered timely and they do not have to disclose that until they file a court case, they are not saying whether or not they are the photographers designee and again they do not have to disclose that until they file a case or you hire an attorney who will push for that information in a legal way.

      • I agree with everything Kevin said. One caveat though, the company is claiming a price based on their selling price, so it does help to know if the infringement occurred before it was posted because that could affect the price demanded. If that were allowable, then anyone could find and infringement, set up a deal with Getty or whoever, after the fact for a high price, and then claim that price.

    • I’m hoping this discussion isn’t shut down because it’s so helpful. I posted a question a while back and it didn’t show up. I got lucky and may have answered my own question. I was wondering if and how a lawyer could help since we have free access to some legal help. The company harassing us sent me a legal document in an effort to intimidate. I asked them for all relevant legal documents pointing out that while we don’t have money to pay, we do have access to free legal help. I haven’t heard anything from them in over a month. We do have that access and I think it’s important to be able to back up what you say to them. If this does indeed work, it might be worth a try for others. My plan was to use the template letter and then involve an attorney in that process. As it turns out, I may have found a faster way to bring things to an end without having to pay.

  • Dear Steve

    Thanks for your great advice, i got the same letter from them,

    here is the e-mail, i recently got from stockFood (actually, License Compliance Services, Inc. on behalf of StockFood America, Inc.)

    they requested the money ($680) for 1 photo ,but what is Legal Fee??

    SubTotal of $680.00 (USD)
    Legal Fee $1,700.00 (USD)
    Total of $2,380.00 (USD)

    they are not my lawyer, but why they ask a Legal fee???

    Previously, i never get any contact from stockFood directly but i got this letter from Law firm (LCS) for the first time.

    any advice?,,, do i send the letter that you recommend??

    could you please help

    thanks

    —————Letter contents——————–

    License Compliance Services, Inc. on behalf of StockFood America, Inc.
    605 Fifth Avenue South, Suite 400
    Seattle, WA 98104, United States
    Email: [email protected], Telephone: +1 855 387 8725, http://www.LCS.global

    September 1, 2015

    This letter is a follow up to the letters that were previously mailed to your company.

    Unauthorized use of our imagery without a valid license constitutes copyright infringement.

    According to our records, this matter has not been resolved to date, and we have decided to escalate this matter to our legal representatives for further pursuit. Please expect their letter in the coming weeks.

    Please note that as a consequence of this escalation, the settlement amount has now been increased to reflect the addition of legal fees to the initial amount requested.

    The complete information regarding our claim is available at the following link:

    For any question, please contact Steven Stern of Stern & Schurin LLP at [email protected] or
    (212) 338-0300.

    Sincerely,

    License Compliance Services, StockFood America, Inc.

    Note: Please also be advised that you will receive a copy of this note in the mail.

  • Hi

    I received the Getty letter and they asked for $655. I used the image unknowingly for a for-profit retail catalog. I used your letter, and they reduced it to $440. But they said that the 440 could not be negotiated further. How do you recommend I proceed?

  • My wife got a call regarding the same B.S. here in Australia – Her company doesn’t use Getty at all – everything on her site is free use from google and what do you know; checking metadata of the image shows NO copywrite at all. Additionally, after extensive search of Getty, the image in question is non existant 🙂 As one of the worlds formost guru’s in theoristics, I can safely assert the following scenario. Please keep in mind that google is not stupid enough to post copywrite stock [ they check meta data ]. Since Getty are going down the tubes, it is an each way bet that some smarty pants has decided to give google a bunch of stock photo’s with no copywrite in the meta data – wait till they are downloaded, pull out the same photo from their stock WITH the copywrite embedded in THEIR photo and – proceed to extort money from company’s that use the same image. So checking the meta data in the image is a MUST before you do anything else

    • John,

      Your post is full of inaccuracies I will address a few below,

      Be very careful, since you state that your wife got the image from Google,”everything on her site is free use from google”, Google plainly marks all images with a disclaimer, “Images may be subject to copyright”, that is a notice to anyone that the image may be copyrighted and since some search engines strip meta data as well as many other places that Google gets the images from your assertion may be inaccurate.

      As to your statement, “keep in mind that google is not stupid enough to post copywrite stock [ they check meta data ]”, I can assure that is not correct I have images that have been posted on Google by Google that have had my meta data removed. This is a very sore point with many of us professional photographers, Google picks up images from many sources and posts them with or without meta data.

      You have also stated that your wife is using the image in her business, “Her company doesn’t use Getty at all”, use in a commercial manner will make her/you a very large target by any copyright owner.

      Whether the meta data has been filed in or not does not mean that it is safe to take an image from Google without the copyright owners permission or that the image is “free use” or not copyrighted. Many of my copyrighted images with all meta data filled in have been taken from their sources put into Pinterest and Facebook both of which strip meta data and then picked up by Google who then posts the images without the meta data, that does not mean that my images are not copyrighted they are and I will be less accommodating than Getty. I have had infringers take my images strip the data and place them on Wiki Commons to attempt to hide their actions so be very careful if you are not 100% certain that you have the permission of the photographer to use an image.

      You state, “Since Getty are going down the tubes, it is an each way bet that some smarty pants has decided to give google a bunch of stock photo’s with no copywrite in the meta data”, I assume since we are talking about Getty that “smarty pants” is Getty correct me if I am wrong. Before making such a statement you ought to look into how Getty accepts photographic submissions, it might surprise you. “If you receive an invitation to join Getty Images, you’ll be asked to create an account with us, so you become a Getty Contributor. The signup process takes a little while, because it involves setting yourself up to receive payments if/when licenses are purchased for your work. Getty Images handles the taxation side of things too, so your Contributor account will need to include details about all that.” You cannot just send Getty images and they post them, Getty reviews samples of your work before inviting you to set up an account to submit, good try mate.

      I have no love for Getty they are a competitor and have done major damage to an industry I love, but false and misleading information is just as bad.

  • I have gotten a similar extortion letter recently, only it was from LCS on behalf of a g e Fotostock. I inadvertently used an extremely small image (15 KB) in a newsletter (distribution approx. 300) which was then posted to my website (I am a locally performing musician and not a company, in my opinion). I have sent them a letter, as suggested, but I didn’t offer any settlement, because I wasn’t sure if it was a scam or not. I asked them for the documentation suggested, before I made any further decisions. They did write back, and in answer to my request for copyright documentation, stated that copyrights are automatic with photos; they do not need to be registered. One other twist to my situation is that, when they sent me the screen shot of my website page, proving use, I happened to notice a watermark on the photo (more noticeable when zoomed in on) that I did not notice when I used it. I wouldn’t have used it had I noticed it in the first place! This watermark is from a DIFFERENT stock photo company than a g e Fotostock. I called LCS and told them this, but they insist they don’t see it! I would be happy to settle for a fair amount (not $660 as they are demanding) but I want to settle with the proper company! What’s to keep this other company from demanding money from me, even after I have settled with a g e Fotostock? Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

  • I have had Getty images contact me via phone asking me to contact them urgently.
    I called them up and they sent me an email with the image and fine amount.

    The fine was over $700 for a crap image i never really wanted anyway, but thats not the point. Its and infingement so you have to take responsability, even if its by mistake….which in my case it was.

    All i will say here is you can go 1 of 2 ways. Write the legal letter as stated above which i think is good but may prompt them to fight a bit harder, or negotiate hard and get the fine reduced heavily.

    Want the problem to go away and dont want the hasstle of a long drawn out process and letters to and from.
    I did not give in to their demands and requested they reduce the amount as i could not afford to pay what they were asking. (At all times being polite and to the point)

    It was reduced to $500.
    I did not accept this and repeated what i had already said.
    It was reduced to $350
    I did not accept this and again repeated what i had already said. Also adding that i do want this matter settled.
    It was reduced to $250.
    I said i could not afford it and will have to get back to them.
    They asked me to email them and agree to this settlement amount.
    I them emailed them and agreed to settele at $125 and close the matter.
    They have emailed back accepting a $150 fee.

    $150 is still alot for a shiite image, but hey, its better than over $700 and a string of legal letters taking up time and adding stress.
    Just make sure you clean up your site and learn from your mistake!
    My view for what its worth – sorry…dont want to leave my email or website

  • Hi,

    I also got a letter in the mail. I left someone manage my website and they used a Getty photo, claiming they did not know photos online were copyright.

    I never received money from the website and the photo was only up for a short time. After getting the notice from Getty, I shut down the website with no intentions of continuing to use the site. I would not mind paying a reasonable fee for the image but I can not afford $800+ for one image after receiving no income.

    They know my address since it was on the site and my phone number, but as far as I can tell, not my name. I assume they can determine who I am for a court case based on this information, but not sure how serious they would be to do this. The name of other people, including friends, were mentioned on the site but they have not been contacted.

    I do not have a plan of action yet but thought about one possible scenario and wanted feedback. I already sent them an email telling them the website was shut down and apologized for the use. They have not responded to that email and later demanded more money. I plan to shut down the email client so emails come back to them as undelivered.

    I am not sure if I should send them the letter above or just flat out ignore them. I could easily have the postoffice mark mail under the website name as undeliverable to the address (since I did shut down and do not operate under that name), but I am not sure if that would upset them or cause them to give up. I could change locations (physically move, yes, I really have no money at all and this would be a better option for me instead of paying $800, which now is $975) but they may still chase me down if they rack up a bill and want to sue me.

    I have no idea what to do, am already in considerable debt from student loans, shut down the site, deleted the files, attempted to explain to them my situation, ect. Any advice? Just sent the letter above? maybe mail the letter i previously emailed saying I shut the site down and it will not operate? it was not registered as a company, so I am liable.

    Any input would be awesome. I need some advice

    • Copyright infringement is a no-fault law so it doesn’t matter whether you took it down or closed the site. It is still an infringement. The issue is what is that worth? So I recommend using the letter. Make them an offer as I have laid out. unfortunately, ignoring them won’t work. They’ll find you and send letters fed ex. They will continue to bug you until you take an affirmative action. I have not heard of the email letter not working so that is good. You may get one more response after this, but just reiterate what is in the letter. After that it will be too costly for them to continue. Hope that helps.

  • Thank you so much for this information. My aunt had a website built offshore and didn’t realise two of the images were not purchased images. We had purchased 10 other images.
    We just received a response to our letter (we are in Australia) and through the legal jargon, they are refusing to provide:
    Please provide proof of Getty Images right to manage the Image.
    Please provide proof of proper copyright registration and the chain of title for the Image.
    Please provide a clear explanation as to how Getty Images has determined the valuation of this image as being so far above comparable images.
    Please provide sales data for the Image for each size and use.
    Please detail your costs incurred related to the pursuit of this case.

    They have dropped the amount owed to $1,200 from $2k.

    These images had no watermarks, she made no profit from it and they have been removed.

    Any further tips before we pen our second letter?

    Thanks!

  • Good day,
    Your blog is a true hope for people like me, who received an “extortion”letter from Getty Compliance Department for the image that was found through google free images search. Image had no watermarks or any other identifying information related to the copyrights compliance.
    To make story short we are a military family, and my wife is unemployed, who dreams to open her own business one day. We have been moving three times in the past year due to my schools and career. Finally, getting settled in Texas. Wife started to build her future business web site. She did an enormous work to research, and collect information and related images. After creating few pages on weebly.com and registering an URL, she turned it on to find errors and make improvements. Her contract with weebly does not include any advertising and search capabilities. Even though her site advertises the future desireable business name, email, fake physical location, and a google free phone – it looked great (especially knowing the fact she did it all alone!) Few weeks later she received first letter from Getty License Compliance Department demanding a payment of nearly $600. The image was some what modified from the original, she made it square and added a frame.
    She wrote a response letter with an apology, explanation regarding a nonexistent business, immediately removed the image, explained how she obtained it, and offered $12 – as a Fare Market Value as a compensation which was rejected by Getty.
    Getty has lowered their demand to near $400, which is still outrageously expansive for a test page and a dream work.
    I personally think someone in Getty Corporation uploads few Right Managed images for some period, tracks quantity of downloads, and waits to “catch” the violators…
    Now, she is overstressed, stopped all the work, deleted whole web-site. I do not recognize her, like some one is sucking life out of her, I am trying to help, but there should be some justice. Getty INC. is destroying entrepreneurship with such practices.
    Sir, would you have an advice for us in this situation?
    Thank you in advance.

    • You should tell your wife not to stress. Just use the form letter from the article, and follow the instructions; that should be sufficient. There is another article on the site as well, that may give you additional tips. http://artlawjournal.com/tips-responding-getty-images-demand-letter/ They will likely contact you one more time but then go away. Of course, I do not know the specifics of your situation but this process works the vast majority of the time. As mentioned, you should make a reasonable offer as you did use the image and there is an infringement. However, you are not required to take Getty’s offer and are certainly allowed to counter-offer.

      Just remember that suing you will cost the company $500 to file and then all the hourly rates for the attorneys. So spending thousands to get $400 is not a good plan for Getty.

      • Hi there,
        Thank you for all the information you have posted. How do we know, even after we pay Getty. that someone else is not going to come forward for more money?
        Best
        Audrey

  • I just beat them. Listen, check the metadata attached to the photo. If it is blank, they can’t prove it’s copyrighted. Therefore you’ve caught them with their pants down. Also note that their corporation is going broke with no cash flow. This is some idiot’s solution to solving their cash flow problem. Is this what America has become?

    • Glad to see you beat them. Congrats! But just so you know, metadata is not required to prove a photo is infringing. There are many other ways, but in particular, Getty uses PicScout which uses digital fingerprinting to verify an image is theirs. It’s very effective, not 100% but very close.

    • 1) Copyright doesn’t require registration. It may not be registered, but the fact that it exists means there is most likely a Copyright attached to it, regardless of what metadata exists or doesn’t exist.

      2) One doesn’t need metadata when they can simply compare the two photos with their eyes. If they look identical, it falls to the defendant to prove that they aren’t. Given that metadata can be edited, I highly doubt “but the metadata is different” will be a viable defense.

  • I’ve received the following. Would you have any recommendations on how to respond?

    1. Your offer of $20.00 is denied.
    2. Attached is the rights holder form for the image in question and our power of attorney.
    3. Settlement amounts are based on the fair market value of a license, taking into consideration usage, placement, and additional information. The settlement is calculated by taking the average cost of licensing, plus a portion of costs incurred in the pursuit of the unlicensed use. Using the image without a license ultimately costs more than properly licensing the image before use.
    4. All other information you requested is confidential and will only be made available in court by our lawyers, but not during an out-of-court settlement.

    • It is hard to say without seeing all the specifics. I have not heard of Getty responding with a rejection that included your specific settlement offer, nor a power of attorney. They are usually more of a form letter on the second response. So this may be a new tactic or possible they believe they have a better case here. It possible that they believe that your use allows them to receive a higher payout. But remember that it will cost them $500 or so just to file the lawsuit and they will not be reimbursed for legal fees unless they have a valid copyright prior to your use. Assuming the use is not one that generated any income, like on a blog or something. You can reiterate your position about the fair market value (as per the article) and ask them to make a legitimate settlement offer. If they respond a third time, then you should see an attorney. Or, if your use is one that generated significant income or the image is one that is so unique that it isn’t easily replaced with other photos, then they may have a better case. I wish I could give you a more concrete strategy but without specifics, and being engaged as you attorney, it is a bit hard to give you definitive advice.

  • Hey Steve,

    Thank you for this information it will hopefully be very useful as I fight Getty. I have one question if possible, I am based in the UK, will mentioning “As noted in Davis v. Gap, Inc., 246 F.3d 152 (2d Cir. N.Y. 2001);” still be valid over here and would they need to be registered with the UK Copyright office rather than the US one?

    Many thanks for your time
    Ben

  • Might anyone have resources for the next step in responding to their response to a letter like this? Their first paragraph:

    “In response, while there are many different product offerings at many different licensing rates within the stock photography industry, the cost of other unrelated Royalty-free content is not relevant to our claim with this Rights-managed image. The demand is based on damages for the unauthorized display of the exact image that have been identified in this case.”

    • Dylana:

      I don’t know the specifics of your letter or image but I would reiterate from the letter above, if you have not already done so, that a proposed licensing fee does not determine copyright infringement damage awards as noted in Davis v. Gap, Inc., 246 F.3d 152 (2d Cir. N.Y. 2001). Offer a reasonable settlement for the infringement and see if they contact you again.

      I would also ask Getty for the copyright registration number for the image. If the image is registered with the U.S. Copyright office prior to your infringement, then statutory damages apply, which is an entirely different matter. If that is the case, please let me know.

  • Thanks so much for posting this. I’m a veterinarian and got one of these letters over an image I inadvertently used in our clinic blog. Your information is hugely helpful.

  • I remember Getty Images in its heyday, when it was the most respected stock image agency. It’s sad to see the company become the next patent troll.

    I’m glad you posted this and the prior piece about the matter. Hopefully it will reach Getty’s would-be victims. I’ll certainly be sharing it through my social media and newsletters.

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