Photographer Carol M. Highsmith has sued Getty Images for copyright infringement, alleging “gross misuse” of 18,755 of her photographs of Americana. She is seeking $1 billion in damages, an unusually high amount for a copyright infringement claim.
Highsmith filed suit July 25 in federal court in New York, alleging that Getty and its subsidiaries have been charging fees for the use of her images without her consent. She has been providing the images to the Library of Congress since 1988 for use by the general public at no charge.
“The defendants have apparently misappropriated Ms. Highsmith’s generous gift to the American people,” she says in her claim. “[They] are not only unlawfully charging licensing fees…but are falsely and fraudulently holding themselves out as the exclusive copyright owner.”
Highsmith says she never abandoned her copyrights to the images. She says the Library of Congress had agreed to notify users of the images that she is the author, and that users must credit her. But Getty has not only distributed her images without her permission, it has failed to give her proper credit, despite the copyright information attached to her images, Highsmith alleges.