I belong to an online feedback group for Choice magazine, via which it is possible to pose questions and generally interact with others who have concerns relevant to Choice reviews and/or future investigations.
One of my fellow members there has posted the following, which is of interest to us as photographers. Does anyone have any advice for her ??
Here is her post .......
Getty Images - Extortionist Letter and Predatory Business Practices
I received a letter, reminder, emails and phone calls from Getty Images via Dun and Bradstreet in relation to a photo on my website - a couple of months ago - and have been struggling ever since. Furthermore, a review of the internet shows that many people are being affected by Getty Images almost extortionist practices ....
However, you would think that I have a strong case. To avoid any of these types of actions, when I was developing my website in 2011 - I purchased a RF (or Royalty Free) copy of the image in question from another reputable (non Getty owned) stock photo website. The terms of a RF image allows me to use a small version of the image on a website.
Image my surprise when I received a letter from Getty Images claiming that I owe them $800 for this image. Mind you the photo would have cost me about $10 and the same photo today would cost around $15 to $20. The original letter of demand from Getty clearly stated that if the receiver (me) thinks there is an error, the receiver should simply send Getty a copy of the Proof of Licence. Fortunately, stock photo sites like the one I used keep your account records for years. So I downloaded it and emailed Getty a copy of the Proof of Licence and thought that would be the end of it.
Oh no ... Getty claimed they had exclusive rights to the image and as others have noted before me ... Getty's main concern was not one of "willful copyright infringement" - it was a matter of making sure that the photographer (represented by Getty) receives their due royalties......
My next tactic was to demand that Getty provide proof of exclusive rights as has been suggested and tried by other people on the internet. Of course, Getty responded with that they had no legal obligation to disclose private contracts or arrangements with their photographers to me ... and of course, settlement still stood at $800.
On one of their emails to me, Getty stated
"Please note that Getty Images are not pursuing this as a matter of willful or intentional infringement. This is simply a matter of Getty Images wanting to pay its represented photographer their due royalties. Once Getty Images have achieved this, Getty Images are prepared to close the matter and take it no further"
I was so polite and confused .... I had no other option than to contact the photographer and ask him specifically if Getty had exclusive rights to the image in question. The photographer wrote back to me immediately. He was horrified and very concerned. He told me that yes Getty did have exclusive rights to this one photo. Since Getty had bought out other photography sites, such as, Lonely Planet - some of the ID numbers on his photographs had changed --- and he said that in an ID number mix up the image was still available on other sites because of his error.
The photographer told me that he spent time taking the image down from the other websites in order to correct his mistake. However, he was not happy with Getty. He told me to simply tell Getty to refer the matter to him .... but that is not any easy thing to do .... To help me sort out my problem, he then checked the date of his contract with Getty and told me that he signed up in 2012 - a year after I purchased and obtained the licence from the other stock photo website. In other words, when I paid for the licence for the photo --- Getty did not have exclusive access to it. And the photographer did receive his due royalties from the other stock photo website in 2011.
I passed on this information to Getty .... and I am still waiting on a reply. I even tried to call them today and instead of returning my phone call, I received an email saying that Getty is reviewing my case and will get back to me.
I have a strong case and they still would not back down. In Getty's terms, I am guilty, guilty, guilty and they are the reputable ones who know that I am guilty. There has been no room for anything else in my correspondence with them.
Maybe now that I have contacted the photographer (their client) it might change, who knows. What I do know is that the photographer is NOT happy with the way people like us are being treated by Getty.
I believe that Getty Images goes after small business owners who don’t have the legal resources to fight and continually bully them for using images for which Getty may, or may not, own a copyright. I believe, Getty is a predatory company with bad morals and I will never use them or any of their stock photo websites (eg iStock, Shutterstock, Thinkstock). Getty targets vulnerable people who need to be protected from their predatory business practices.
Has anybody had a successful resolution?