Getty Images Letter

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Getty Images Letter

Chances are you got here by searching for Getty Images Letter, which probably means you’ve been targeted by the Getty Images Letter scam (see an example of one at the bottom of this post, this one is to an Irish company, but Getty Images does this all over the world). Firstly, you’re probably terrified about the contents of this letter – but it’s not nearly as bad as it seems and you’ve probably done very little wrong, so relax a little and read on – you’ll be glad you did.

You are not, by a long way, the only person to have received one of these scam Getty Images Letters – they send out thousands of them every month. If you look closely, apart from your company name and address, it’s an extremely generic letter that Getty Images churns out in vast volumes. It’s quite the industry at Getty Images, in fact you could say they pretty much survive on the proceeds of this very dubious practice at this stage. Getty Images is a very large and successful corporate entity with an instantly recognisable name and it didn’t get to earn the billions it does by being nice to people. It recognised very early that individuals’ blogs and small company websites couldn’t afford to pay for images for their sites. With the ease of copying and pasting information on the web, people very often inadvertently use images that Getty Images claim are belong to it. Now there are people that dispute Getty Images’ claims on this, and even some who claim that Getty Images puts its own images on free websites just so that people will use them and fall foul of their threatening letters, but let’s ignore that for now, it’s an argument for another day.

Getty Images Letter – I’ve got one, what should I do?

First and foremost, don’t panic – you’re not in nearly as much trouble as Getty Images would like you to think. This issue is fairly easily solved by someone with the right Intellectual Property (IP)legal experience (don’t go to your own solicitor, unless they specialise in IP law they won’t have a clue what to do, but will still charge you handsomely for the privilege of the visit). It will cost something to sort out, but not nearly as much as Getty Images has looked for from you. Getty Images usually aim for sums from €800 to €2,500 and there is a good reason why. It’s enough to make the recipient think that they have a very large problem but not enough that they can justify hiring legal representation. Very clever and devious ploy on the part of Getty Images – most people just pay them because they are very abusive and the wording of the letters terrifies the recipients. This is just the reaction that Getty Images depends on to keep the Getty Images Letter scam lining its coffers. In fact, as soon as you contact Getty Images the first thing they will do is offer to reduce the amount they claim you owe them by 30% if you agree to pay them immediately. Don’t fall for this nefarious (and borderline illegal) offer. If you truly owed Getty Images what they claimed there is no way they should be able to offer you such a discount, so even if you did owe it, they were overcharging you in their initial threatening missive.

The first thing to do is to remove the image/s in question, if you can’t do this get your web designer to do so – and do it right away. This is pretty easily achieved. If you use blogging software such as WordPress, you should also remove the file from your Media uploads as Getty Images will also be able to find it there and claim that you’ve not removed it.

If Getty Images were operating within the law, as it is supposed to do, its first letter to you should have been what is termed a ‘Cease and Desist’ request, asking you to remove the image from your site. If you complied there’s little or nothing they could do to you. Unfortunately for Getty Images, this course of action makes no money for the corporate behemoth, hence the invention of their Copyright Trolling letters, which makes the company an awful lot of dubiously earned income.

Getty Images Letter – Contact Copyright Infringement

The next step in the process is to contact Copyright Infringement in the UK. This company specialises in drafting replies to the Getty Images Letter which are pretty much guaranteed to put a swift halt to Getty Images communications with you. The total cost of the service is a very reasonable £150 and covers any communication necessary with Getty Images (or their debt collection goons Atradius Credit Insurance and Risk Management). You can find a video of solicitor Liz Ward below, explaining some of what is involved. The company is very professional and everything it does is above board and legal – clients of ours have used their services very successfully in the past and we can highly recommend these services.

Basically, Copyright Infringement will draft a letter on your behalf and send it to Getty Images with a covering letter from its legal practice. Any further communication (if there is any, which there usually is not) is then with Copyright Infringement which is acting as your legal representative. This stops you receiving that incredibly distressing Getty Images Letter which, once initiated, will arrive on your doorstep every month unless you take steps to deal with it.

Copyright Infringement will send Getty Images a letter which outlines that you contest the debt in question. The letter requests that Getty Images sends proof of ownership of the images in question, asks for proof of the infringement that will stand up in court and also requests a breakdown of the image cost and how the amount they have looked for was calculated. All this is couched in legal language aimed squarely at informing Getty Images that it will get nowhere with its request should it ever reach a courtroom. It will never reach court, because that is the last thing that Getty Images wants, it doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on, but you still need to stand up to and respond to the threats to make Getty Images understand that you are aware of your legal rights and will not be bullied into enhancing the profit margins of its shareholders.

That’s it, job done.

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If this post has helped you in any way please do feel free to share it and make sure that others with a similar problem with the very dubious actions of Getty Images get the help they need. There are sharing icons at the bottom of the post.

Getty Images Letter

Update: This post has been on the site for several years with zero interaction or apparent interest from Getty Images. In early 2017 we got a very strange email. The text would suggest that Cabinet Bouchara Avocats (solicitors) did a lot of work and, when it came to getting paid, got their backsides handed to them on a plate by the slightly less than forthcoming Getty Images crew. Incidentally, the letter they refer to never arrived. See communication below:

“Whilst operating as Getty Images’ French legal advisor, we sent you a formal letter dated December 20th 2016, asking you to cease and desist perceived libelous activity on your site. Please disregard our previous letter, it was sent in error and accept our sincerest apologies.

Yours sincerely, Vanessa Bouchara, CABINET BOUCHARA – Avocats

Spécialiste en Droit de la Propriété Intellectuelle, 17, rue du Colisée – 75008 Paris. Tel : +33 (0)1 42 25 42 30 – Fax : +33 (0)1 42 25 42 31

Email : info@cabinetbouchara.com; Website : www.cabinetbouchara.com.”

4 Comments:

  1. legaltrolls

    Getty Images Extortion Letter – Copyright Trolls

    If you are reading this, you are just one of the thousands (if not millions) of individuals or owners of small businesses who have been receiving extortion letter for using an image off internet which a company called Getty Images claims is theirs. They are misusing (and misinterpreting) the copyright law to make large amounts of money (in millions of Dollars), by employing greedy attorneys and legally abusive collection tactics i.e. letters, phone calls, etc. A little search over internet will reveal thousands of other links which are complaining about such extortion practices of companies like Getty Images. It is surprising that neither the Government, nor Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken serious note of it to stop it. There is a pending legislation in the Congress against such copyright trolls and you are highly encouraged to speak to your local Congressman to pass it as soon as possible.

    Getty Images is an American Company (part of a Carlyl Group based in Seattle, Washington) operated by Mark Getty and Jonathan Kleinand. It owns hundreds of websites and operates with different names online i.e. Allsport, Word View, Liaison Agency, Newsmakers, Online USA, Hulton Press Library, Picture Post, Hulton Deutsch, Hulton Getty, Keystone Collection, EyeWire, Energy Film Library, Archive Photos of New York, Image Bank, Hulton Archive, Archive Photos, Pictorial Parade, Frederick Lewis Stock Photos, image.net, MediaVast, WireImage, FilmMagic, Contour Photos, Master Delegates, Isifa Image Service, Laura Ronchi, Jupitermedia, Jupiterimages, stock.xchng, StockXpert, Redferns Music Picture Library, PhotoDisc, Tony Stone Images, Hellman & Friedman (H&F), Flickr or iStockphoto. They deliberately populate the internet with their images, enticing people to get them off their websites for FREE by using keywords i.e. Royalty Free Images, Free photos, License free photos, etc. And then they use a software tool to spider all over internet, searching for their images, taking screenshots and sending them over to their attorneys who in turn combine all of that as “EVIDENCE” to scare and hound naive individuals and small business owners.

    The best rule of thumb is to IGNORE such a non-sense. If you will speak to an attorney, that’s how they make money and they will want you to take it seriously. No court of law will punish you for doing an innocent mistake and removing/replacing the image immediately. If you are really that much interested in giving Getty Images some hard time via “out-of-court” settlement which they are desperately seeking (since they live off such activities), here are some of the questions that you’d want to ask Getty Images or their attorneys. In response they will either deny your request for further information (which is a clear proof they can’t take you to the court) or will offer you a more negotiated settlement. In either case, you can simply issue a “CEASE AND DESIST” request from contacting you any further. If they don’t stop hounding you, then you can start collecting all of the relevant evidence of their illegal practices and take them to the local civil court (using the legal aid help from local bars). Irrespective of what other attorneys tell you or whatever you hear from internet forums, IGNORING is the best, easiest and the most effective rule in addition to talking to your local Congressman about it. So, here are the questions you need to ask Getty Images whenever you decide to respond (provided you really have to get it out of your system);

    1. How did you come to know about my website using your images specially things like;

    a) The time and date you found out
    b) The procedure you used to identify your images on my website
    c) The legal authority you used to track and take a snapshot of my website without my prior permission.

    2. The ownership of the images including but not limited to;

    a) Name, Address and other contact information of the photographer who originally sold it to you or has some sort of contract with you (the copy of the contract). Chain of title of the image.
    b) Your images hosting servers, data center and IP addresses host the servers where those images reside
    c) What sort of image copyright is displayed on your images which identify it as your own?
    d) The registration and certification of these images with US Government Patent or Trademark office or any other Government database
    e) Sales data of the owners and purchasers of these images along with their IP Addresses and website addresses, owners and their contact information.

    3. What is the average price of these images to host for an hour, a day, a month or indefinitely? And how did you calculate the price of $2,000 in my particular case? And since I never purchased any image from you or have any intention of ever doing so, how did you presume that I’d pay you ANY price or cost you will ask? If you have any fair market value of images statistics or comparison with other images providers, kindly present it along with your claim. Further, on what basis will you continue to raise the price next month or next year if I decide to not to give you a single dime?

    4. And finally, instead of sending me a simple and a respectful “cease and desist” request, how come you sent such presumptive demand letters that it was all an intentional damage caused to you? If the images are hosted on anybody’s website as FREE and you are unable to secure your own images via some sort of watermark or security measures, how come you fault the end users online who innocently downloaded online from websites who might be the actual culprits after whom you should pursue?

    If they don’t stop hounding you (which they NEVER ever will), here’s what you need to write to them and post it via certified mail;

    To Whom It May Concern,

    According to Title 17, §501, of the United States Copyright Office, concerning the prosecution of alleged damages from copyright infringement in section (b) defined below, I (we) reject your claim for damages.

    § 501. Infringement of copyright
    (b) The legal or beneficial owner of an exclusive right under a copyright is entitled, subject to the requirements of section 411, to institute an action for any infringement of that particular right committed while he or she is the owner of it. The court may require such owner to serve written notice of the action with a copy of the complaint upon any person shown, by the records of the Copyright Office or otherwise, to have or claim an interest in the copyright, and shall require that such notice be served upon any person whose interest is likely to be affected by a decision in the case. The court may require the joinder, and shall permit the intervention, of any person having or claiming an interest in the copyright.

    Getty Images has, to date, failed to produce an official notarized copy of the alleged Copyright Certificate issued by the United States Copyright Office, Washington D.C. for the image(s) appearing in your black and white photocopy which you have produced as so-called “evidence” of copyright ownership. A search of the United States Copyright Department Public Database shows no record that ether Getty Images or its agent(s), representative(s) or client(s) hold a valid Copyright for said photocopied image(s). Therefore, in accordance with Title 17, §501(b), you have no legal basis to file suit or seek legitimate damages for copyright infringement.

    You are hereby instructed to CEASE AND DESIST ALL HARASSMENT by your agent(s) and/or your representatives via written correspondence, E-mail, and/or attempted telephone contact. Should you continue to pursue any further attempts at extortion for payment of funds by misrepresenting yourself as a licensed attorney, or by using the term “copyright” when in fact, you nor your agent(s) hold any valid copyright certificate issued by the United States Copyright Office, we shall refer this matter to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office directing a formal Complaint to the attention of District Attorney Dan Satterberg. Should you continue to misrepresent that you have filed a Complaint in Seattle Superior Court by using terms such as, but not limited to, “Getty Images v. John Doe” or refer to your extortion attempt using the term “Case No:” containing a fictional Court Docket number, we will file a formal Complaint with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Washington State Bar Association. Should you continue to attempt to contact me (us) for the express purpose of fictitious debt collection, I (we) will immediately file a Complaint with the FTC for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Act.

    Govern yourself accordingly,

    Date:

    You will be surprised to know that there are many lawyers and a large number of legal assistants who are on the payroll of Getty Images, actively participating in the comments sections of Internet Forums or Discussion groups on the same topic. Unfortunately, there are those black sheep amongst the community of the attorneys who have started online help programs for such victims to make money off of these extortion letter by coming off as if helping the victims. Instead of helping them for free, they are charging them another $200 to $500 for merely writing a letter to the Getty Images. This is a clear war between the power of money Vs. the power of people. Let’s show them who is the winner!

    To avoid using any such copyright trolls’ websites, here are sources for FREE images. Pls. check each image’s license for a special word like “CC0” or Creative Commons 0 which pretty much means no rights reserved. On Google Images search , set ADVANCED SEARCH for FREE FOR COMMERCIAL USE. Other sites of free images include pixabay.com, freepixels.com (be careful of the sponsored images on top of the search results from shutterstock), imageafter.com (do not remove their copyright notice in the image which is too tiny for anyone to notice) and imagebase.net.

    If you need any further (and FREE) assistance, please contact your Congressman, local legal aid or chamber of commerce representatives for further assistance. Unless you will register your complaint with a Government-authorized representative (as mentioned above), the copyright trolls such as Getty Images will continue to not only hound you but many thousands of others and living off their abuse of the copyright law.

    And lastly, please don’t let these trolls stop you from doing what you love doing i.e. innovating, creating and succeeding. Even though there are sick minds i.e. Getty Images, there is more good in this world than Evil. And always remember, the strength of evil lies into scaring you from a hoax.

    Salam! (peace)

  2. I would still stand by our original mention of Copyright Infringement in the UK. Excellent service, some of our clients have used them and there has never been further communication from either Getty or Atradius.

  3. Getty UK falls into all sorts of problems with their letter. Things to check
    1 – Are they claiming Irish VAT 21% on an English account?
    2 – Is there a business registration on the bottom of the letter and which country does it belong to.
    3 – They can only charge you the value of the image, they can not enforce 700 dollars on a 49 dollar image
    4 – They can send a threatening letter, but they should first issue a take down notice and then an invoice.

    That’s what I applied and they soon stopped. I’m not sure how much things have changed in 5 years. But the vagaries of internet law make it very difficult for them to prosecute.

  4. Henry jaebber

    Where is the government regulator to stand up and be strong for all affected by this scam?

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