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Author Topic: Getty extortion letter ruined my memorial day  (Read 5299 times)

dalbeattie

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Getty extortion letter ruined my memorial day
« on: May 30, 2017, 08:07:48 PM »
Hello All,

First I'd like to mention how glad I am that I found this forum and was happy to contribute to a very worthwhile cause. I had no idea this kind of stuff was going on.

I guess I am marked to become another notch on Getty's belt. I received an image license validation email the week before memorial day weekend saying 'Our goal in contacting you is to identify an active license for this use, if one exists. If you do not have an active license for the use of this imagery, we request that you remove the imagery from your website and contact us'. I was politely given 14 days to contact them. Stupidly I called to find out what it was all about. Well of course this tipped them off that I now was in receipt of their correspondence.  The conversation was almost immediately followed by another not so polite email demanding $980 as a settlement for copyright infringement with a gracious offer discounting subscription to their iStockphoto website or or iStock credits. It specified payment was due by June 1st (with mem. day holiday weekend in between of course). I have not yet received the snail mail version.

Here's my story - Back in 2005 I hired a web developer to put together a website for my consulting business. She used the image in question on one of the pages in almost a thumbnail size. Irritatingly, shortly after the website was launched it became obsolete and was never really used for it's original business purpose. Over the years I kept it hosted cheaply, always intending to revisit it and refashion it to my new purpose, but I never got around to it. I've now pulled the website down completely. I've contacted the original web designer and she is trying to find some history on the image but tells me she purchased many images from many websites over the years and doesn't keep records back that far.

I looked up the image on the Getty website and it shows a Rights Managed license and credits a specific graphic artist. I did a Visual Materials lookup on cocatalog.loc.gov with every type of search I could think of - by the artist name, image title etc. but could not find a direct reference to this image. Has anyone had success with this ? For course when searching for Getty, numerous entries show up but it's really difficult to locate a specific image because it seems like they have a way of mass registering images with photodiscs obviously containing many entries. Not finding the copyright registration is not necessarily an indication that the image isn’t registered, but I’m not even sure knowing this information will really help in the long run.
I'm hoping the web designer will come up with some proof of purchase but I'm not sure whether to wait for the actual mailed letter or engage in an e-mail dialog. I'm reluctant to start the e-mail dialog but the settlement date they've given is June 1st.

I’m going to keep reading through all your posts, but any recommendations in the meantime ?

stinger

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Re: Getty extortion letter ruined my memorial day
« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2017, 09:25:58 AM »
Screw the settlement date.  That's an arbitrary number designed by them to increase their cash flow.

My memory, and experience with Getty, back in that time frame, says that they had lots of images on their Royalty Free Images page that later found their way to the Rights Managed Page.

For a period of time, the Royalty Free Images page looked totally free.  You had to dig really deep to find a price for an image.  If your web page designer was new to this type of work (like mine at the time), they may not have known to go digging for a price.  They may have thought the images were free for the taking.

My take is that Getty was complicit in this.  As a business, I feel it is incumbent upon them to let people know that "Royalty Free" still requires a license and payment.  This was a time when Getty's business was changing a lot, as were their web sites.

When they tried to pursue my firm, through a law firm, for Copyright Infringement on about 50 images, I went back to the wayback machine web site to get a copy of how their Royalty Free Images page looked when my web developer found the images in question.  But Getty had covered their tracks.  They had instructed the wayback machine web site NOT to keep copies of those pages.  Now why would they do that?

We could only speculate.  It could be a business plan type honeypot trap.  It could have been that they realized that they were complicit in a lot of misunderstandings and decided to destroy the evidence and take advantage of the situation.  It could be any number of things because lots of things have changed since then.  Getty ownership has turned over multiple times.  That gives them plausible deniability.  Employee turnover is pretty good as well in a company with their reputation.  It could just be that they make more money on the threat of lawsuits than on actually licensing images.  It sounded and felt like extortion to me, but what do I know.

I chose to fight.  I spent a lot of time on it, but I was not going to be taken advantage of.  You can find my specific story on this site.  I detailed it after my Statute of Limitations had passed.  How you choose to handle your specific situation is up to you.  I think it is wrong that they can ask you to produce a license you may or may not have gotten 12 years ago.  The IRS does not even expect people to keep records that long.

Whatever you choose to do, I don't think they will get legal over one image unless it's a very special kind of valuable image and they know you have deep pockets.  I really don't think they have their act together as a corporation that far back.  Way too much can be exposed about them in a public hearing.

Good luck with your fight and keep educating yourself on this site.  There is lots of valuable information.  Tactics and players have changed over the years.  The one thing that is constant is that Getty sends out a lot of copyright infringement letters threatening legal action and files very few cases.

Matthew Chan

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Re: Getty extortion letter ruined my memorial day
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2017, 04:48:12 PM »
My comments inline...

Screw the settlement date.  That's an arbitrary number designed by them to increase their cash flow.

Yes, artificial and arbitrary date.

My take is that Getty was complicit in this.  As a business, I feel it is incumbent upon them to let people know that "Royalty Free" still requires a license and payment.  This was a time when Getty's business was changing a lot, as were their web sites.

That is true.  Getty has been through LOTS of changes. They were once a public company until around 2008 then they went private. And have continued to do financial restructuring as well as management changes and quite a bit of employee turnover.

I chose to fight.  I spent a lot of time on it, but I was not going to be taken advantage of.  You can find my specific story on this site.  I detailed it after my Statute of Limitations had passed. 

We can't seem to get rid of Stinger. He still wants to hang out with us and help people!  :-)

How you choose to handle your specific situation is up to you.  I think it is wrong that they can ask you to produce a license you may or may not have gotten 12 years ago.  The IRS does not even expect people to keep records that long.

Some good points here.

Good luck with your fight and keep educating yourself on this site.  There is lots of valuable information.  Tactics and players have changed over the years.  The one thing that is constant is that Getty sends out a lot of copyright infringement letters threatening legal action and files very few cases.

Agreed. Or for people who don't want to research so hard, enroll in the 30-minute ELI Phone Support Program and I will lay it out for people!
I'm a non-lawyer but not legally ignorant either. Under the 1st Amendment, I have the right to post facts & opinions using rhetorical hyperbole, colloquialisms, metaphors, parody, snark, or epithets. Under Section 230 of CDA, I'm only responsible for posts I write, not what others write.

Figaro14

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Re: Getty extortion letter ruined my memorial day
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2017, 09:57:23 AM »
I still continue to get upset when I get either an email or physical letter from GettyImages.  But then I step back and remind myself that they have little ground to stand on.   When they targeted me for one tiny image that appeared only for a week or so on my teaching webpage, an image I got from the image gallery at Vistaprint, I became very curious about how many images Getty claims to hold the rights to that other companies also offer users for free.  I found literally dozens of images that were an exact match to Gettyimages.  When you went to Getty's site, they were charging royalties of anywhere from $500 - $1000 for a single image.  The exact image was variable from other websites for free.   I sent my extortion letter to Vistaprint and they provided me with a letter stating they held the rights to the images in their gallery.   I think that in many cases, Getty just searches for the images, assumes you took it from them, and then tries to hit you up for the royalty fee.    I made a list of all the images I found in the Vistaprint gallery that also matched images that Getty had.  I don't expect to have to actually go to court, but if I get any sort of attorney letter from them, I will simply forward this to them.   In my case, I did nothing wrong.  I'm a Vistaprint web subscriber, and just used images that are part of Vistaprint's web-builder program.   I will bet that Getty has done the same to thousands of other people.  I tried reasoning with Getty.  I tried forwarding my info to Getty.  I even offered a nominal payment just to stop the harassment.   None of it works.  My advice is to just ignore them.  I would take down any images in question from your page just to be safe even if you know you got the image "legally."  But unless they turn matters over to an attorney, any communications with Getty seems to be fruitless.  I'm not a legal expert.  Just another victim of Getty's extortion scheme. 

clist

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Re: Getty extortion letter ruined my memorial day
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2017, 12:44:18 PM »
I don't expect to have to actually go to court, but if I get any sort of attorney letter from them, I will simply forward this to them. 

Do you think this is wise?

I've seen quite a few people on the site make statements similar to this but I think this may not be the right way to go.

I mean, think about it, why would you show the opposition your cards?

Trying to reason with (or talk to) the opposing lawyer just sounds like a bad idea to me.

I'm pretty sure if you talked to an attorney they'd probably advise you to have minimal (if any) direct contact with them.

Or am I wrong here?
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kingkendall

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Re: Getty extortion letter ruined my memorial day
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2017, 02:00:04 PM »
Yes, I think @Figaro14 is being very wise.  He's tried to explain that he's not in the wrong.  I think he's got a very strong case.  Copyright trolls are not about legality.  They're about getting cash from low hnanging fruit (people who freak out, scared to death of getting sued so the pay up).  That's the whole business model.  I say the less contact the better.  Leave the copyright troll in the dark not knowing what you got in your defense.  Don't give them them the satifaction of being fearful.  Keep records of every single commuinication, keep your power dry.     

Figaro14

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Re: Getty extortion letter ruined my memorial day
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2017, 04:53:19 PM »
I guess you could completely ignore them from the get-go also.  It hard to say really.  You could be right!   What upset me was that I didn't just get an email from them, I got a physical letter in the mail.  I knew nothing of the Getty extortion when I replied to them, and I assumed I was dealing with reasonable people.  I also assumed that since I wasn't a business or corporation, but just a teacher with a webpage, and let them know that the image in question was no on the website any longer, and also where it originally came from, I'd be fine.  In retrospect, would it have been better to have just ignored them and not to reply?  I have no idea?  I do know that in part because I along with thousands of other people have filed complaints against GettyImages with the BBB, they have a F (Yes, F!) rating.  I also filed a complaint against them with the Washington State Attorney General's Office for what its worth.   But now I don't communicate with GettyImages anymore.  I've really done all that I can to reason with them, so any further communication would be pointless.  I would add that had I only gotten an email from them and not a physical letter, I probably would have not replied to them at all. 

clist

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Re: Getty extortion letter ruined my memorial day
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2017, 04:59:01 PM »
I guess you could completely ignore them from the get-go also.  It hard to say really.  You could be right!   What upset me was that I didn't just get an email from them, I got a physical letter in the mail.  I knew nothing of the Getty extortion when I replied to them, and I assumed I was dealing with reasonable people.  I also assumed that since I wasn't a business or corporation, but just a teacher with a webpage, and let them know that the image in question was no on the website any longer, and also where it originally came from, I'd be fine.  In retrospect, would it have been better to have just ignored them and not to reply?  I have no idea?  I do know that in part because I along with thousands of other people have filed complaints against GettyImages with the BBB, they have a F (Yes, F!) rating.  I also filed a complaint against them with the Washington State Attorney General's Office for what its worth.   But now I don't communicate with GettyImages anymore.  I've really done all that I can to reason with them, so any further communication would be pointless.  I would add that had I only gotten an email from them and not a physical letter, I probably would have not replied to them at all.

I hear you.

If you were dealing with ethical people...well, you probably wouldn't be on this forum!  ;)

Let me ask you this:

Was your contact info available on your website?

Knowledge isn't free - you have to pay attention.

kingkendall

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Re: Getty extortion letter ruined my memorial day
« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2017, 10:44:03 AM »
@Figaro14

We all gain from each other's experience.  And what you contributed os worth it's weight in gold for the people who strugle with the idea of contacting the copyright troll or not contacting.  You tried like a Gentlemen but got no where because you were dealing with snakes.  That's a good lesson and I want to thank you for it.  I'm in the same boat as you,  It's not fun.  But, I refuse to let scoundrels rob me of my joy.

Matthew Chan

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Re: Getty extortion letter ruined my memorial day
« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2017, 05:13:00 PM »
Personally, if there are any mitigating issues or circumstance that will help your situation, I think it is a person's best interest to inform the other party. It doesn't have to be an elaborate communication. In the case of the Vistaprint issue, there is no doubt I would have recommended informing them of that situation so you have it on the record.

People don't quite get that lawsuits from big companies can potentially boomerang.  The lower level clerks may not know any better and try to push to get payment from people but I promise you the higher level people are much smarter about these things.  The higher-ups at Getty are no dummies, nor are their lawyers. They are not likely to file dumb lawsuits especially if they were informed in writing that the image came from Vistaprint.

The peons can rattle their cage all they want but they are not the ones who have to take responsibility for any lawsuit action.  And trivial lawsuits have a way of hitting them write back in the face given Getty's very high profile.

Stop trying to convince the peons.  You have done your part. Let it rest. If they are determined to file a foolish lawsuit, there is nothing you can do anyway.
I'm a non-lawyer but not legally ignorant either. Under the 1st Amendment, I have the right to post facts & opinions using rhetorical hyperbole, colloquialisms, metaphors, parody, snark, or epithets. Under Section 230 of CDA, I'm only responsible for posts I write, not what others write.

Figaro14

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Re: Getty extortion letter ruined my memorial day
« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2017, 05:54:35 PM »
In answer to Clist's question, yes, my full contact info was on my website including home address and telephone number.   When I first built my site, I was told by an acquaintance who worked for Microsoft that websites had to have a physical address on them somewhere.   That rule may only apply to businesses, but I'm not really sure.  But if you aren't a business, it might be a good idea to remove your physical address.  It would certainly make it harder for this sort of situation to occur!   Maybe someone else on here knows the "legal" requirements regarding having addresses on webpages? 

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Re: Getty extortion letter ruined my memorial day
« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2017, 07:30:08 PM »
That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. There is no rule I have ever heard (business or otherwise) that you have to list any kind of physical address on your website. There are many people who legally and anonymously operate their websites. There are governmental reporting requirements but they do not include what you list on your websites.

Advertising your physical address unnecessarily is unwise unless you are a store-front type of business. But even then, I can think of many situations where a storefront business might not want to list their physical address.

And honestly, most corporate employees have no clue what is like to be a "street entrepreneur." Most would be dead in the water if they didn't have some employer to hire them and put them on salary.

When I first built my site, I was told by an acquaintance who worked for Microsoft that websites had to have a physical address on them somewhere.   That rule may only apply to businesses, but I'm not really sure.  But if you aren't a business, it might be a good idea to remove your physical address.  It would certainly make it harder for this sort of situation to occur!   Maybe someone else on here knows the "legal" requirements regarding having addresses on webpages?
I'm a non-lawyer but not legally ignorant either. Under the 1st Amendment, I have the right to post facts & opinions using rhetorical hyperbole, colloquialisms, metaphors, parody, snark, or epithets. Under Section 230 of CDA, I'm only responsible for posts I write, not what others write.

clist

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Re: Getty extortion letter ruined my memorial day
« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2017, 12:44:19 AM »
In answer to Clist's question, yes, my full contact info was on my website including home address and telephone number.   When I first built my site, I was told by an acquaintance who worked for Microsoft that websites had to have a physical address on them somewhere.   That rule may only apply to businesses, but I'm not really sure.  But if you aren't a business, it might be a good idea to remove your physical address.  It would certainly make it harder for this sort of situation to occur!   Maybe someone else on here knows the "legal" requirements regarding having addresses on webpages?

This is exactly why you have received an email and a letter via mail.

If there was no contact info on your site, $5 says they wouldn't have cared to pursue you. But since you were low hanging fruit - you gave them an easy opportunity. To my general understanding, once the trolls have to do some work (eg:spend money) to hunt you down the extortion scheme loses its zest.

Regarding having your info on your site: I believe if you have ads (google ads for example) you are required (in their TOS) to have a privacy policy containing a physical mailing address. Aside from that (and having a physical business) I don't believe you need to having any mailing info on your site.
Knowledge isn't free - you have to pay attention.

kingkendall

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Re: Getty extortion letter ruined my memorial day
« Reply #13 on: June 29, 2017, 10:32:47 AM »
But even Figaro14 didn't list his physical address on his website copyright trolls still get the info via ISPs who are quick to give up the info.  That's what the majority of them do in the first place.  But, we all live and learn.  I took all my personal bio off of Facebook.  Remember when everyone put everything on there?  Where they work, what college and highschool they graduated from?  I always thought thst was nuts. 

 

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