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Author Topic: My first Getty letter.  (Read 5118 times)

kimbomc

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My first Getty letter.
« on: August 28, 2008, 07:38:14 PM »
I received my first Getty letter 2 weeks ago. My initial response was to panic, I immediately called them to make them aware that the picture was from a third party website and had no idea the image was Getty’s or that it was copyrighted. The woman I spoke to was called Lauren, she made it very clear that she did not care about the circumstances of where, when and how I had obtained the image, only that I owed Getty images £968 + VAT IRL, which as I am sure, as everyone else has pointed out seems a bit dodgy. I replied that I could not afford this ridiculous amount and she proceeded to offer me a 20% discount if I paid there and then over the telephone, this amount is still too much, and I simply cannot afford to pay this. It got to the stage that she said if I sent a copy of my bank statement they would have a look to see if there was any way they could reduce the involve further. I thought this to be inappropriate, but stupidly sent it anyway via email. They said I would hear back from them the next day. Because it was almost a week later before I had a reply, I thought that I wouldn’t have to pay, that they had accepted my reasons and seen proof that I simply could not afford to pay their invoice. I also had explained to them in the email that my wife and I have struggled for the past year to get our business off the ground, we have twin boys aged 5 years old and we have £100 a month more going out then we have coming in. I thought that was the end of it.
Needless to say it wasn’t, their reply stated that I have until the 3rd September 2008 to pay the discounted rate of £726 Inc IRL VAT or they commence legal proceedings against me. Again I started to get very worried and made my own enquiries to the following:
Copyright lawyer in London and I have to say that he was a really helpful and nice guy.
The Copyright Dept at the Patent office
Also spoke to the small claims court/county court in Nottingham
I will try to explain what each and everyone one of them said as best I can.

Copyright Lawyer:
He made it clear and I have been told this before, it does not matter where you get the image from, if they have copyright for it, it belongs to them. It doesn’t matter if you get it from the man down the road and you did not know that the image was copyrighted, you still will have to pay compensation to the copyright owner. This is never normally more than the fee you would have paid from the agency claiming ownership, although copyright belongs to creator of the image, however should the case be taken to court the onus would be on them to prove copyright ownership. In the UK there is no database of copyrighted images, it does not exist. The best way to get any form of copyright protection is for the individual who created the image to have placed the image in an envelope and addressed it to himself it would then be date stamped in the form of a postmark on the front of the envelope.  The envelope would have had to remain sealed until it was disputed. It would then have to be opened in front of the judge. Obviously the postmarked date would have to pre-date their claim for when they say the image was displayed unlicensed.  This would have proved without doubt that they own the copyright. I was warned to be careful asking for this proof of copyright ownership as it could antagonise them enough to start proceedings.
The lawyer did state that this month alone he has received 10 separate enquiries from different clients all complaining about Getty images and the invoices they have received demanding money for images they had supposedly taken from Getty and not paid the license fees for.  He also stated that if they decide to take us to court the probability would be that we would only have to pay what the image would originally cost but we could also be liable for between 60% and 70% of their legal fees. He said “you have two options, sit tight and hope that it goes away or run the risk that you will be the one who gets taken to court and made an example of” He also suggested that I make them a reasonable offer, if they decline what I feel to be a reasonable offer (what I would have had to pay for the image if I had purchased it from their website) The judge would most certainly look upon the case more favourably for me.
To the best of his knowledge no one has been taken to court yet, but they would e well within their rights to do so. So we all run the risk of court proceedings......unfortunately.


Copyright section of the UK Patent office.

Also confirms that the claimant needs to have evidence that the image originated from them i.e. in an unopened postmarked and dated envelope addressed to them that could be opened in front of the judge.

Nottingham County Court.

They confirmed the following as much as they could, as quoted by them “they are not solicitors”
If the matter is taken to court and its proven that you do need to compensate the copyright owner for an amount to be decided by the judge, this will need to be paid, they believe within 28 days or within the time frame as decided by the court if instalments have been agreed. If you miss a payment they can enforce the order and court appointed bailiffs can attend your property with a court order and seize goods to the value of the order.  If you don’t have goods to the value of the order they can go back to the judge and ask that the amount be deducted from the equity in your home, failing there be enough equity in your home they can ask that your home be sold and the monies due be deducted from the sale. This is mad but true.

I am unfortunately going to have to bow down and make them an offer for the amount that I would have paid for the image had I purchased it from their website, as I feel that although I took the image from what I thought was a free image website and the image was not copyrighted, the creator of the image should be compensated for his work.
If they decline my offer then I will wait for them to initiate court proceedings against me, from what I have read on the forums about these demands I feel that it’s just a matter of time before somebody does get taken to court and we all end up paying for Getty’s legal teams Christmas party.
I have read all over these threads that people would like to get some sort of media attention for the stress Getty images are causing to thousands of us. I for one would be able to participate in any action we could bring to the media’s attention and would like to hear from anyone who would like to do the same. I consider myself relatively computer literate and nearly gave up at first sight of their letter and would have paid up the whole amount if I had had the money. Just think about how many people have had this letter from Getty and simply handed over the cash no questions asked, I really do believe that there must be a case against Getty images here, years ago you could leave your house unlocked without the fear of unlawful entry, obviously over time crime rates have soared and it would be impossible to do this anymore. If your property was broken in to and you hadn’t locked your door, I know for certain my insurance company would not pay out.
Surely Getty should be taking steps to ensure that their images are not taken without proper licensing and they should be water marking the images to let potential users know that the image is copyrighted and that they would need to go through the correct procedure to obtain the image. I also think that Getty should ask you to cease and desist prior to asking compensation, as in my case it was asked at the time of seeking compensation.

Oscar Michelen

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Re: My first Getty letter.
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2008, 09:15:54 AM »
Dear kimbomc:

Thanks so much for your post.  Your UK lawyer has been telling you pretty much what I have been saying here inthe states - that is, that at best Getty may be entitled to the $49 they charge for the picture. But I have a question about two issues - in speaking with another UK Copyright Lawyer, I was informed that under the British Copyright Act,if the infringement was a one-time innocent infringement then no damages apply.  

Secondly, I know that here in the states, we have found that some of these images were placed by the photographers on other sites and made availabel to the public, but the photograpohers either forgot or never told Getty they did so. DId the lawyer ever discuss whether these two issues might change his opinion on owing Getty anything for the image?  

Finally, you can offer Getty the $49, they won't accept it. at least that has been my and my client's experience here in the US. Please keep us posted on your progress and on the above two issues if you can. Thanks again.

kimbomc

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Re: My first Getty letter.
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2008, 01:35:20 PM »
Hi Oscar Michelen ,

thanks for the reply. In answer to the questions you and a few other forums have raised, i must re-iterate that i was told that the copyright belongs automatically to the creator of the work, of course if someone were to threaten to take you to court for infringement it would be up to the claimant to prove legal ownership of any copyright, this was advised by a representative of the UK patent, copyright and trademark office , the best way to this is to place the image/work in an unopened postmarked and dated envelope addressed to them that could be opened in front of the judge. Anybody can call the patent office here in the UK and be told this information. Their telephone number is +44 (0) 1633 813930  

Please see http://www.ipo.gov.uk/copy/c-claim/c-register.htm

This is a link to the UK IPO, it states there that there is no official copyright database and outlines the procedures that a photographer/creator can take to help prove copyright for their work.

As to what it says under the British Copyright Act about ,if the infringement was a one-time innocent infringement then no damages apply, i will call  the copyright lawyer again on Monday to ask about this as its 6.30pm on Friday evening and i will leave my reply as soon as i have one.

I will of course keep you updated with any news i get. Thanks again for great thread....it really has helped:)-D

Oscar Michelen

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Re: My first Getty letter.
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2008, 05:51:35 PM »
No problem:

One last comment. Certainly, once an image is created or a song  or  book is written, the copyright belongs to the author and there is no need to record it anywhere. That applies in the US and the UK.  And what they describe at the UK office regarding the "envelope method" has been called "the poor man's copyright" for some time in the US as well.   We have talked about that in other posts. But if you choose that method in the US you cannot obtain "statutory damages" only your actual damages.  Also, a copyright holder is free to allow public access to the work without claiming the copyright or asking for money for the use of the work.  Some of the photographers who sold their collections or licensed their collections to Getty may have also allowed the same images to be placed on sites  that allow a person to download the image for free. Now Getty may have a claim against the photographer because they probably promised to grant Getty exclusive licensing rights to the image but that means that you did not infringe on that copyright if you got it from the site the photographer placed it on. Anyway, thanks so much for your post and yes , please let us know what the lawyer says on Monday. Have a great weekend.

 

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