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Getty Images Copyright Extortion


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#1 loftus

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 04:23 AM

I know copyright is a sensitive issue on this forum, but I think there is another side to the coin, something I call copyright extortion. I have recently received a letter demanding $1500 from Getty Images for a nondescript, very poor quality image of food that one of my employees may have posted in a blog. I can't confirm for sure that we posted it but nevertheless it is no longer there. As a photographer, I am well aware of, and sympathetic to, copyright issues, however $1500 for a 2x2 low resolution, poor quality, and nondescript image with no clear copyright labeling, is extortion. Shame on you Getty Images.

 


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#2 Drew

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 12:46 PM

Typical strategy.  Start high and negotiate down.  This isn't legal advice but if you can't confirm it, the only way they can is to have a copy of the blog post.  There are ways to argue round it.


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#3 Kelpfish

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 01:40 PM

They do this all the time, hoping that because of their size people will just pay. 

 

Let me guess, they didn't even send you a DMCA letter, right? They usually sort of bypass that or add it to the letter and then say, "by the way you owe us $1500".

 

Here's some info that might help. 

http://www.extortion...tortion-letter/

 

Joe


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#4 Paul Kay

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 12:09 AM

however $1500 for a 2x2 low resolution, poor quality, and nondescript image with no clear copyright labeling, is extortion.

Agreed, however, just to play devil's advocate, what would you pay and how? (Disclaimer: I'm with Getty who found one of my photos on my website and issued a similar letter - obviosly withdrawn when I explained - so I do know the situation). The problem is, I suppose, that people post copyrighted issues all the time. Asking for a small amount would probably illicit no response either, so what should be done?


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#5 Kelpfish

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 04:58 AM

Agreed, however, just to play devil's advocate, what would you pay and how? (Disclaimer: I'm with Getty who found one of my photos on my website and issued a similar letter - obviosly withdrawn when I explained - so I do know the situation). The problem is, I suppose, that people post copyrighted issues all the time. Asking for a small amount would probably illicit no response either, so what should be done?

Step #1: Getty should send a DMCA

Step #2: If the image isn't taken down per the DMCA then Getty looks at whether the image is actually copyrighted with the US copyright office. A judge would likely weight damages based on whether the image was formally copyrighted or not.

 

Getty uses technology to sniff images, find matches and then their attorneys (probably a puppy mill of them) turn and burn these letters.  I am a stock photographer and I read about this all the time in my stock forums.

 

To avoid this in the future you should use sites like graphicleftovers.com to purchase images.  There are other like Shutterstock and Dreamstime who offer subscription packages but you have to buy in bulk.  At Graphicleftovers you can buy one image at a time and pay by file size, usually only a couple of bucks.  Save the receipt, and you are protected as long as you use the image within the licensing terms.

 

I would recommend to anyone NOT to snag images off the Internet and use them in any way.  Use one of the Pay-go sites as I stated above.

 

Joe


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#6 decosnapper

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 08:44 AM

Sending out a DMCA takes time and does nothing to help ensure the creator gets paid.

 

This is why I don't bother with them, and can understand why Getty does likewise.

 

Any business is in it for the shareholder return. Wasting time on DMCA is a worthless activity that returns nothing to the shareholders...if any time is to be invested then is it not better to spend the time registering images with the USCO? Damages then rise to five or six figures or more - look for the Morel case.


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#7 Kelpfish

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 10:20 AM

Sending out a DMCA takes time and does nothing to help ensure the creator gets paid.

 

This is why I don't bother with them, and can understand why Getty does likewise.

 

Any business is in it for the shareholder return. Wasting time on DMCA is a worthless activity that returns nothing to the shareholders...if any time is to be invested then is it not better to spend the time registering images with the USCO? Damages then rise to five or six figures or more - look for the Morel case.

So robo billing is the solution to maximize shareholder value? I am telling you what the legal steps are.  the fact that you don't care about that isn't pertinent to this discussion. What is pertinent is sending out a DMCA and that is what any level headed attorney would recommend. Getty, as already mentioned above, sends these notices to people who are legit.  The are merely hoping that people will pay up, even the ones who own the actual images, 

 

Don't get me wrong.  I in no way buy into hijacking images.  I am in the stock business myself and make a good chunk of my income from it.  I just don't care for the way Getty does these extortion letters because many of them are completely without merit....and that's how you build shareholder value? How about being an ethical company? How about not selling my copyrights to Google as they've recently done to hundreds of contributors.  Getty in my opinion is nothing more than the scum bags of the photo industry.


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#8 loftus

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 02:28 PM

I have no problem with paying a fee; even if this whole thing was inadvertent etc - asking for a fair fee and even demanding it is OK with me - my bad, but $1500 for this low res crappy image that looks like it was taken with an iphone with vaseline on the lens is absurd. Simply extortion!


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#9 decosnapper

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Posted 11 August 2013 - 12:18 AM

 

What is pertinent is sending out a DMCA

 

 

I am still at a loss to understand how sending a DMCA would result in someone being paid? 

 

 

 asking for a fair fee and even demanding it is OK with me

 

 

As I think we all realise, the time to negotiate a fair fee is before publication. Both parties can reach an equitable agreement as to what a fair fee is, or decline to buy/sell. Its not the same situation if the publisher has already published...publication can't be undone and benefit of use - no matter how insignificant it may seem - has already been realised.

 

 

$1500 for this low res crappy image

 

Copyright makes no judgement on quality, content, composition or indeed the camera used. Every image is (and should be) treated equally. At the time, the publisher deemed the image worthy of their needs, so I think the photographer may well take a differing view to the valuation of the image.


Edited by decosnapper, 11 August 2013 - 12:30 AM.

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#10 Paul Kay

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Posted 11 August 2013 - 08:57 AM

I am telling you what the legal steps are.

How about being an ethical company?

Getty in my opinion is nothing more than the scum bags of the photo industry.

Ummm. The legal steps do vary depending on where you are.

Sadly ethics and business are onften in coflict.

Getty are successful because they service customer demand - like it or not.

 

I'm with Getty after several takeovers and I'm still hovering about supplying more material myself. Not doing so will have an impact on sales but thent as you say there are ethics involved.


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#11 Drew

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Posted 11 August 2013 - 11:31 PM

It's all part of the negotiation, Jeff. If you do this right, you'll pay maybe $200 bucks. 
I should add that when a big firm uses your image without your permission inadvertently, they are just as outraged when you bill them and threaten legal action! :)  


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#12 loftus

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 03:34 PM

It's all part of the negotiation, Jeff. If you do this right, you'll pay maybe $200 bucks. 
I should add that when a big firm uses your image without your permission inadvertently, they are just as outraged when you bill them and threaten legal action! :)

So do I just offer them $200?


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#13 loftus

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 04:34 PM

So here is why this is just BS extortion. If one goes on the Getty site and chooses a similar image (but much better quality and higher res than the one my staff used inadvertently) the cost is $150. So why not just ask, or even demand $150? For them to simply demand 10x what their standard asking price would be is extortion. As I said, this is what pisses me off, not them simply asking to be paid their standard fee. And somehow justifying it as maintaining shareholder value is also BS.


Edited by loftus, 12 August 2013 - 04:35 PM.

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#14 Moose

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 06:28 PM

The problem is that the damage has already been done, the image has been used without permission.

If someone opened your front door, took your car keys and proceeded to use your car to move some furniture, would you be happy enough to let it slide for the price of the fuel used? In fact, the guy who borrowed it even states he's going to pay less than that, because there are other cars out there requiring less fuel for the same distance driven.

The staff that tracks down stolen images, the software developers who build the technology to identify the images and the lawyers who send the letters all need to be paid, if these costs aren't covered by the people stealing images it needs to be added to the price paid by paying customers, and I'm sure they feel that they're paying quite enough already.

#15 decosnapper

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 12:18 AM

So here is why this is just BS extortion. If one goes on the Getty site and chooses a similar image (but much better quality and higher res than the one my staff used inadvertently) the cost is $150. So why not just ask, or even demand $150? For them to simply demand 10x what their standard asking price would be is extortion. As I said, this is what pisses me off, not them simply asking to be paid their standard fee. And somehow justifying it as maintaining shareholder value is also BS.

 

As others have said, the cost of sale to a legitimate purchaser would probably be lower than managing the cost of infringement. If the operating costs are to be split equally between clients (those who do the right thing) and infringers (those who don't) and everyone pay the same fee, why should legitimate users bear the additional costs? Why should infringement be as cost-effective as doing the right thing in the first place? If the cost of doing something right (legitimate up-front right-to-use) or wrong (publication without permission), are the same, where is the incentive to do the right thing in the first place?

 

I'm a small business, licensing images to clients. The scale is different, but the principle of seeing a shareholder return (in my case income) is the same as any business. I regularly find my images used without permission and it goes something like this:-

 

1. Find the infringing use.

2. Document and record the use

3. Contact the infringer detailing the use, required payment etc

4. Be ignored, send a follow -up letter

5. Respond to their solicitor's letter denying liability

6. Respond to their solicitor's letter offering a paltry fee

7. Repeat steps 6 and 7 as required

8. Prepare court papers

9. Serve papers on infringer, add costs such as court fees, paperwork etc

10. Be paid just before the case is heard

 

You are right on one point; there is a lot of BS floating around. Its present in steps 5 & 6 as the infringer tries to avoid liability and actually paying. I usually welcome their BS. Generally, it provides more evidence of wrong-doing than defence...

 

Steps 1 - 10 usually take between 1 and 10 months.

 

Step 8 alone requires diligence and takes typically a half day. This is time when I could a) be out creating something new or b) selling something else. And this is a serious point; dealing with infringement is a significant overhead preventing me from being out diving/creating something new...but without the fees from infringers, the creative process is completely unsustainable and I would have stopped had redress not been possible.

 

Now let us consider the legitimate route:-

1. Respond or pitch image use to a prospective client.

2. Ship high res image(s) under agreed use rights & fee.

3. Raise invoice

4. Receive payment.

 

What route do you think is more cost effective for both parties? Why should my legitimate clients bear the additional costs on their business? The subject of business ethics has been raised, and I would question just who exactly is being the ethical party? The infringer? The business who does the right thing and publishes content they have a legitimate right to?

 

And as we are discussing the cost of business, this might be worth a read. It details the cost of trying to defend a Getty claim here in the UK:-

 

http://copyrightacti...by-getty?page=3


Edited by decosnapper, 13 August 2013 - 06:54 AM.

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#16 loftus

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 03:38 PM

None of this is on point. This was a truly inadvertent use of an image with no clear copyright noted. Pulled off the internet by an ignorant staff member who is clueless about these things, as is the general public. As far as I could tell there was no way to find who, if anyone, owned this image. The image was clearly a very low res version of the original version, I think it's pretty safe to say that it is not the high res version that one would purchase. Quite likely a copy of a copy pulled off the web. I would show it here, but of course don't want to be charged again. We were given no notice that the image was being used inadvertently, simply a demand for $1500 payment.

A simple request to remove the image and/or a request for payment of the actual advertised fee of $150 if I were to purchase it today to use on a blog, is all that's needed. Getty clearly has this all automated, so the cost of sending a reasonable demand / request is minimal.  Any photographer who would practice this way or condone this practice is just as much of a crook in my opinion. Just because it's legal etc, does not make it right.

My web designers have used Getty in the past, they definitely will not use them in the future. How's that for the cost of corrupt extortive business practices!


Edited by loftus, 13 August 2013 - 03:43 PM.

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#17 decosnapper

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 10:50 PM

 

This was a truly inadvertent use of an image with no clear copyright noted

 

Copyright requires no assertion. Protection is inherent from the moment the shutter is released. A decision was taken to publish an image so there was no inadvertent use. Someone took a conscious decision to publish something that suited their needs. The question of 'innocent infringement' was settled in the case of Hoffman v DARE here in the UK; a user either has permission, or not. There may well be a US precedent on this point too.

 

 

Pulled off the internet by an ignorant staff member

 

Ignorance of the law - particularly in the course of a business - is no excuse. At least here in the UK that's the accepted reasoning, but it might be different in the US...

 

 

A simple request to remove the image and/or a request for payment of the actual advertised fee of $150 if I were to purchase it today to use on a blog,

 

A request to remove an image does not earn any money. What would you suggest to ensure payment is made?

 

And the point of additional costs/overheads has appeared to been completely overlooked. A four step process is cheaper for all than the alternatives.

 

 

Getty clearly has this all automated

 

Considering the volume of infringements Getty must be faced with I suspect an automated process is the only cost-effective way of dealing with infringements. If a non-automated process is what you prefer, would you be prepared to pay more to support the associated costs a manual, human driven process would demand?

 

 

Any photographer who would practice this way or condone this practice is just as much of a crook in my opinion

 

Here in the UK using copyright protected works in the course of a business is a criminal offence. I will leave it to others to determine who the crook might actually be. 

 

Finally I will reiterate a point; I deal with infringements but the process is about as unwelcome and undesirable as it gets. It is a deeply unsatisfying process that is far more stressful and unpleasant than dealing with clients. Clients are a joy to deal with and once a month I sit down to lunch with one not to sell/buy anything but just for a chat and catch up on the gossip. Its a very nice way of doing business and I wish more lived close enough to meet more of them.

 

But without these payments I would have shut up shop and given up whilst at the same time businesses, who are getting content for free, keep their overheads artificially low (by not paying for images they also gain a competitive advantage over those business who acquire legitimate content) and continue to derive profits for their owners. So I am dammed if I do, and starved if I do not. What would you suggest I do as an alternative?


Edited by decosnapper, 13 August 2013 - 11:50 PM.

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#18 loftus

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 04:39 AM

I am aware of all this 'legal dissertation' you provide. It's all beside the point. 

Demanding 10x their own going rate in payment is my issue, it's simply wrong.  It's called usury.

I can afford to make this payment, what of those who cannot?

Ruining businesses as described in the article you posted is certainly very heavy handed. 

Yes I am aware of the copyright laws, but it's becoming clear to me that copyright laws maybe need to be changed to prevent this type of extortion. 

Hopefully at least in the US the degree to which Getty are abusing this will cause a bit of an outcry and limit amount they can charge to reasonable rates. In banking they have usury laws.

 

You clearly agree with scamming someone out of 10x your own going rate by agreeing with Getty, I do not. 


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#19 decosnapper

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 10:16 AM

 

You clearly agree with scamming someone out of 10x your own going rate by agreeing with Getty, I do not. 

 

All I have done is try to indicate there is an alternative view to the situation you unfortunately find yourself in, using reasoning and examples to clearly articulate why things might be so. I do not agree its a scam, of that I will state, but equally I have not been in the situation you find yourself facing.

 

Speaking personally, I treat every infringement on a case-by-case basis. If the infringer is quick to offer redress and save both mine and their time & energy then I have been known to settle quickly too, for considerably less than what a court might be inclined to award. The volume of infringements means I can do this, but Getty probably have a far greater volume to cope with than I and the one size fits all model may be the most cost-effective way for both parties, although I can see why you might not see that viewpoint.

 

For the record, the most I have increased a fee by was x 4 - but this case was special; no prior permission, ignoring my embedded contact details but reading & publishing the embedded description, something called 'consequential losses' (this one was special...) and moral rights infringement of no credit. If I were to find a particular case that required a higher fee, I would seek it.

 

I can't speak for Getty. Its their business. They will be aware of the return on time/effort invested and charge a rate that they presumably feel would stand up in court. 

 

 

Ruining businesses as described in the article you posted is certainly very heavy handed. 

 

Either way, someone is ruined; either the creator for not being paid, or the infringer when they are caught. It is a situation that no one really benefits from. Who should stand the losses? The creator? The creator's legitimate clients? The infringer?


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#20 loftus

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Posted 15 August 2013 - 04:04 AM

I'm sure you'd consider it inappropriate if your plumber demanded 10x more than his fee for an unpaid bill, particularly when it was an oversight and you immediately agreed to pay the normal rate.

I understand and respect copyright laws. Creator's, stock sites etc, all should be paid.

This is abuse of these laws!


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