No, I’m not an attorney. And fortunately, I haven’t personally received a demand letter from Getty Images asking for $100’s for publishing one of their images.
However, being in the internet marketing niche, I’ve been asked about the topic by several people, clients and non-clients alike. What I’m about to share with you is the my point-of-view and experience in dealing Getty Images.
Recap: What Getty is Doing
In a word, I believe it’s extortion. Getty’s attorneys and collection companies mail letters to unsuspecting website owners, demanding large sums of payment for images that Getty claims the website doesn’t have a license to publish.
The letters are threatening in language and fail to provide proof of wrongdoing. Sometimes though, a screenshot of the web page hosting the image is included in the letter.
I can’t stand bullies, so I even consulted my attorney about how to deal with the company. Hopefully you can find the following list useful. Just be sure to clear anything you do with your own attorney first.
- This is a numbers game for Getty. Every time they mail a round of letters, a percentage of website owners will cave in an just pay the demanded amount. The letters come in waves, so understand you’re not alone in receiving them.
- Even if you paid for the image, Getty may not know this. If you have a receipt, send it their way and they should drop the complaint.
- If you’re unable to prove you paid for the image, whether you did or not, immediately remove the image from your website.
- Free image websites have been reported to host Getty images and offer them for complimentary download to their users. If you downloaded the image from one of these sites, consider turning Getty onto the real culprit… the free image website.
- Although I’ve never heard of them doing so, Getty should be able to prove they have the licensing rights to the image. Otherwise, they’re basically asking you to pay for something they don’t even own!
- Where’s the smoking gun? Basically, you can’t be penalized if Getty didn’t prove you did anything wrong. So instead of you having to prove your innocence, it’s on them to first prove you’re guilty. This would include them identifying which site the image was downloaded from.
- Whether you or your web developer uploaded the image on your website, your developer cannot be held responsible by Getty, no matter how these other points shake out.
- A refusal letter from your attorney to Getty Images explaining any of the above may be all you need for Getty to drop the issue. When an opposing attorney gets involved, it may not be worth it for Getty to pursue you any further.
- I’ve read and seen instances where ignoring the letters has also worked. I spoke with someone who received a demand letter a year and a half ago. They ignored it and Getty hasn’t hounded them since.
- By all means, if you should have paid Getty for the image in the first place and knowingly downloaded it without having the right to do so, Getty may have a claim. In this instance, it may be a good idea to just pay up and get the company off your back for good. When you do so, get it in writing that they cannot come back at a later date for a different demand.
My Featured Image
Getty, just in case you’re reading this, no, my featured image for this blog post is not yours. I downloaded it from bigstockimages.com, paid for it with my own money, and renamed it “not-a-getty-image.png” for good measure.
By the way Getty, wouldn’t it be more worth your while to redirect your resources into educating people through traditional avenues instead of threats? What do you think this is doing to your image? (No pun intended.)
I can’t be the only one who refuses to subscribe to sites like istockphoto.com, just because they’re “by Getty Images.”
Thanks for reading,