Why are Getty Images complaining about a photo I’ve used?

Don’t bin this letter!   You do need to do something about this.

Getty Images

Getty Images is a photographic agency which licences images on behalf of photographers.  Getty Images uses image tracking technology to crawl the web and identify unauthorised use of images licensed by it.

When an unauthorised image is identified, Getty Images writes to the owners of the website asking them to take down the authorised image and pay an amount equivalent to the licence fee that Getty Images would have charged them for their use of the image.

Yes, they do mean it

Getty Images will pursue their claims all the way to court if they don’t get a response to their letters, as removals firm JA Coles of Manchester and London found to their cost in 2009.

Getty Images wrote to JA Coles requesting that they remove an image from their website and seeking payment for their use of the image.  JA Coles removed the image but did not respond to Getty Images’ letters about payment.

Getty Images sued in the High Court for copyright infringement. After taking legal advice JA Coles settled the case, admitting copyright infringement and agreeing to pay damages and Getty Images’ legal costs. The damages were £1,953,31.  The legal costs are reported to have been in the region of £24,000!

What you should do

Remove the image from your website and contact Getty to say that you have removed the image with no admission of liability, you are investigating their claims, and you will get back to them when your investigation is concluded.

Check the image catalogue reference provided by Getty Images to verify whether the image you are using is the same as the Getty Images’ image they have identified.

Check where you got the image from.  In most cases the website creator has taken an image from the internet based on the genuine but mistaken belief that, if there is no copyright notice, the image is available to use for free.

If your investigation verifies Getty Images’ claims, work out what the appropriate licence fee would have been for the use you have made of the image and seek to settle with Getty Images, making sure that you get a fully executed Getty Images Settlement Agreement in return.

If your website was created by an independent web designer you may be able to recover this cost from them, depending on the terms of your contract.

Cheap way to learn an expensive lesson

Multiply this cost by each image on your website!  You can eliminate this cost by checking the copyright position before adding images and other materials to your website.

The general rule with materials on the internet is: “if you don’t have express permission to use these materials, you don’t have the right to use them”.