Is This a Getty Images Scam?

Started May 6, 2008 | Discussions thread
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Max Minyarno
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Is This a Getty Images Scam?
May 6, 2008

Hello pro photographers,

May I politely ask for some expert advice please. A terrible situation has happened and I can think of no better people to ask for advice (other than a solicitor) than you people here who may use Getty Images and rely on them to earn a living.

In 2003 a royalty free image library was purchased (about 240 small images). It didn't cost me much. The images were only small 200pxl x 200pxl @72 dpi. Looking back on my emails the supplier offered larger higher res images at much higher cost. As these were only for the occasional filling up space on the odd website, 200 x 200 was fine.

Fast forward to three weeks ago and a letter arrives from Getty Images demanding some insane amount of money for the use of one image saying it is copyright. They took a screen capture of the site in question pointing out the tiny image they were referring to and included this in their letter of demand.

I immediately took the image off the site in question and contacted Getty and explained that I had legitimately purchased the image as part of a small random group of images pack. I provided them details of the purchase.

I also told Getty I have used other images in that particular library and would be happy to provide them with copies of all images so they can check things.

To further make it impossibly worse for me the organisation I dealt with those years ago doesn't seem to exist today.

Getty called me by phone and the conversation didn't go at all well. They want the money and are going to take action against me to get the cash they demand.

I am not rich and have not won the lottery so paying them is not a possibility.

I have always believed that in life if you do the right thing you have nothing to fear. So it is with great personal anguish I find myself in this position. The disturbing thing is I can't see how I could have done anything differently than to purchase images for use.

I am no longer going to purcahse any images online ever ever again. Instead I will become the photographer myself. I am sure if others have found themselves in this position this would be a natural reaction.

Anyway, I started to research this (and similar) issues on the net and have informally spoken to a solicitor acquaintance of mine.

Interesting questions have arisen.

1. How did this person I purchase this small image library from get access to a 200 x 200 size image from Getty in the first place, and without the watermark?

2. How did Getty know where to look to locate that particular page with that tiny image on it out of hundreds of millions of websites?

Getty won't answer these questions, perhaps they don't have to. But the underlying concern I have is I wonder if this is some type of scam of sorts. A set up by any other name, one that could net Getty quite possibly millions of dollars depending on how many people are involved.

I just don't know what to do. I absolutely understand the need to protect images hense me buying them in the first place. But what hope is there for anyone who legitimately buys images if later down the track they get a demand from Getty for a massive amount of money because the image is "copyright".

What happens now? Will they take me to court?

Any advice will be highly appreciated.

Thank you

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