This post was first published on the MatthewChan.com website.
Today, I received a Getty Images Settlement Demand Letter basically trying to extort from me a payment of $1,300 for a bird image that was used on theintrepidway.com website. If I pay that amount, basically they agree not to sue me or my company. However, suing and winning are two entirely different issues.
TheIntrepidWay.com currently looks bare because I immediately took down all the web banner graphics to comply with the Getty Images Settlement Demand Letter.
For most of you reading this, you will be like me earlier today. I had no clue what this was all about. It would be many hours later until I discovered this extortionistic practice by Getty Images. But, believe it or not, this issue is relevant to anyone who wants to put up their own website and intend to hire someone to design their graphics and images.
The “short version” of all this is that “Getty Images”, a photo-licensing company, actively sends out Settlement Demand Letters in the U.S., U.K., and Australia to unsuspecting website owners that have intentionally or unintentionally infringed on their copyrighted images. ON the surface, this sound fine.
In my research, so many website owners are small-business people or companies that contracted web site templates and graphics from graphic artists/designers in India. Well, apparently, the folks in India have a terrible reputation of stealing U.S. images and incorporating them in their web graphics and template design.
Unsuspecting U.S. website owners who want to improve the appear of their websites buy these web templates and graphics and use them on their websites. However, months and years later, Getty Images sends this very nasty and threatening letter out essentially holding you fully responsible even if someone else did the crime. I understand that employers are held responsible for many issues, however, what comes is on the verge of insanity and certainly not even close to reasonable.
If you are legally uninformed, I will tell you, it is a very intimidating letter unless you think this through carefully. After I calmed down, I took the time to do a Google and Yahoo search on “Getty Images Settlement Demand Letter”. I think if you do the same, you will get a very interesting education. It is actually devious because Getty Images do not do anyone the courtesy of a Cease and Desist Letter. Basically, let people know that they did the wrong thing and allow them to correct the situation before you get nasty.
However, in one mailing, they ask you to remove all the infringing images AND ask you to pay this extortionistic amount so they won’t sue you. What a great scam. Start sending letters to anyone who made a mistake to correct the mistake but also demand a huge cash payment while you are at it in exchange for you to NOT sue them. What a great way to make money. Why bother going to court when you can simply instill the fear of a lawsuit into people?
And even if you have to go to court, there is this small matter of preparing and proving your case. Is Getty Images (based in Seattle) really going to hire an attorney and sue me in Columbus, Georgia over a $1,300? Perhaps they will sue for more. But for what damages? Punitive damages? You want to punish someone for doing something they did not intend to do or know it was even occurring? Those attorney fees might get expensive trying to sue a corporation over state lines.
I have been to court many times as a plaintiff. It is not easy to simply make stuff or puff your case up. The judge is usually smart enough to temper a case and not let a ruling get too ridiculous especially in a small claims case.
If it sounds like I am being cavalier, I am not. I am treating this seriously. However, I am not simply going to roll over. I also have a few tricks up my sleeve if they truly decide to push the matter into the court system. I won’t get into specifics but let’s just say the word will get out very quickly and wide to people, companies, and agencies I have never communicated to before.
I felt the need to post this warning message to warn others. There are many, many angry people who have received similar letters from Getty’s Images. I suspect they will want one more web source to consult and discuss this situation.
Cold calls are NOT welcome on this matter. Please do not cold call me because I will not accept phone calls from phone numbers I don’t recognize.