|Advice needed on Copyright infringment|
I have recently received a letter from a very well known photo image company stating that an image on our website is one of theirs and demanding removal and payment of £1800.00.
We are registered with several image sites and all our images are paid for and downloaded from these sites but I don't have any proof. We are a travel site and the image concerned is a general picture of a beach. I can get similar ones but not the same one for just a few pence! I also use official tourist board sites to download pictures, with their permission. The page in question has been up for several years and I can't remember where I downloaded it from but I never copy images. Also, all my content is either written by me from my own experiences and knowledge or by professional writers or from visitors to our site, so this feels like a real kick in the teeth. I have taken the image down straight away. The image in question is only low resolution and about 1 inch by 2 inches.
The company who wrote to me say they want proof from me that I have bought copyright, but i have never kept records.
Anybody any thoughts or am I facing legal action ?
Taking the image down is the right first step. Generally though, you do not buy the copyright when it is on a site for sale. You get a limited, non-exclusive, use agreement. Depending where you bought it, your proof is either: a - you could not download it without paying for it, or b - a receipt. If you do not remember where you got it, (a) is problematic. As for (b) if you did not save an email receipt of purchase, this is a rude lesson in remembering to do so.
As for legal action, here in the US, generally once you are sent a cease and desist notice and you comply, that is the end of it. Otherwise, if it is copyright protected, here you can be sued for actual loss, punitive damages and legal fees. I cannot speak to the laws in the UK.
One thing you can do is ask them for proof of copyright ownership. They could be blowing smoke.
Have you looked around to see if that image is available elsewhere? If you can point to a source for it other than their site, then that would seem to me to weaken their case.
If they are not satisfied with the image being taken down, and I suspect they won't be, I would be very careful what you say to them. In fact, you might want to tell them that you are passing on their messages to your attorney. And then do so.
I've seen a couple of similar cases discussed on this board (there was one about a year ago that was an identical scenario), and in one of them the original poster said something to the photo site that got him in worse trouble. Get a lawyer in on this, and see if you can find those old discussions....
And here's one of those prior discussions:
Panic Stations! Lawsuit threat for using an image (Must I pay?) [webmasterworld.com]
Lufc1955 I started the thread mentioned by Syzygy above. I am not qualified to offer legal advice and you must decide what action you take next. I can however offer you some facts about the case as I know them. I don't know if your problem is with Getty or Corbis. Mine was Corbis but the facts in both cases are quite similar.
1. This has been going on now for two to three years.
2. During this period many thousands of people throughout the world have received "invoices" from both Corbis and Getty.
3. Quite a few of them have taken fright and paid up so this is a very lucrative exercise for both companies.
4. There does not seem to be any information available about any of the original copyright holders receiving a share of this income from Getty or Corbis.
5. Some people (myself included) have paid lawyers to write a letter to Corbis, Getty or their agents presenting their "case for the defence".
6. Other people have written to them themselves and ended up negotiating a settlement. Some of them have been offered "discounts" if they pay up quickly without a fight.
7. Yet more have written to them telling them that they have taken the images down, that they got them from what they had reasonably assumed to be legal sources and that they would not be paying.
The bottom line is that since this started we have been unable to find a single case where Getty or Corbis have taken a small company or an individual to court here in the UK. This is not surprising since UK law requires the "plaintiff" to prove both "flagrancy and benefit" before deciding on any damages.
It seems likely that they would have little chance of making any of this stick in cases where people immediately removed the images in question and where there is no evidence of Flagrancy or Benefit. If they did take someone to court and lost then that would be the end of the this particular gravy train.
You can perhaps make a decision based on the above information but feel free to sticky me if you need any more specific info.
I can tell you that I have heard nothing from them since December 2006 and I do not expect to hear anything else.
Thanks, guys. I looked but couldn't find that thread. BDW, I remember your case. What an operation!
Is there any way to strike back at them under UK law? File suit for harassment? Making false claims?
Thanks for all your replies and advice. I have read your long thread BeeDee and that is very interesting. I am not one to be too worried about threats but the tone of the Getty letter was worrying. I might just ignore the letter and see what happens. The Getty attitude is outrageous. I am a one man band working from home and are propably trying to scare me into paying.
I've heard as much from a senior source inside the industry!