Koan - I completely agree that people should not take. But you can't link to a licensed image either, you need to buy it. Public domain images are available, but the choices are not so good and not diverse enough for my needs. Something needs to be done - YES, but Getty is only going after Rights Managed images (the expensive images). I do not believe that people are knowingly taking RM images. The penalty is too great. While ignorance is not a defense, using an image with no watermark, no copyright notice and i general no way to know who the owner really is just SHOUTS the question, how are you supposed to find out? Spread the word and educate all of your friends and clients about this. I am not happy with their tactcs and not happy with the theft of my bandwidth. Would you send the government a key to your house? Would you send the tax authorities the keys to your house? They can come and go any time they want and snoop around. Is that OK? Is it OK how they get the image data? Did you know that they do it that way? Do you think that your friend and clients know that? It is not OK and they need to be shut down. ALL server banks need to block them at the TLD level and be done with them while also notifying ALL of their users that images must be licensed and that if you copied it, then it is not legal. Getty is not educating, they are simply slamming people with invoices. No shot across the bow, just PAY THIS! Most people don't know about RM images.
BeeDeeDubbleU - Yes it has been going on for years, but Getty Images just purchased picScout in April of this year and they are steping up activities. Shut them down, block their bots, save yourself and your clients the hassles that they can create. In the UK, you don't need the copyrigth filing, so you are more exposed there.
Tangor - There are so many copyright asnd trademark issues with the web to fight for. I had someone copy my entire site and start a business with it. I waved my filed copyright in front of them and they quickly did a rewrite. But I did not sue them and they did not continue their abuse. Getty needs money because they have gotten sued so many times. Your comment about digital cameras, free time, hight school kids and Photoshop is dead-on and my kid does some of my Photoshop work since he had classes in High School. But RF images are so cheap that is does not pay to wase your time trying to get 500 images for a project. A few images, sure, but not the volume that I use.
Jecasc - Getty Images has intentionally tarnished their own image. Photographers will be flocking to other sites for higher compensation and the class action lawsuits will cost Getty both cash and reputation. They keep shooting themselves in the foot because, in my opinion, they are money whores. They have ruined their reputation by their own hand and it is only gettng worse as they step-ip collection efforts.
Freedom - The Attorney General's offices do respond to these things and they look for cumulative complaints and the volume of financial detriment to the consumers. The Attorney Generals also work together on the multi-state cases to share the burden and set the traps.
I believe that educating the masses is extremely important. I also believe that shutting down their bots at the TLD level at the server banks is necessary and every web host that I know would like to stop abusive bandwith thieves. Lettng Getty Images know that you (the server bank / web hosting service) will accept their bots if they play be certain rules OR you will bill them $100.00 per violation could be very profitable to the web hosting companies and a class action suit to collect would put Getty Images out of business. I would think that the $100.00 damages would quickly hit $$$$$ Billions in just 3 months or so. But remember, they did this to themselves and it will be a sweet day when they fire the idiots that came up with the plan to demand payment extortion from small businesses that maybe should have known better, but did not.
Stay legal, buy your images, take your own pictures, but take-out Getty Images, they deserve to fail.