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|Warn ALL of your users About Getty Images|
Stop Getty Image Bot Abuse and Tactics
In my opinion, we all need to STOP Gretty Images abuses. We have clients that are getting hit with Getty Images demand letters for alleged copyright infringements and sme of the claims are $1,000.00 or more. Please read all of the information below, I researched the problem for days, have consulted two lawyers and a legal website dedicated to this. You need to protect yourself AND your users.
There are some important things that webmasters can do to protect themselves and their users from these demand letters using an exception (safe harbor) in the Digital Milennium Copyright Act (more on that below). We believe that artists should be paid, but we also believe that accidental use of licensed images should not bankrupt a small company or cause financial hardships. A letter telling you to take down the image or else is a reasonable first step, but that is not what getty is doing.
The data below lists the core things that you should know and implement to stop the Getty Images abuse and free up your bandwidth. The primary things to do are to protect your service with the proper filing (costs about $135.00)and to block the Getty Image Bots from stealing your bandwidth. We all need to be spreading the word to the world so that accidental usage will be cleaned up before Getty Images finds out. People need to be informed of the dangers of the Getty Image bots and all measures should be taken to shut down those bots.
Legal background - visit: [extortionletterinfo.com ]
About Getty Images:
In 2008, the publically traded (NYSE) Getty Images was taken private by private equity firm Hellman & Friedman for an estimated 2.4 Billion Dollars $USD. Getty owns iStockPhoto and has affiliations with Flicker. Getty also owns Jupiter Images (Web Media Brands, also ComStock, also PictureArts), Stock-Xchng, StockXpert, Digital Vision, WireImage, Stockbyte, Gallo Images, Touchline Photo, Isifa Image Service, and Redferns Music Picture Library.
The two biggest players are Microsoft’s Corbis and Getty Images / Hellman & Friedman.
The Hellman Friedman organization is private placement fund that acquires companies for its own portfolio in areas such as software, financial services, media and more. Holdings range from alarm monitoring, turn around management, images, insurance and more. You could describe them as a “conglomerate.”
About the Stock Photo Industry:
In general, the industry has Rights Managed (RM) and Royalty Free Images (RF). There are other variations of the theme, including completely free images. Rights Managed images offer a “rental” of the image for high-end purposes such as magazine covers, advertising and limited circulation publication. Royalty free images generally (but not always) allow the image to be used in publications that have circulations below 500,000 and do not appear in magazine covers, Etc. Some images have restricted rights (RR) such as preventing the image from being bundled in another image package.
Prohibited use would typically include the use of the image in a logo (that makes sense since you would not want to confuse people with logos that have the same backgrounds, images, Etc.). Other restrictions could exclude the use in #*$!ographic material or resale in another image package.
Why Stock Photos?:
Suppose you need a picture of a padlock and chain around a fence gate to show “security.” You could get in your car and drive around an industrial area and try to find that. It might take 15 minutes or it might take 8 hours, depending on where you are located. A stock image (RF) would typically be $1.00-$5.00 and some might be about $50.00. Not a bad deal considering the quality and the time savings. However, a similar image (perhaps lower quality in terms of artistic style or image resolution), that is RM could cost $500.00 – $20,000.00 depending on the intended use.
Most small businesses (I mean businesses that do less than $10,000,000 in revenue per year) would not use RM images, but would benefit from RF images. A good RF example would be a training course (live PowerPoint style or virtual Internet course) that used 100 images. That might cost $200.00 – $500.00 in total for the producer of that course and it would probably look great. But that same course would not likely use RM images that could total to $10,000.00 – $100,000.00. Even a simple small business website would not likely use an image that is RM based; it makes no sense with so many RF images that are similar, better or superior to the RM images.
Why RM images? "Exclusivity." Does a small business website compete with say IBM or Sony? No, not even close and there is no real comparison to make there, not even David Vs. Goliath, there is just no damage to IBM or Sony if that same image shows up by accident.
How does Getty TROLL for Images?:
Getty Images uses PicScout an Israeli based BOT search company that tunnels deep into websites to find pictures. In April of 2011, Getty acquired PicScout for an estimated $20 Million $USD, effectively barring competition from using the technology.
The PicScout scanner is not a well behaved bot because it scans areas that are off-limits and excluded from the Robots.txt file found on many sites.
Pic scout steals YOUR bandwidth and that of the hosing server ISP, without authorization or compensation to the owner and not as a visitor of the site for economic gain to the owner of that site space.
Many control panels allow users to block incoming IP addresses and ranges of addresses. For example you could block 126.96.36.199 which is somewhere in France. You could list just 188.165 and it would block every numbered IP address higher than that. Blocking 188.165.244. will block the range 188.8.131.52 - 184.108.40.206, Etc.
Some servers (Apache and Linux servers) have HTTACCESS files that can hold a string of these and thus block several Getty Image related bot approaches. There are articles on the web about how to do this for Getty Image related Bots.
Can they get new IP addresses and use other sites to do this? Yes, but the diligent bot-traps, honey-pots and other methods out there will no-doubt continue to make this all current.
Community Action and your action to put up walls:
There is a LOUD growing swell of voices and action here that are sick of this abuse.
1.Setup your site with a Designated Agent registration to the US Copyright office as an Online Service Providers and list any of your domains or company names (up to ten). The cost is about $135.00 for the application plus the extended list. The form is available at [copyright.gov ] This allows you to take down offending images and use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act exception (512-c is a possible safe harbor) for ISP’s. Note that if Getty has contacted you with a demand letter, this will not help unless it is on-record at the US Copyright Office before the Getty Letter arrives. You may be required to reveal the person that took the image, even if they are dead or have somehow disappeared (that happens).
2.Petition the Digital Millennium Copyright Act – They DO revise the act every three years (2003, 2006, 2009, 2011). See the Electronic Frontier Foundation and ask them about this issue [eff.org ]. We need a lawyer to help to draft a new piece of legislation that makes this kind of behavior a thing of the past. Let’s get in on the next revision and stop the madness.
3.Write to your ISP and any ISP that you can find or have time to write. Send a written letter with a postage stamp. The letter should include your concerns and the fact that these BOTS are stealing bandwidth, while also taking dollars from their very customers and without warning. Encourage them to provide an e-mail newsletter warning about image use and to encourage them to provide Bot-blocking options to users. Also explain that killing-off bot traffic will reduce their costs and improve reliability of running their servers. It is win-win-lose (win for the ISP, win for the subscriber, lose for the bots).
The top 23 (provided by [isp-planet.com ]) are:
1SBC (AT&T) (business and consumer DSL, U-Verse, and satellite—ISDN not disclosed)14.8
2Comcast (cable broadband) 14.7
3Road Runner (cable broadband, both business and residential) 8.6
4Verizon (FiOS and DSL)8.5
5America Online (all U.S. AOL brand accounts) 7.5
6EarthLink (DSL, dialup, cable, satellite, PLC, and webhosting—some other business lines not included) 3.0
7Charter (cable broadband) 2.9
8Qwest (DSL only) 2.8
9Cablevision (cable broadband) 2.4
10United Online (counting paid access only) 1.5
11Embarq (DSL only, formerly part of Sprint) 1.4
12Windstream (DSL only, formerly ALLTEL and Valor).96
13Mediacom (cable broadband, dialup, and SMB broadband) .73
14CenturyTel (DSL only, no dialup) .63
15Citizens (DSL only).57
16Hughes Network Systems (satellite broadband).42
17Insight Broadband (cable broadband) .42
18Clearwire (fixed wireless broadband).42
19LocalNet (dialup) .26
20Cincinnati Bell (DSL only).23
21SureWest (broadband) .10
22GCI (cable broadband).10
23ACS (DSL and dialup).055
4.Tell ALL of your clients and friends. Send out an article on this to your clients, friends and encourage them to pass this along. Give them links to legal image sites, even ones that charge a few dollars for RM images so that they can get themselves legal.
5.Write to the media. We often see Getty Images on the national news. Tell them that you are boycotting all of their advertiser’s products until they stop using Getty Images and any of the affiliates.
6.Post a list of advertisers that use Getty Images or support programs that cite Getty Images so that the world can see who is sponsoring this madness.
7.Talk to your media partners (TV, Magazines, and Newspapers) that you do business with and refuse to advertise in their media if they use any Getty or affiliated images.
8.Negotiate with suppliers and ask them if they use any Getty Images at their company and refuse to do the deal unless they stop.
9.Complain to your State Attorney General about the tactics and cite, unlicensed bandwidth usage, false names used as the artist (many of the names are the editors names and not the artist and this is FRAUD), a lack of copyright identification number to back the alleged violation and a need to join with other States to take the power of the combined Attorney General’s offices and stop this. Note that if Getty Images does not have a valid copyright filed (usually filed by the artist) before sending the letter, then they cannot sue for legal fees and it would be cost prohibitive for them to go to court without that filed copyright proof. Bulk filings (many images filed at once) are real filings, but they are weaker proof and the courts DO care about innocent mistakes. So getty Images sends the letters to DEMAND payment, even without the copyrigths filed because it is cheaper to pay $900+ dollars than it is to hire a lawyer. But we believe this is fraud and that the statements made are fraudulent.
10.Continue to police the bot traffic and identify new BOT traffic IP addresses that need to be blocked. This site should add code to the BOT blocking threads to deal with Getty Images. They are DOWNLOADING the images to do the compare, it is a THEFT of your bandwidth. This is a possibe class action suit and there are some cases about this (eBay comes to mind).
11.Write to Norton McAfee, AVS, Kaspersky and other companies about the need to add bot-blocking to ISP related scanning services so that the intrusion software used by ISP’s will stop the bot action AND provide more bandwidth (less abuse) to the ISP’s that use their software services.
12.Comb the Getty sites (all of the different names such as Getty Images, iStockPhoto, Etc.) for ANY logos, media, images or other works of art that show trade-marks or logos of any kind. A good example would be a Mercedes-Benz car hood ornament. That is a trade-mark of Mercedes-Benz. Copy the web page and link and then mail a letter to the president of the company and note: We are deeply concerned with the infringement on your good name by a profiteering company with poor ethics. The attached image and image link from the site noted is being sold for thousands of dollars and could damage your name and reputation. Please contact this violator and subpoena the names of all buyers so that you can get verification that the materials generated with your logo are destroyed. In addition, the innocent buyer of the image may need to be reimbursed for the recalled materials at the expense of the image profiteer. Etc. This should cost Getty $25,000 to $250,000 per image. Priceless! I found a dozen of these in one hour.
13.Contact the US Justice department and Federal Trade Comission and complain that Getty Images has privately attempted to corner the market and control the image industry. The logical conclusion is to break-up Getty Images to make the marketplace more competitive.
14.Send Getty a letter stating that you DO want their bot to crawl your site as long as it conforms to certain conditions such as not indexing image directories or crawling directories that are listed as exclude in the robots.txt file of the site. However, you wish to be paid $100.00 per non-compliant visit and you will be logging the activity. This is a legal “offer” to allow them to spider your site. Their spider, upon entering your site after the offer notice may constitute acceptance of the offer. Bill them and sue them for non-payment. Let’s get EVERYONE to send this letter so that they need to manually deal with this situation and hire tens of millions of dollars in labor to comply. Do not accept any web forms to opt-out, but make them do this all by hand and bill them until they comply, but sue them anyway for not complying.
15.Start an image management company to compete with Getty Images. Given the price levels of the Getty Image acquisitions, they are clearly making money at this. How about running the company where the artists are guaranteed 90-95% of the revenues. Remember, Getty does not own the images, the artists do and Getty is simply brokering the sale transaction and claiming to provide monitoring, policing, Etc. Artists can leave and the current class action suit against Getty Images shows distrust and a need to do better. So start a site that is really owned by the artists, perhaps through a cooperative like REI or a similar structure. You could even set it us as a not-for-profit 501-3-c Corporation to prove your integrity. Let the artists make the money. I am sure that 5-10% of BILLIONS of dollars is enough for any of you and the artists will flock to this model.
|accidental use of licensed images |
What is accidental use? You "accidentally" downloaded one of their photos and used it in a blog post? Or you saved it somewhere on your web server? That's not accidental.
source: http://extortionletterinfo.com/ [extortionletterinfo.com]
|<snip> It quickly became apparent to me that there are many victims like myself who fell victim to the countless unscrupulous web banner, template, and graphic designers from India (and other similar countries that habitually and deliberately disregard and violate copyrights) that profit by stealing licensed images and incorporating them into their "creations" (web templates, web banners, and web graphics) and reselling them to their customers in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Australia. |
ahh, I get it. you bought stolen goods. Those designers fenced you. It wasn't "accidental" per se, but it was unintentional.
It takes diligence to make sure you're not getting hot images in your cheap layouts. Pay up front for properly licensed or original photography, and you'll save later in copyright lawsuits.
But what if I paid/licensed with istockphoto to use their images?
And accidental use? Huh? Yeah right..sure it was.
The book you wrote above is a little one sided. I paid and leased my images according to their guidelines. Why should I help defend someone that used a "Getty" image "accidentally."
I paid for my usage under my own account (istockphoto) and so should everyone else. I have no sympathy for those that didn't pay to lease the image. It's the same as theft and it's sleazy. The entitlement of some webmasters is sick and disgusting.
I find it hard to justify the rampage you are on when the use of images wasn't done legally.
Paying them to lease an image is called "Covering your ask." - That's what you are supposed to do. It's about time Getty goes after illegal users.
Webmasters that use these images without payment or authorization - NEED TO CLEAN UP THEIR ACT or find a different line of work to get into.
Excuse the harshness for my disagreement but it's time for the internet to grow up and become responsible and more ethical.
I hear you and I agree with you about the word "accidental." But so many people get images from Google Images or Yahoo or wherever and they don't know that it is not public domain. They did not intend to take licensed art. I have a case where the website was not done by me or my people, we hosted it. Getty is going after the hosts first. You know the link at the ottom that says to contact the WEBMASTER or similar.. Getty goes after that. The author is probably the business owner's high school kid or some outside consultant.
I cannot prove if the image was taken by my hand or that of another person. Getty Does not care. So if the person that created to the site is now living somewhere in Costa Rica or Panema, I can only point to a map for that. But Getty says that I am responsible.
"Accidental use" is meant to be "unintended" or "not willful." Look at the law on theft as an example. If you buy or have stolen property (and that is discovered), it goes back to the original owner. But were you a thief? So posession is not necessarily theft and that is the problem, you need to prove to Getty how you got it, but the thief is in Costa Rica or Panema and that thief did not know that the Google Images site contained Rights Managed materials.
I want to note that we license all of our images and in the next year we'll proably buy about 500 more images for projects. So we intentionally play by the rules, but our site "accidentally" had an image from someone elses web development. If I had filed the DMCA provisional filng for about $135.00, then I would have had some protection as an ISP hosting the site and then I could have pointed to a map of Costa Rica or Panema and say "Hey Getty, he left the country, I only had his GMail address."
Look at AOL, Comcast, RoadRunner, Cox, Etc. and all of the server bank hosting solutions like 1and1 or GoDaddy. How many accidental media items are they hosting? Probably millions.
Educating my clients and having you educate all WebMasters to inform their customers is a good thing. Saving bandwith is a good thing. Having Webmasters protect themselves with proper filing of the safe harbor provision is a good thing because we don't want you to accidentally get sued for something that you did not write, download, author or steal and where there are 1,000 images at an average price of $4,000.00 each. That would be some accident, right?
Okay, I didn't see httpwebwitch's post. But he's right. I no longer do business with any company from India for similar reasons and you should have done some homework. Be suspicious on things like this.
I always do my diligence and ask for permission. I have a specialized image search engine and I asked permission from each and every website before we crawled and indexed it. That kind of caution, time and work pays off.
The problem isn't as ethically clear to me, because of the way the Internet works - one illegal upload, and all the rest afterwards can look legal and above-board to people with good intentions. And it's exponential, this kind of distribution.
Where does the "buck stop?" Is there a chain of diminishing responsibility? If not, and if everyone is as liable as the first person who broke the law, then how to protect people using the normal licensing processes in which illegal stuff still falls through the gaps? No more Creative Commons? No more shared licenses? Most would say that's too high a price to pay...
Big companies like AOL and Yahoo have open accounts with stock image companies. They are not just grabbing them for use as they please.
Freedom, they do have accounts, but their users post websited with images obtained legally, illegally or where the user does not know the law or does not believe the image to be licensed (certainly not Rights Managed). What small business would knowingly use a $9,000.00 RM image on page 3 of their website? Alternate artwork that is RF for $1.00-$5.00 is the way to go, but the site builder may not know that they just used a seemingly free image that is claimed to be worth $9,000.00. So many people just do not know about copyrights.
Also, the possible users that would see the site could be concentrated to a 10 mile radius and that is not the same as a magazine with a circulation of 300,000 users.
Putting up a website is not that hard with the software tools that are readily available. Making it legal with RF media is also easy and I would say cheap too. But how many people know about the Getty Image lawsuits? Everyone should know and everyone should get licensed artwork.
When people get demand letters (some are for amounts like $4,000 and $9,000.00), then the small business owenr needs to deal with the legal hassles, the payment, Etc. That leaves less money for marketing, less money for website development and of course more badwill for Getty Images.
DO YOU THINK GETTY IMAGES IS A SNOW WHITE ANGEL? Lookup the lawsuits aganst Getty Images. They are being sued by photographers in a class action lawsuit where expensive RM images got bundled for as little as $2.00 each, thus diluting the artists value as an artist. In a recent case, a famous court sketch artist is now suing Getty Images and Associated Press for selling her drawings (some for more than $10,000 each)and she has NO agreement with them. Getty has the Mercedes-Benz logo in some of their images and that violates trademarks. Do you think that Getty knowingly does this or is it an accident? Unlike 99.9% of the websites or people that use images, Getty Images has full knowledge of copyright law, yet they accidentally screwed up a few things. I do not feel bad for them, THEY should know better. I cannot say the same for the other 99.9% of the website owners.
Suing small businesses for $1,000.00 or more is indeed causing attention to be paid ot this. It is causing web-bot blocking, directory blocking, image removal, licensed image purchases (mostly RF I would think) and of course the purchases are probably not with any Getty Image owned sites, so they are helping their competitors.
Yahoo and AOL hosted sites do not necessarily have legal images. These sites might not contain legal media. Let's inform the public that they need to pay attention to this. I don't want any of my clients to get a demand letter. I am sending out a newsletter to 1,600 of my contacts so that they know the problem and can pass it on to their customers. But I am also blocking Getty's bots just because I can (oh, and it is legal too, but their bots might not be, see the eBay case).
I hate Getty images, as I recently paid them for an alleged infringement. I had the image on my site for about 7 years and didn't know it was owned by them... I suspect it wasn't owned by them back when I first got the image.... I chose to pay them rather than a lawyer. I'll never license an image from them as a result of how they do business. Never.
The stupid thing about Getty and the others doing this is that they go after the website owner, which can be an ISP or web developer that hosts for their clients. So now that same company will buy ZERO images from them in the future. For the $1,000.00 collected, they will be losing many times that in future business.
I need about 500 images for a project and NONE of them will come from Getty related companies. I got the magazine that I advertise in to stop using Getty Images if they want to keep my business. I am working on a contract with a trade association and I have something that they need. Part of my contract requires them to stop using Getty Images (and all affiliates) in their magazine.
As a business person, never look at $1.00 or $1,000.00 saved or spent per year as just $1.00 or $1,000.00. Instead lok at the savings or cost over 5 years. So my contract will cost Getty Images a huge amount. Combined, I have cut out tens of thousands of dollars over the coming 5 years. The backlash will be cumulative, the word will spread and Getty will fire the idiot that came up with the demand letters. Please complain to your Attorney General, Congressmen, Senators, the FTC, the Justice Department, Etc. and make a difference.
But PLEASE license all of your images or get a camera and start snapping away. Comb your own sites and tell all of your friends and customers to make sure that they are indeed legal.
How are they determining photos that were legally leased from photos that were obtained without authorization?
They know what they own. But sometimes people buy packages, disks, have web developers buy the artwork and the site is not the purchaser, Etc. So now you have to porve it.
Weird thing is that they don't necessarily have a contract to bother the legal end user. They are asking to audit that picture and the legal user (not the web developer that paid for the image) is now usng their personal time to prove this.
You can refuse to cooperate and you can say "see you in court," but they can take some action to legally subpoena the evidence. All the while, you have a legal image, but they make it into a hassle. If I had proof I would make them get the subpoena just for spite and I would send them a faint, rough and questionable copy of the evidence so that they would want to go to court and then I would produce the fresh clean copies. I would fight every inch of the way just to hassle them for hassling me.
Best thing to do is to create a folio of all artwork with receipts, web developer license payment copies, an agreement that the web developer can buy the artwork for you, Etc. If you do web work, you could mockup the format (IN A PROTECTED DIRECTORY TO PREVENT THEIR BOTS FROM SEEING IMAGES) and then once it is approved you could insist that they purchase the artwork so that they retain the legal rights to the image and so that they can avoid copyright use issues in the future. Most clients would see that is a good idea and now they are on the hook to complete the project that you are working on.
I fully support legal licensed images. The Getty extortion letters are hitting people that don't know any better. Some people pay the bill because it is cheaper than paying a lawyer and they know that they took the image. But others have made the error of not asking if images are legal or they falsely believe the images to be legal for a variety of reasons.
Some of the images are never licensed and never copywritten with the US Copyrigth office, but then they get licensed to Getty Images. So now a website has a questionable image that is later licensed to Getty and the image becomes a Rights Managed license that is allegedly worth more than $2.00. Now Getty has 5,000 copies of the former questionable image listed as Rights managed and floating around the web from an image site like Google Images.
Lesson here. When in doubt, throw it out. The Royalty Free image market has hundreds of similar or better images for under $5.00 in most cases. I think they are worth it and they save me time. But what Getty is doing is wrong. They should issue a cease and desist order and give people 30 days to comply. A "shot across the bow" as they would say in the Navy.
Getty is sending a letter that says you took it so pay up $1,000.00 or we will sue you in Federal court. They can do that and they will win if they have a filed copyright and you will pay their legal costs if they have that filing. Bulk filings of many images at once are not so good for them and there is a good body of case law to support that. So they are blowing smoke in 99% of the cases.
BUT, If you knew you took the image pay them.
BUT, If you know they had a copyrigth pay them.
So DO ask for that copyrigth filing number and any other clarification that you need.
The problem is the people that did not take the image knowingly. If they have no copyright and you are not a guilty person, then fight them, boycott them, complain to authorities about them, take your business to other image sites and spread the message to the masses that Getty Image reelated images are a bad idea sue to legal hassles and they way that they treat others. You have choices and the Getty Image portfolio is a bad ethical choice. They could have done this in a nicer way and they deserve to be losers from their stupid actions.
|The problem is the people that did not take the image knowingly. |
I think their tactics are questionable but I'm also tired of everyone's common belief that they can take whatever they find on other web sites and use it. And then we have to waste a lot of time running after them, prove we are the authors and often times, you get nothing but indignation and insults. Ignorance of the law is not a legal defense. Something needs to be done to radically change people's behaviors. If you didn't make it or bought it, you can't use it, and especially not make money off it. If you like something, LINK to it, that's how it's supposed to work!
Doctorc these cases have been going on for about five years. What you are proposing is nothing new. I don't know about the US but I am in the UK and I can tell you that Getty never follow up on their threats here. Most people have just been ignoring them.
|and they don't know that it is not public domain |
All I have to say is no one should ever ASSUME (make and A$$ out of U and Me) that ANYTHING on the web is "public domain"!
We spend dang near every day we breath fighting for our copyrights to our websites and content, so why not others doing the same?
Digital cameras are dirt cheap these days, high school kids know more about Photoshop than most, lonely housewives with artistic skill sitting in front of computers produce images... one can find ALL KINDS OF LEGIT ways to get images.
Actually Getty Images has a very bad reputation. According to media reports Getty images has in the past demanded compensation for illegal usage from license holders. When the license was presented Getty Images "canceled" the license and offered to credit the refund against the higher compensation for illegal usage. Quite absurd.
Here is the report from german magazine "Der Spiegel":
Here the link with "Google translate":
The most effective strategy is to send all complaints to your state attorney general's office, along with magazine articles and documentation of what Getty is doing. When the majority of State Attorney generals get involved - it will get ugly for Getty.
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.
Koan - Linking to someone elses image is Hot Linking and it is illegal because it steals bandwidth. In the US, stealing bandwidth can create a fine of up to 100,000.00 plus actual documented costs. So this is not a good thing. Getty is TROLLING all available directories, including ones that you say to NOT visit in your Robots.txt file (probably /images/) and anything else that it can find in the links. So they are stealing bandwidth.
The irony is that they typically want about $1,000.00 for images. I say PAY THEM! Then take your server logs and sue them for bandwith theft. At $100,000 per violation that is 10,000 lawsuits = $1 Billion in fines, plus court costs. So the Feds might like this one a lot, it would help balance the US budget. Write this on in to the President... good one!
So, let's say I get one of these letters, I discover that some doofus put a Getty image as their avatar on my site, or posted it in their photo gallery, etc. I get the notice, act and delete the offending image. Does that let me off the hook?
There are legal precedents out there for copyright infringement perpetrated via UGC (= user generated content). If you find there are isolated incidents in your system and remove them, you're OK. I've vetted my share of lawyerhatemail, and deleted lots of "borrowed" content in my career; even the most fierce-sounding litigators back off when the content is removed. If your service is plagued by wonton wholesale infringement compounded with irresponsible neglect, then you might be in trouble. MIGHT be.
I read that Getty might persist with threatening letters, but are they just empty threats, intended to intimidate webmasters into coughing up lucre?
Can I scan for the Getty letterhead and toss it in the trash with the others? Just because someone tells me I owe them money, doesn't mean I have to pay it. Would I only be waiting for the police to show up with handcuffs?
What's the jurisdiction of these threats? If I get a threatnote from Getty USA, is it worth the paper it's printed on for a Canadian company? Or a site based in the UK?
I am not a lawyer. Most lawyers would tell you to get a lawyer. Most lawyers would tell you to not ignore them. The post at [extortionletterinfo.com...] would have some of what you are looking for.
The brief answer is that if you are the hosting site or person on record that they can find, then you are going to get the letter. I don't know what jurisdiction they have in Canada. I see no Canadian office, but they could have representatio there.
Removing the image is not enough for them, they want to collect from you by threatening you. So they troll sites, they unlawfuly steal your bandwidth in doing so and then they send a threatening letter. That is why you should block them in every way possible. You should inform all of the people on your site that they MUST license their images or take the pictures themselves.
At this time, Getty is going after only Rights Managed images because they have limited use rights and they cost $$$$$$$. The $1.00 - $5.00 images are not being targeted at this time. IF Getty could find traction with their claims, then they would go after everything, but there are not too many copyrights on $5.00 images, so they go after the more expenseive ones. They found in the USA, that if you don't have a copyright, you canot recover your legal costs and court cases for bulk filings of many images don't cary much of a penalty either, so Getty is not gettng traction on those.
BUT - Before you get a letter, stop it from happening in the first place. BLOCK their IP addresses, block sites that violates your Robots.txt file rules. Set a honeypot by having Robots.txt point to a fake and empty directory and then hide a link on the main page that point to it (use a small background color image or text with the background font) to point to that fake folder. Their bots will follow it and then you can ban them.
The following IP Addresses are the ones that we have blocked so far:
There are other BOTS that we block, but this is a good start. There are other bad bots out there. If bots ignore your Robots.txt file, then block them from coming back in the future. Plent of PHO and Perl script to automate the task if you are so inclined. I would like to see the virus and intrusion software companies step-it-up and kill these things off automatically at the server level with pre-page filtering.
Telling everyone that you know to get legal is a great ideas, but some may react too late. It is just not worth the hassle of dealing with Getty. If you host someone that has several Rights Managed Images, then the likelihood of Getty going to court would be higher since there is more $$$$$ for them to extort.
Can you look at an image and tell if it is rights managed? NO. Does Getty watermark images, not necessarily. Could the image have come from someone doing a search on the image and then they copied it? Absolutely! But not everyone knows about the law and when you get hit, it can be very expensive. Maybe the high school kid that did the site did not know about the law? Maybe we all need to know more. Just demanding payment is a BAD approach. Educating people about this is a far wider reaching approach. Bannin them at the server is just a safer bet in all cases. Their bots do not play by the rules, BAN THEM!
It's because of nonsense like this that I stay as far away from these sites as possible. I am extremely adverse to non-custom graphics.
I had to use a paid image recently for a website, and I bought the rights to the image. But now I have to keep it somewhere that I can track it for the next decade in case these people decide to fire off a C&D.
Far better to find an inexpensive artist and pay them. It's surprisingly inexpensive. I just called a local fellow, he wants $30/hour and he does some of the best custom illustrations I've seen on the web. For a few hundred bucks I end up with illustrations that look magazine quality (not the normal bought crap). And I own the copyright.
I hear what you are saying. You need to do that for logos anyway because you can't use stock art for that. But so many people grab a compass or binoculars or whatever and then they get caught with a stolen image (maybe they did not know that the designer took it). I don't want people to get into trouble. Some deserve it for sure!
Even if your corporate image design costs $500.00, it is still cheaper than Rights Managed artwork. In terms of the copyright, sometimes the artist keeps it, you need to get that in writing when you do the contract with the artist and you need to keep that contract. I am mostly buying images used in presentations and they are cheap enough, while saving me hundreds of hours of time each year.
You shoud keep ALL of your cntracts, licenses for software and image purchase documentation in folders. We now have a binder for all of the license agreements and then a copy of the purchase log for the images. So if you use a stock image or micro-image gallery, you just print-out the summary pages of what you have purchased and keep one copy of the master license agreement. We also keep the original images on disk with the original item number and the name of the source that we got them from in the image file name. I don't see an issue with keeping that forever, it is no different than keeping my articles of incorporation, my marriage license, my passport, Etc. in a file system.
However, I use a lot of images for my projects. I suppose that magazines and related media companies need to be very organizd about this and store the licensure by Issue / Volume Number / Date to keep it accessible.
DrC, you're right about the paperwork required to manage all your licensed imagery. I've got a good friend who used to work at TV Guide as photo editor. Every frame of film and every purchased / licensed image was diligently tracked and documented and filed. for every issue. For decades. It's part of being a publisher.
Nothing like running a business and becoming a beurocrat. I will be wasting so much time with this. But in this legal climate I need to and if they send me a letter I am going to say "SUE ME." I will not cooperate until the subpoena arrives and I might just say "I can't find it, but I do have it somewhere." Let them prove that I had it. Let them drag me to court and I'll show the judge that I have it (found it) and they can pay their legal bill and get nothing from me. But I don't use Rights Managed images and the chance of them challenging my legal licenses is slim, I know I am covered. Some artists are not exclusive to a given company and then some other image broker can say "Hey, that's ours." The Rights Managed work tends to be "exclusive" to each image broker.
But how many people are not covered for the one image that they have? How many Rights Managed images have they let hand out on Google and other image sites? How many Rights Managed images have they intentinally not watermarked? I do not support copying images, but they are too loose with this and they have not been careful with their Rghts Managed assets, but now they want payment from so many people.
If you have a simple website, then one or two images is simple to record and file. You should file copyrights on your site anyway. But the people on this site tend to support more than one site or server and I beleive we need to educate the masses. Maybe a public service banner advertisement that says GET LEGAL. Maybe newsletter warnings to customers. Certainly reminders when people sign up. Maybe a scared straight tactic such as pointng people to the lawsuit sites. Maybe adding copyright legality statements to contracts. Cettainly requiring image licensure proof when we help-out the customers. I can shorten the list, just Block the bad bots like Getty while you work on helping others to be legal.
Documening images is something else that we can recommend to our clients from day one. Spread the word, the lawyers are coming. Really, this is catching on an it is about to go "viral." The inmates are running the asylum while reproducing (not pretty). So take prophlactic measures and educate everyone that you can. Chicken Little, the sky...
Regarding provenance ...
Almost five years ago I was approached for a sum of £2,400 (almost $4K USD) because I had used a shopping cart icon on my own website. I was threatened with all sorts of stuff including much higher legal costs if I didn't pay. Without going into detail I didn't pay and I still haven't paid them a brass farthing.
The image in question had slipped through my net. I am still not sure where it came from. From memory I think I got it from an affiliate site but I had no record of this. I had to spend the next month going through all of my clients' websites to ensure that I could prove that I owned all of the images that had been used. I was fairly sure that I did but I could not afford to take any chances with my customers.
I found probably about half a dozen images during this exercise which were OK but whose whose source I was not sure of so they were promptly replaced. It was a valuable lesson to me and I now record the source of every image I use.
The bottom line is that I did not pay them. In general they will send you another couple of threatening letters but time and experience has shown that if you ignore them they will go away.
The legality of what they are doing has yet to be challenged in the UK and they are afraid to test it. If they do they will almost certainly have to stop issuing these claims and the revenue stream from the many people who pay without questioning it will stop.
One major problem with their process is that they always refuse to provide proof that they own the rights to the image. When challenged on this they say that they will only do so in court but it never goes this far.
A copyright is deemed to be valid for any published work. The use of the (c) 2011 Some Company, Ltd. is desireable. But you do not need to file in the USA and maybe it is similar in other countries like the UK? The filing of the copyright form puts it on record and acts as proof (not definitive proof) of ownership, which is desireable in a court of law. Sort of "My proof is better than your proof."
I know, I have been very close to this for almost five years now. ;)
Actually copyright exists automatically on just about anything that is created. Proving ownership is a different story and Getty refuse to do this.
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