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Image company claiming copyright infringment

11:36 pm on Dec 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Years ago, I did a website for a client, I used some images from Getty Images's website (this was early in my web design career, when I just got images from anywhere. I should've known they were copyrighted and couldn't be used without a license, not even for the web.

I thought perhaps, the web images were OK, because I wasn't using using them for print. Today, Getty calls my client and says they want $7000 bucks for copyright infringement. Dang! I immediately replaced the images with photos from our paid stock gallery (iStock) We've been using them for years now. I spoke with the guy who called my client, even though I replaced them, they still want the money.

Has anybody been in this situation before? What can I do?
I won't let my client take the fall for this (I take the blame), but I do not want to pay a whopping 7k for some images that were barely seen.

Note: the images were displayed as part of a collage in the header of the site. The entire image was about 550px width by 55px height. There where about 8 images side-to-side inside the collage. The images were also altered in color to match the site.

Is there anyway around this. What can I do about this dumb mistake I made years ago? What can I tell Getty?
Any help is appreciated.

2:34 pm on Dec 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member bwnbwn is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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I would just wait and see, Talk to an attorney and if need be get ready to retain him.

Send them a letter telling him you have hired an attorney and won't pay the asked for cost. Don't offer nothing don't say nothing that can be used against you they may be recording the conversations. Don't send them nothing in writing other than the attorney's name address and contact info. Tell them all future contacts have to be made to him not the client or you. reference the email they sent you and that is it.

Make this clear no contact what so ever to the client or you but only to your lawyer.

If they contact your lawyer retain him they won't get 7k out of a jury and it won't be worth their trouble to go to court.

I wouldn't try to bargen with them at all...

1:03 am on Dec 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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You need an attorney yesterday.

It doesn't matter how you used the pictures, how big they were, or how many people saw them, they can come after you for at a minimum whatever their licensing fees would have been for the usage you made of their photos. As to whether it can be negotiated down or whether you can get off the hook entirely, you need an attorney advising and speaking for you.

At the top of the list of concerns is that whether you are willing to take responsibility or not the entity legally responsible to the copyright owner for the copyright violation is the site owner, your client. That is who is going to have to settle this - and then come after you for their losses, which will be not just the settlement amount, but the cost of their attorney, their time, and any other damages they can document. And they may find it simpler just to settle for the asked amount to get the cloud off them since they'll be passing the expense off to you anyhow. Your liability will be determined by the terms of your contract with your client although of course you can voluntarily pick up the cost on moral grounds.

You also have an interest in keeping this quiet so you don't want any court filings. Potential clients and even current clients will think twice about a designer with a "copyright infringer" label. You don't want that weight if you can avoid it.

You and your client and your attorneys are going to have to weigh the costs of a doing a quick clean settlement for the $7K versus the likelihood of reducing the amount but at the cost of increased ancillary expenses. You did the infringement and now it's going to cost you but you need an attorney to make sure you get your settlement money's worth.

3:03 pm on Dec 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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$7K, Attorney? Surely that going to just add to the costs? IS a $7K demand worth it?

You have done the right thing by removing the images and accepting you are to blame but what are the actual risks to you now that you would need a lawyer to manage? Are they being opportuniistic? I would just decide the max you are prepared to pay and then negotiate with them.

11:14 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Just wondering.. Does anyone know if this type of suit begins in the local courts or do they sue in federal court? (in the US)



1:27 am on Jan 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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try settling? Just a suggestion...cry poverty
1:37 am on Jan 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member vincevincevince is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

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Another person to talk to is your business banker. With an appropriate loan you might not need to release $7k capital all at once if that is a lot for you.

The difficulty with your case is that the images were clearly marked as requiring payment for use, on top of which you have modified them and created a derivative work which generally involves additional licensing fees, and on top of that you have resold their copyright content... you can see why they feel they have a good basis to proceed.

I understand the court that it starts in depends on the type of claim it is, i.e. whether they are perusing damages or treating it as a monies claim for debt recovery however you will absolutely need to discuss this and your chances with a lawyer.

A few past threads on the topic:
$2000.00 Invoice from Getty [webmasterworld.com]
Panic Stations! Lawsuit threat for using an image [webmasterworld.com]
Corbis Copyright Issue and their Extortionate Infringement Claims (follow up to above) [webmasterworld.com]

4:23 pm on Jan 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Cmendla - yes, in the US copyright is federal domain and copyright infringement lawsuits are filed in federal district court.
11:00 pm on Jan 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

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3 ways
1. Pay up after asking for a lower fee

2. Fight it...might not be worth if they take you to court since they cannot afford to lose. Other will follow your example if they lose.

3. Ignore it and play the odds. They might send 1000's of notices a day and enough pay so they don't have to sue. They might go after only the Template Monster type and not small time /unwitting offenders.

Of course, I am not a lawyer and since your money is at stake, you know best.