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Warn ALL of your users About Getty Images

Stop Getty Image Bot Abuse and Tactics

5:26 pm on Aug 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

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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 Overview:
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.

Blocking PicScout:
Many control panels allow users to block incoming IP addresses and ranges of addresses. For example you could block 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 -, 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.

[williamfaulkner.co.uk ]

[danielwebb.us ]

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:

RankNameUsers (Millions)
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.
2:55 pm on Aug 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Because in most cases they can't. The images are the property of the artist. The artist uses Getty, iStockPhoto, Etc. as a broker, marketer, collection agent, rights enforcer of their artwork. "The painter paints, the gallery sells the art." The artist owns the artwork and would need to file the copyright.

In some cases, the marketing piece of this (Getty, Etc.) will file copyrights on collections that they purchased the rights to. Based on the sophisticated tracking of the images, the registration numbers, the agreements with the artists, Etc. you can bet that Getty and others have the copyright as part of their extensive paperwork, it is what they do.

IF getty would start to note the copyright numbers in their letters, they would collect more, but they probably do not have it.

NOTE: It is not just Getty. There is a HUGE uptake in legal action from other brokers and now law firms representing the artists. See the [extortionletterinfo.com...] and see Attack of the Getty Clones on that page (bottom left side).

Being legal is the way to go. But the brokers are using lawyers to exploit the law to screw small businesses that don't know the law and may have gotten images intentionally or by ignorance or by not asking their developer the right questions. Get legal before you get caught in a mistake. Blocking the bots at the server level buys your customers time to fix this and it certainly prevents bandwidth theft, which might just lead to the end of the image brokers from class-action lawsuits.

3:24 pm on Aug 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Actually this process has been around so long it even has a name now - it's called SPAMIGATION.
3:38 pm on Sept 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I got the extortion letter from Getty, along with the letter they sent screen shots of the images they say I owed them for. The images were part of a template I purchased 5 or 6 years ago.

I simply fired back an invoice to them asking them for $3500 for the screen shot that they took from my website which violated MY copyrights and my TOS.

I also pointed out that per my TOS they would have to come to Georgia in order to file suit. I advised them that the images had been removed and it would cost them more than $10,000 to obtain counsel in Atlanta and that their case would never make it through summary judgement.

Haven't heard from them in a year ....
4:14 pm on Sept 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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They often respond by citing that a copyright is valid once something is created and that filng is not necessary. They also note that the artist has the copyright and due to confidentiality, they will not provide the copyrigth number. REALLY! Copyrights are public and not private. Some are semi-private such as software that includes only the first 200 lines and last 200 lines of code, but images are filed in a public archive. So there is no confidentiality here. They just don't have it.

They also have a HUGE problem. Without the copyright, they cannot collect their legal fees from suing you. So YES they can spend $10,000 on lawyers, but they need the copyright filed before they sent you the letter to collect back their legal fees.

Getty also lists the artists in "collections" of images. Filing on a colletion of images is not very good and there is ample case law to show that they would get about $200.00 for images in a collection. If this was an image from an artist's book, that would be different, but a bulk collection filing could be 10, 100, 1000, 10000 images and case law says that they will not find favor with the courts.

Some of the collections filed by Getty are using the name of the employee at Getty that filed the collection. So they are using that employee name when sendng out the demand letters. I believe that is called FRAUD. They can't claim that they made an innocent mistake and they cannot claim that they don't know the law since the letter comes from the Getty legal department. The State Attorney General's offices are also concerned with this misrepresentation and "apparent" but false artist issue. Report your concerns to the AG of your state.

Doctor C
4:33 pm on Sept 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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One more thing... You said you had the receipt. That is great and it is important to get files or binders for all of your purchases.

BUT - Due to the terrible tone and extortion nature of their letters, it is more fun to do it this way. Write back that you have a receipt for the purchase as part of a template, Etc. However, you have no contract with Getty and you have no obligation to provide them with anything at all. In fact, you wish to be compensated at $500.00 per hour for your time to find the receipt, copy it, mail it to them, Etc.

So now they need to get a subpoena from a court to make you provide that. It takes them time and money for that time. But they are wasting your time. Why is your time not worth compensation? Why should you be burdened by their sloppy recordkeeping that should have found that this was part of a template? make them work for it. Make them spend money for it. Once you get a subpoena, then comply.

Is this a nice thing to do? NO. Is it nice that they send you a demand letter for an image that is part of a template that you paid for and where you have NO contract with Getty? NO. So fight-fight-fight them using the same legal BS that they are trying.

On the other hand, if you took the image, pay them, you got caught and you will spend more on a lawyer than their settlement agreement costs.

3:52 pm on Sept 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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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.


If you pay them as a free lancer the you do not own the copy right
9:05 pm on Sept 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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*Unless the freelancer/other business assigns the copyright to you in writing...with their signature..dated..on paper..emails don't count ..faxes might ..depending on both your jurisdictions.

"Work for hire" .. where you as the employer have the copyright(s) only counts if you are their employer.
1:20 am on Sept 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

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if i have a letter from them that says they assign copyrigjt ownership to me when i pay them, then they can take me to court if they like. i have it explicitly in writing from them now.
1:53 am on Sept 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

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If you have that then IME ..you'd be fine..

I've produced artwork /illustrations on those terms for people/ companies..

Just make sure it says "exclusive copyrights and exclusive reproduction rights in any and all media and supports .."

And that they certify that the "work" is all their own original work and that they have the legal rights to assign you all copyrights..

Prevents you finding your "viral" character on tee shirts or as "character figurines" one day and you not being able to do anything because you only bought the rights to electronic media..

CYA ;-)
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