Over the past several months I have had several inquiries about letters practices have received from Getty Images or other stock photo sites talking about copyright infringement. I have done a great deal of research on this over the past month and have found out this is not a scam and you need to settle these issues as soon as you can with Getty.

As a disclaimer I’m only writing what I know and what I have been told by Getty, web vendors, and lawyers I have consulted. I am in no way qualified to give you legal advice and take the information in this blog for what it’s worth. These issues are changing daily so I suggest contacting your web master and lawyer before engaging Getty.

What are the Issues?

  • Over the years numerous web companies have used what they considered to be “Free Photos.” In all actuality these are royalty free photos and must have a license before you put them anywhere on your site or blog.
  • The confusion is generally that people take these images from Google Images and use them in a blog post. Most webmasters feel since a blog post is more for informational purposes instead of commercial use it doesn’t fall under copyright infringement. THAT’S NOT THE CASE!
  • These images are placed on your blog or website and without a license they are breaking copyright law.
  • Getty sends these letters for images and the range for photo’s is $500 to $1500 to settle the dispute and demands payment in 14 days of receiving the letter.

So here’s what Getty says when you call them about settling these disputes and the cost of the photos. The cost depends on several factors:

  • The pixel size of the photo.
  • How long the image was up on your site. (Over a year by a day constitutes a two year license)
  • Whether it was on the primary page or a secondary page.
  • If there was a model release involved.
  • Exclusivity fees (you didn’t get)
  • The fees they pay the company to scour the internet looking for these images.
  • Processing fees and eventually attorneys fees.

So how do they know you have their photo on your site?

There is a company called picscout.com that they have hired to scan the web for their pictures.They inform them of the details mentioned above.

What you can expect if you contact a lawyer:

Again I’m not dispensing any legal advice or advising against seeking counsel I’m only telling you what I have been told. 

  • Getty knows the threshold of what you’re going to retain a lawyer for and the price just to pay them for the photo. (Retainers are around $1500-$5000)
  • Each lawyer said it was basically legalized extortion but Getty is within their rights.
  • They advised to contact Getty and get the Copyright Registration for the photos so you know they are actually copyrighted materials.
  • They would negotiate a rate that was more in line with acquiring the rights to begin with so you’re still going to have to pay something to Getty.

So what should you do?

  • Contact your web master and site developer to make sure they have licenses for each picture on your site or blog.
  • Take down ones that are questionable or you can’t get a license for and replace them with new photos.
  • Look for reputable sources to buy images from (I prefer dreamstime.com)
  • In my experience if you call Getty, explain your situation, and ask them for a more reasonable price they will come back to you with something less.
  • Do not ignore it! Eventually they will send it to a lawyer. At that point Getty will no longer negotiate with you.
  • Consult a copyright lawyer of your own.
  • Get everything in writing and make sure they don’t have any other issues they are going to spring on you.

I hope this was helpful and if I receive any more information I will update this blog.

Ben Shaver
Lead Strategist & Consultant

Ben Shaver is a dental marketing consultant for Dental Inbound. He works with practices of all sizes.

His main focus is to develop strategies that provide congruency between traditional media sources and new media platforms.

You can email him at bshaver@dentalinbound.com