The “Getty Images Extortion Scheme”

UPDATE: I have related articles you might be interested in: Did your ISP forward you a DMCA copyright infringement notice? and Analysis and raw contents of a real copyright infringement notice.

Recently, a client of mine who shall remain anonymous received a nasty letter from Getty Images, claiming copyright infringement and demanding an immediate “settlement amount” for images they claimed my client was using on their website without a license.  The client had the website designed by an Indian firm many years ago and the content of the site was (obviously) represented to him as being completely OK.

My client, if in fact engaged in copyright infringement at all, was not willingly and intentionally doing so.  The images were kind of stupid in my not-so-humble opinion anyway, and being the inheritor of the site’s maintenance tasks (or lack thereof, since nothing’s been changed beyond link targets), I removed the potentially infringing images, despite the fact that the threatening letter forwarded to me for review contains no actual proof of copyright.

The content of this letter is malicious, to say the least, and attempts to deceive the recipient into ignoring their legal rights.  Furthermore, the letter asks for an outrageous “settlement” to the tune of $1,000 PER IMAGE…for images that aren’t even 300 dots across!  I can’t imagine why anyone would pay fifty cents a pixel for ANY image.  (Unless it’s porn, because you’d be shocked at just how many people look at the stuff and wreck their computer in the process by executing something claiming to be, say, a “Scarlett Johansson private porn movie” when it’s really a virus.  Sheesh.)

I started searching for info on these people after this event occurred, and that’s when the really interesting tidbits started popping up…

A Google search for “getty images letter” yields ~856,000 results.  They’ve been damned busy.  Most of it is forum postings, but the real gem was this website that says it all, and I’ll leave you with a delicious excerpt from it:

Why is This Being Called “Legalized Extortion” and an “Extortion Letter Scheme”?

This is a descriptive term for Getty Images’ deliberate, malicious, bullying, and presumptuous letter campaign that engages in what is tantamount to legalized extortion. The letter in its entirety is both well-worded and well-constructed. It has been clearly been well thought out. Because of the deliberate construction and planning that goes into this letter campaign, it qualifes as a Scheme.

The Letter automatically presumes guilt of the recipient. The letter recipient is expected to provide proof of their innocence. In effect, the letter recipient is presumed guilty unless they prove their innocence.

Although the letter does provide for the possibility that the letter recipient was unaware and unintended of the alleged infringement, the Letter takes a heavy-handed and unforgiving approach of stating that they are responsible for all alleged “damages and liability”. The Letter automatically presumes Getty Images has been “damaged” whether or not that is actually true or proven.

Because this scheme relies heavily on the letter recipients ignorance of due legal process and people’s inherent fear of legal conflict as a result of that ignorance, it is considered by many as legal extortion.

That’s all, folks.  On that site, you can find a lawyer who will represent you for $150 an hour against Getty Images, should you receive a nasty letter from them and feel the need to respond.  Note that Getty Images has not filed one single lawsuit against ANY recipients of their extortion letter. This is no different than the RIAA extortion scheme attempting to sue “file sharers” even though no proof of actual sharing (and thus no damages) exist.

Do not conduct business with Getty Images or any of its surrogates, such as, because this kind of abuse should not be rewarded.  If you have received a “settlement letter” from these scumbags, you can probably ignore it.  I would recommend (A) removing the alleged infringing images anyway, (B) removing all copies of your site from’s Wayback Machine, and (C) waiting for Google’s cache of your website to refresh or vanish, before you initiate contact with Getty Images again, if you do so at all.  You can also add entries to your robots.txt file to disallow the Internet Archive’s bot from caching up and archiving your site, and you can add META tags to each page that disallow ALL caching by robots; this will effectively reduce the chance that some third party can verify that the images ever existed, and give you plausible deniability:  “I’m sorry, but no such image exists or has ever existed on this website.  You did an excellent job of mocking up a screenshot, though; we appreciate your need to locate customers, but you are in error and we do not wish to license images from you if you choose to approach us this way.”

Normally I’m against copyright infringement, but the presumption of intentional malicious infringement and including a settlement bill is insanely unethical and does indeed amount to “legalized extortion.”  If a third party misrepresented the licensing status of the delivered product to the site’s owner, how is that the site owner’s fault in any way?  Such a situation would be similar to claiming that a publisher is engaged in copyright infringement for publishing a book: they’re making money off of it and distributing the material, so isn’t it their fault?  NO.  The CONTENT GENERATOR is at fault for misrepresenting the facts to the next link in the chain, and the content generator should be held responsible for their failure to comply with copyright laws.

Beyond that, though, this is a decency issue when it all boils down.  It’s always possible that the infringing party is not doing so intentionally and does not know that the image is licensed; indeed, on the Internet, much content is reproduced without copyright statements attached, and it’s easy to err.  A POLITE cease and desist request would have been more than sufficient to stem the infringement for good and cause the business owner to “wise up.”  Instead, these jerks chose to bully up my client, and that’s flat-out stupid, because someone like myself sees this stuff as a third party and blogs about it, generating NEGATIVE PUBLICITY.  I wish I could give them MORE bad publicity for trying to screw my client out of egregious sums of money that just so happen to be less than the cost of a lawsuit, but far more than the license value of the images.  They do not deserve to be in business if this is their idea of B2B relations.  Interestingly enough, they only seem to go for small business owners, not big ones that can fight back!  I can’t explain how despicable Getty Images is for behaving like this, and I strongly urge you to never give them a cent again.

On a side note, this is why you should choose a reputable United States-based firm to design websites instead of outsourcing that work to India or other countries that are known for their rampant copyright violations.  My client almost got bitten by something he did before meeting me–make sure you don’t fall into the same trap.  Get either licenses for the images or a statement from the designer that all material on the site they’ve designed is properly licensed for your site or is an original work that they have the rights to license to you directly.  Prevention is important, and copyright infringement IS generally a bad thing, so take the proper steps and avoid this issue entirely.

Apparently, Corbis Images is doing the same exact thing.  Avoid them as well.  In fact, search for ANY stock photo company you do business with followed by the word “letter” and see if they’re actively threatening people before you pay them one red cent.  Do your part to discourage bad business practices and we may very well see this kind of crap end one day.

An excellent resource to read letters like these is the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse.

I’d also like to point out that this page also does a great job of talking about the misbehavior of Getty Images and what to do about them.

94 thoughts on “The “Getty Images Extortion Scheme”

  1. Hi! Any further information on this would be much appreciated. I received a letter like this and, although not a lawyer, am in general concurrence that a cease and desist WITHOUT demand for payment or “settlement” would be a more acceptable approach. Please let me know if you know of any cases at all related to this. Thank you!

  2. A client of mine also recieved this letter today. It is plain extortion from a company that clearly does not care about retaining or adding new customers. I say don’t pay but remove the images that you didn’t know were theirs. To Getty Images, good luck taking millions of small business owners into court to deemed guilty until proven innocent…oh wait our justice system works the other way around…sorry getty.

  3. Hi All!
    I just got my second letter Getty responding to my first letter for a picture infringement.
    Let me know if anyone is doing a class action or has any advice.
    In the second letter they went form wanting $1300 to a $1000, I wonder if I write another letter if I can get them down to $700 or less =)
    I have every intentions of fight this to the end!

  4. Thanks very much for the info and advice. I’m in the midst of dealing with Getty. They have now turned me over to NCS Recovery, probably because I answered their letter and made an offer to settle for the posted purchase price of $263 – still an outrageous amount for a postage size image they cannot prove wasn’t obtained legally. On a separate note for the owner of this website, thought you would want to know that Google Ads has posted a Getty Images ad on your website with a link to!

  5. I am in Italy, and I received a letter for 3 images, asking around 500 euros in total + a 50% penalty. Interestingly, their copy and paste system didn’t work well, so they added a 500 euros penalty instead of 250. I wrote back saying I was happy to pay them 750 euros with the correct 50% penalty, and got an answer saying that I still had to pay them 1000 euros. They stated that the prices for the pictures on their site are not valid in case of violation of copyright, so they sent me some new prices that they completely made up for the occasion. I refused to pay, and they are now saying they will take me to court asking at least 1000 euros per picture. I don’t understand, do this people believe they sell gold or what? And do they really think that there would be a judge awarding them a completely invented price, that doesn’t even exist on their web site?

  6. Thanks for putting this blog together. In 2003, I was one of the unsuspecting consumers of web design services who was (admittedly) naïve when it came to copyright and images.

    Finding out the hard way, I came to learn that two of the images on my site had not been paid for and were apparently Getty Images. The letters immediately started flowing and I immediately wrote back, informing them that I had since taken the images down, offering an apology for the misunderstanding, and suggesting that they make available the very technology that “caught” me and others using their images illegally, so that we can all make sure that we don’t do it in the future.

    Of course, no consideration was offered for my letter, my corrective action, nor the suggestion that I made. Instead, more threatening letters ensued…

    Then, I was handed over to NCS Recovery. They immediately started with the threatening calls. For a while, I didn’t answer the phone. Then, one day, I picked up the phone and politely asked them to stop calling me. I explained that I know that as a collections agency they have to respect my request to stop calling me. And guess what? Not only have I not had a call since (4-5 months now), but there has been no follow-up whatsoever.

    I am not an attorney, and I can’t be 100% certain (I don’t think that even attorney’s in this field can be), but once it is handed over to a collection’s agency, I am pretty sure that it isn’t going to go anywhere. Collections agencies rarely take people to court. And if they do, it has to be for a big sum of money and the case has got to be a slam dunk (which would make you think that if the case was a slam dunk, it would never have been handed over to the collections agency in the first place). Collections agencies try to scare people into paying, but their bark is rarely ever backed up with a bite.

    In my case, I am considering this matter closed. I am also doing everything within my power to steer people away from using getty and (wholey owned by getty). Ironically, I had been using istockphoto prior to this whole rediculous ordeal. Not surprisingly, I have since stopped.

    I cannot think of a more stupid, bird-brained idea as to play hard ball with (inevitably) some of the people that are your actual customers. Biting the hand that feeds them is an understatement.

    I wish you folks the best of luck. I believe that most of you did not intend to steal anything and that this undoubtedly just caused you more stress at a time when (economically) you could have easily done without it.

    I wish getty images much grief for their selfish, cowardly act. And may this grief come in the form of missed business opportunities, increased expenses, and (hopefully) an ultimate demise of the company and the positions held by the greedy executives who made these cowardly decisions to extort well-meaning individuals.

  7. Add one more voice to this outrage. I got the same letter. As with the OP, this was the work of my web developer, but, in any case, there was no digital or visible watermark and nothing in the image properties to indicate that it was a Getty image. Am I supposed to check their site to see if the image is one of theirs? Give me a break. So much for acting in the interests of their clients. I filed a BBB complaint and got a “tough shit” response from their lawyers and a threat to sue. I offered to pay them a portion of the 1,000 they demanded. We’ll see what the response is. This is utter idiocy. All they had to do is ask nicely and invite me to purchase images from their site. They might actually have earned a customer. Now all they’ve earned is my enmity and disgust.

  8. I have set up an e-mail account for anyone interested in joining me in a Class Action lawsuit against Getty Image’s demand letters/email messages/phone calls. My company appears to be unique in that the Sales Person for Getty Images demanded $10,000 for past use of an image (which, by the way we purchased) on our website, several thousand dollars more for print ads, several thousand dollars for marketing material, and an unknown amount for damages. We were informed that we would be receiving two separate invoices from them. I will post again when we receive the actual invoices.

  9. Found this posting after I too rec’d a letter, and doing a little research on-line. In my case, I believe some web design work done several years ago utilized some royalty free images from a company which Getty has since purchased. However, rather than waste any of my time or energy responding or trying to explain any of this, I have merely removed the suspect images from the website. It is quite unlikely they will pursue more than a handful of these cases in court (much like the earlier comparison to RIAA with song downloading), however, as a software developer myself, I do have to say that I see the legal basis (and in fact duty) that Getty has to protect their copyright claims. Much like a pair of knock-off Nikes or boot-leg DVD’s, if they DID NOT send the nasty letters whenever a violation was encountered, it would be impossible to defend their copyright ownership at all. (It’s like the old story of the Coke reps that order “coke” in a restaurant, and if they are served “Pepsi” instead, they have to sue the restaurant owner to protect the “Coke” copyright).

    Don’t take it personally; just remove the images if you don’t have a valid license to use them; keep a low profile, and try to fly under their radar (IOW, I wouldn’t even respond to any phone calls or letters), and hope it goes away (the old “Cheers” character Sam Malone’s philosophy; ignore a problem long enough and it goes away) FYI, NCS Recovery is one of the largest “letter writing” collection agencies; they really don’t do much more than that, and no, they’re not going to sue you for a couple thousand dollars.

  10. I received my first letter regarding a low resolution image that was put on my site by the original website builder and was told to me was “good to go”, getty images demanded removal and $750, because of the lack of intent and obvious wide distribution of their images I am not inclined to even respond to them. I have removed the image, but do not intend to pay. Please advise me if their is a class action suite

  11. I received one of these letters yesterday. Our website was designed by a reputable external firm and I have passed the letter to them. They say they will take it from here. One thing in my letter was a 10% “discount” if I paid up within 21 days which made me think they were not serious about following up.

  12. I received a letter a few days ago. I plan on ignoring it after contacting my new webmaster. The 2 “offending” photos have been removed but I didnt take kindly to their extortion demands of $450 per photo.

    Hey Getty, this is AMERICA where you are (still) INNOCENT until PROVEN GUILTY.

    Blow me.

      1. I got a letter too back in ’08
        I took the image off my web site, which the image was a stock photo that came from a big cookie cutter co.
        I had no clue.
        I took the image off my web site sent a letter explaining what happened.
        (Which I would not send a letter again)
        Just ignor it.

      2. It’s been 6 years since my last coraspodence and I’ve not heard a thing. Just ignor it.
        They are looking for an easy buck.

        I think I posted my response to Getty somewhere in the comment section of this form.

        1. The letter I received was not a letter in the mail but an email from License Compliance Services for Design Pics Inc. I looked up the company Design Pics Inc they are based out of Canada and are not owned by Getty Images. The pic they claim they have (Design Pics Inc ) a copyright on is not even on their image gallery?? My website was developed by a Web Design company based in India. I have no idea that about this. I am not a website developer I run an educational program that I just started and have not even made a single penny in revenue but have spent thousands in opening costs for this program. After they sent me the email i forwared the email to the Web Design Company an they promptly took the picture down to be safe and they are saying that this is a scam because they say the picture in question was part of an advertising campaign (called “Incredible India”run by the Government of India, Ministry of Tourism, and this picture was one of the pictures released in a Media Kit (they sent me the link) by the Government of India to be freely used by companies in their ads in print or online media to promote tourism to India. Government of India gave out CD’s of these pictures with Incredible India logo on them and without. So how can Design Pics claim they have rights to this picture. The email they sent me also had a link to promply make the payment of $600.00 through credit card and they said you can make the payment through bank account and the shady part is that the name on the bank account says Picscout, which is a company based in Isreal and the bank account is in Florida. So a company based in Canada claims they have copyrights to a picture released by Govenment of India media kit and then a company based in Seattle, Washington,US, called “License Compliance Services sends me an email and wants me to pay $600.00 in settlement amount, with a bank account which belongs to Picscout a company in Isreal?? This is shady ?? And then 3 days ago they called and left me a voicemail. Please advise.. I am not going to email or return their calls..

  13. Yes, my turn, I just got one demanding £805, reduced by 10% if paid within 21 days. All seems very agressive and incriminating. I shall follow the advice on this page. I do generally buy all my stock pics, but this one obviously got away from me….as if there is not enough stress in life with out this. I can just see a massive call centre just full of operators trying to extort our money and intensive training days as these guys teach their staff how to go for the jugular. What a world!

  14. I too rec’d the nasty letter today. I was so glad that I come to this site and find a lot of valuable comments.
    I guess this is the beauty of internet you can fight back and do not have to succumb to the “divide and conquer” way of being bullied.
    Lord, have mercy on Getty Images ’cause they don’t know what they are doing!!!

  15. My they have been busy. My client received a letter today. We don’t even know where the image came from. She gave it to me in a Word document that an old employee created. I didn’t even use the whole image just a portion. We are goint to ignore I may have her send a letter to getty images.

  16. Rec’d a letter on Friday from Getty in London demanding £1,252.35 with offer of 10% discount if I paid quickly. Their letter is addressed in London and yet they are charging Irish vat at 21%. No invoice number is shown on the settlement demand, this has got to be illegal. How can a company in the UK charge Irish vat? There is no breakdown of how they have arrived at the amount they are asking and also unless you can be seen to have profited from the use of a photograph how can anything be quantified? Surely if anything you are promoting the photographer? Like everyone else, we have been let down by a website designer who has now moved on and cannot be found. We don’t have the money to pay for this and may have to look now at closing our business and filing for bankruptcy. I haven’t slept all weekend for worrying about this and I still don’t know what to do, some people say ignore it and other sites say whatever you do, do not ignore Getty. Someone somewhere needs to take up all our calls for help on this. We need to bombard our governments about this and file a register of all those who are being held hostage to these extortion demands.

  17. add me to this list. Once of my clients said they got the same thing. The website has been designed without change for 7 years.

    The IRS doesn’t even seem to require the same accounting that these guys are asking for.

    Has anyone here actually paid the settlement or gone any further than just receiving this letter.

  18. Received a letter from Getty demanding $1350.00 CD per image but will offer a 10% discount if we pay prior to July 21/10. Spoke to a “compliannce specialist” whom I queried about the fact that if one goes to Google Images one can copy any image to their desk top without any copyright warnings. His response was that Google warns all users about copyright infringement. He tried hard hard to prove that without success. Our site was designed by an outside source in Canada two years ago and we assumed that the images were ligitimately procurred.We understand that images have copyrights attached to them. We also would understand if they advised us to stop using them or start paying for them but these high handed tactics will leave them waiting of our money to arrive in the next century. money

  19. I received this letter a couple days ago. They found a picture on the sub-sub-sub page of my website which theay said has their copyright and demand 560 euro’s. This image i got from google and it is a thumbnail of 2x2cm. I removed the image immidiately and wrote them back asking to prove the copyright of the image.
    I am definately not going to pay a cent for this!

  20. same thing- ncs called today- tell them to leave you alone. do not bother talking to them. its extortion. demand that they leave you alone.

  21. well I posted here over a year and a half ago about my second letter from getty…. have not heard anything since.
    However I did get a scheme letter from web country / philco / 1dollarweb hosting
    I had used 1dollarwebhosting back in late 99 to early 2000 terminating my services with them around 2000-2001 (I don’t recall the specific date)so in 2008 (7 years after the fact) I get some odd ball charge on my credit card statement.. saying what the heck I try and call the company.. nobody! so I contact my credit card co.. and they send a letter, they get no response as well… so now I am getting letters from some collection agency in Simi:
    Valley Financial Network Recovery
    PO Box 940730
    Simi Valley Ca 93094

    they want $249.10 from me… great business strategy.. take a client that you have not done business with for over 7 year and just go ahead and charge them… awesome! if they don’t pay send it to collections… even better… so anybody else have an issue with these clowns?

  22. Gosh I hate modern life sometime. I have always been a rule follower and was brought up to respect the rule of law but just going through life trying not to bother anyone I always wind up being a criminal. I got the dreaded letter from Getty Images today demanding $875 for a small header image I used from a web site building tool provided by siteground hosting. Apparently according to Getty it is my responsibility to make sure every icon, punctuation, or whatever that is not text is licensed even though it is part of a design tool that is offer by a service I am paying for. So for me it’s pulling any presence I have on the web off and disappearing even though I run a recording studio service that provides studio time and promotion for free to deserving song writers that can’t afford professional studio costs. So I’m the bad guy because I set up a placeholder website using a default design (that used the image in question) and now I’m being charged more than I’ve made with this business in 3 years. I hope there’s some karma that will get these SOB’s because I am sick of trying to be a decent human being in this mess of a world that is intent on destroying any decency that still manages to exist somehow. Getty Images, I’ll pay your fee just because I am guilty of not checking to see if a company I don’t know or even have a clue of how to contact didn’t inform me about a 4″x1″ low quality image. So I’m shutting down the studio and a lot of really talented kids are not going to make it because I’m not there to help them for FREE! Drop Dead creeps!

  23. Hi,

    Like everyone else, we received a letter stating that “check your images right and get backwith us” mail in Japan. and i started researching about getty and found out that so many people in worldwide being victimized by getty extortion.

    i found several webpage owners in Japan were already being victimized that some people have received letter saying pay $30,000USD or elese…

    when i received letter mail from getty i conctacted local police but it was unhelpful. because case might involved with intectual rights. i explained about possible extortion though.

    now i understand frustration and situation.

    Vast majority of people in japan do not speak english which they are limited to research. so i set up jp site for educate webpage owners.

    im not gonna sit down wait and see. i cleary see their direction. im gonna fight back.

    Guys! Do Not Shut Up! Talk to People, talk to local authority which does not matter whether they understand or not.

    If you become quiet, soon or later nobody is able to build webpages.

    Best Regards,

  24. So I read alot about people that have received letters. But what I do not see is that Getty is doing anything MORE than just sending letters. HAs this gone any further than a letter for anybody? Has getty filed an actuall suit? What sould I expect to happen if I just ignore them?

  25. I got a 2 letters from GETTY about a image on a SOFTWARE DESIGN program I bought. Seems funny that GETTY Will allow DISTRIBUTION of the images and do nothing to stop them yet they will go after the small business man and say “YOU HAVE TO PROVE YOU HAVE RIGHTS” and when asked HOW WERE WE TO KNOW WHO’S IMAGES THEY WERE all they say is “THAT IS YOUR REPSONSIBILITY” Go FIgure.

    I say go to FACEBOOK And POST YOUR PO Comments on their page. See if they are willing to ANSWER for the world to see. THE POWER OF ONE is strong. Anyone up to going for CLASS ACTION with me?

  26. Getty has stepped up there extortion activities it appears. They make alot of money off this so extensive resources have been put toward it.

    I received a letter in 2003 for using images of work I created for my clients on my website portfolio section. The images were paid for, for print but they wanted over $100,000 for the samples shown on my web site. I finally ignored them after a few letters and they went away but it was very stressful.

    Getty Investments run by Mark Getty and Jonathan Klein is a ruthless company with one goal. MAKE MONEY any way, anyhow regardless of moral concerns.

    They recently screwed 90% of their contributors at with a new payment plan.

    Finally, the social media is fighting back with sites like this and others. Maybe the negative PR might soak into Getty and Klein’s evil black souls and make them reconsider their bully and extortion actions but I really double it.

  27. Got mine asking for $600 for a postage-size fuzzy picture. I said for them to contact my lawyer and gave his phone number. They have emailed back asking for his letter of representation. These guys suck. So, I’m going to waste $200 in attorney fees, but better than $600 to these losers. Getty sucks!

  28. Getty Images makes a very large portion of it’s profits by scaring small business owners into paying this “legal extortion” and it’s all based on copyrights obtained by Getty from photographers, who if dishonest or “mistaken” can sell the images to others interests and then sign a statement to Getty that is false. Because Getty stands to make huge profits by extorting money from the Web owner for the acts of these “mistaken” or dishonest photographers, it turns a blind eye to this practice and may very well encourage it. Remember the old saying “follow the money!”
    Congress needs to get involved call your representative.

  29. I can’t understand why you are whinging so much, people who steal should pay consequences. If you steal a tin of beans, which do not have great value to anyone, you can end up in prison, so think yourself lucky if you steal an image and just get, what amounts to a fine.

    1. Sure, people who steal should pay consequences. The problem is that in almost every situation involving Getty Images, what has happened is an offshore company, usually in India, is hired to build a website, and THAT company steals the images, delivering them to the client without having first licensed them, and representing to the client that the site is “ready” despite this. How is the client supposed to know that their image was stolen? Many website firm clients are ignorant of image copyrights and don’t know to demand certification that the images used in the site were properly licensed. The person who is being targeted didn’t do the stealing, they are a victim of the hired firm’s lack of regard for the law, and because copyrights don’t seem to matter so much in India as they do here, there is little recourse, especially if the firm disappears.

  30. If there is a class action suit against Getty Images regarding their “extortion letter”, we are interested in being a part of it. Our site was done by a 3rd party who – according to them – used only “free” images at the time the site was developed. There is a difference in stealing an image from Getty and being in this position based on someone what some else has done. Paying what is due is not the issue. The issue is the way this is being handled. Give us the opportunity to remove the image(s)in question. If we want to keep the images then we pay for them. Not everyone used the images knowingly with malice of forethought.

  31. Do not respond to demands for MONEY on this issue EVER!!!! Why?

    The DMCA or Digital Millennium Copyright Act
    ( was
    passed some years ago. Its designed to allow people to protect
    copyright on the Internet but its also designed to prevent frivolous
    lawsuits against host providers and website owners. It allows “safe
    harbor” for hosting ISP’s and their users, by
    allowing them upon notice of copyright infringement, so many days to
    remove offending content from their software and server and avoid
    lawsuits. That includes music, video, whatever. Ever been to YouTube
    and seen Music Videos on there for free, that a week later are gone?
    All that happens is the music companies and artists go and demand to
    take it down, and Google complies and its done. No lawsuit. Its
    designed to protect copyright content holders but as well host
    providers. Its no big deal. I would change out the images on the
    server and then not pay them a dime. An IP attorney should know about
    this Act and you should be ok. Read the DMCA and see if it applies to you.

    1. I am in a similar situation to most others out here, received the demand letter for a fractional image in a banner, and just hired an attorney to deal with them. I will not be paying either. I would rather bankrupt my company and start a new one than pay scum that operate like this.

      The attorney has advised me that DMCA protects me as well, and that Getty may not be entitled to any more than $49 per image if that.

      Additionally, there is a 3 year statute of limitations that can protect you beyond the DMCA.


      They have an obligation to protect their art with watermarks that are clear and in my opinion have purposelly leaked copyrighted work into royalty free sites strategically so they can later extort money from people, but this is mearly my hunch as to what they are doing.

      I will join in a class-action as well.


  32. I am one too receiving a letter for $600. My third party designers used a portion of a photo and it was 10 years ago. Not paying!!!

  33. Unreal …. Letter i got looked like junk mail, almost threw away …. Removed alleged photo violation and will do nothing until I am notified other than by first class mail ….

  34. To the people that are saying “I found these images on Google, aren’t they in the public domain?” the answer is “no.” You need to get permission for the images you post on your site. But the way Getty Images is approaching this is reprehensible. Like the RIAA, I predict they will be on the loosing side of history.

    I came across this thread yesterday while researching my extortion letter issue. I also bookmarked another site. I want to make it clear that I am not a shill for this other site. I just think people here with really high-cost issues might want to look at it. For $150 this attorney will send a letter on your behalf to Getty explaining how you got the images and perhap get them off your back.

    That said, I probably won’t be using his service. Getty is pimping me for more than $2500 for images provided to me by the client and his site was hosted on my site for a period of time as a demo. The site never launched and there is no one to go after but me. I think the DMCA puts me in the clear.

    But the other thing I would like to ask is if other web designers out there have recommendations for stock footage agencies that are NOT owned by Getty Images. I still have about $40 in credits left on iStockPhoto. But of course once that is gone I will be looking to work with a company that doesn’t sue (or threaten to sue) its customers. Is a legitimate alternative? Any other ideas?

  35. Getty Images has been on a decade-long crusade to track down the “illegal use” of it’s rights-managed images, slapping completely innocent people with $10,000 bills out of the blue. They use fear-tactics to squeeze money out of people who have absolutely NO idea what they’re being billed for—years later. Here’s how the REAL racket works: Getty has purchased almost EVERY major stock photography house on the market, assimilated entire collections that were originally ROYALTY FREE and then suddenly and without warning made them RIGHTS MANAGED. Uh-oh!! Guess that stock photo you used in a website SEVEN YEARS ago is no longer royalty-free and it’s your fault for not knowing that, even though nobody ever would have known this. Enter PicScout (Israeli software developer–google it), NOW Getty has a tool to track down ALLLLLL of those images that might be out there on the web “illegally” They only target high-value companies that they know will cave-in on a $5k bill threatening legal action if they don’t pay the ‘ransom’ on those images. If they send out 200,000 demand letters and only 200 people pay the $5k, they just made $1M for doing NOTHING. GREED RUNS DEEP in the John Paul Getty family. Very, very deep. Getty Images is a direct result of this family greed. I will never, EVER use Getty images for anything. They can go f–k themselves. Twice.

    1. I work for Getty Images (“the enemy”). Just thought I would point out that the Getty family no longer have anything to do with the running of the company. Mark Getty is a director by name only.
      I find these comments hilarious by the way – I wonder what you would be saying if you were the photographer whose work was being used with credit/payment?
      I agree the letters can be a little aggressive, but they are standard letters sent out whether you are an individual or a big corporation. There are so many infringements that we simply do not have the time to personalise each letter. However, if anyone who recieves one simply calls the number on the letter and explains the situation, you will find things a lot more human and reasonable.

      1. Lucy, unfortunately, you seem to have missed the point AND approached this matter with the same attitude that everyone here is complaining about. The problems with the letter are many and varied, but the largest problem that it takes the immediate approach of threatening to sue. Unfortunately for your company, if someone removes the images you claim to be infringing, all the screenshots in the world will not help, as they can easily be forged and by the time your lawsuit made it to court, all Internet caches of the supposedly infringing site would have long since been purged. As a matter of practicality, your letter is equivalent to the “pay up or else” notices sent by such unscrupulous firms as USCG and CEG.

        But that’s not the REAL problem. The problem is that you are hostile towards customers. “I find these comments hilarious.” YOU might find them to be hilarious, but the person you’re demanding $1500 from under threat of lawsuit for an image whose licensing costs a tiny fraction of that amount does not see the funny side.

        Lucy, I spoke to a lady in Great Britain OVER THE PHONE (not online, a real human voice) who had a tiny “psychic” website and received a Getty threat letter. She was almost crying because someone else designed her site and she didn’t know they had used a potentially infringing image, and her husband was bedridden with cancer and she was broke…AND she didn’t even operate the business any longer, she just hadn’t had the site taken down. She was freaking out because of the letter you think is so very reasonable and generous. This is what people like you, who have little consideration for others, do to people when you don’t give a damn and send blanket threat letters like this. To be perfectly honest, it’s unconscionable at best.

        The simple remedy is to change the threat letter from “WE WILL SUE YOU IF YOU DON’T PAY US THOUSANDS” to a friendly request for customer conversion. Assume that the person who put up the site is not acting in bad faith and simply request that they license the image properly, and make it easy to do so, at the price they’d pay if they had searched for and licensed the image themselves. Getty would never have built such bad mojo if this approach had been taken from the start, and their customer base would likely have grown, as well as become more educated. When you take the threatening approach to copyright enforcement, though, you can expect nothing more than the digital equivalent of “get off my property.”

        I will continue to advise people to thwart your moronic potential lawsuits and brush off your foolish customer-hating letters until I am advised that you have corrected this bad business practice, and you can’t do a damn thing about it, no matter how “hilarious” you think the backlash against your company is.

  36. I just received my escalation to legal department letter. Will follow your folks suit, and also do nothing. I would love to know if we need to collect all the folks affected and get together a counter class action harrassment suit. This has caused me incredible trauma and distraction. I got this letter on the same day in January 2011 that I headed into months of dealing with breast cancer. I hate seeing this company rear it’s ugly big scary face in my life again, as I am just beginning my 5 months of chemo, and this is the last thing I want to be concerning myself with. These posts are the best reassurance I could find on the web. Thank you sooo much, and I hope to god you are right. Bless you all.

  37. I spoke to the people at and they said they were not affiliated with Getty at all either. I find their images are better than iStockPhoto’s anyway.

    Carla — If I were in your situation, I would turn over my case to that lawyer that is on that site 4 posts above. He charges $200 now. But once you do that you won’t get any harassing letters or calls.. In fact once he represents you they cannot contact you directly.

    Be well.

  38. i have received letter from Getty again after a year since i did not replied their first letter. i have removed all their images. After one year they have bounced back.
    what are my options?

    1. You are better off ignoring them and going to court and explain your circumstances. The last case I am aware of that they won in court they were awarded $5846 including attorney fees for use of 4 images on a small business site. The case probably cost them $50K in reality to prosecute, so stretch it out as long as possible and if needed at the very end get a lawyer, but you will likely do fine in court also if you did not do anything malicious like steal their photos and try and resell them. They have a lot to prove before they can win a court battle.

      Best to be incorporated as well. This is a good example why.


  39. They aren’t “stolen” images. In our case, we bought a template from a large, reputable site that’s been around for more than a decade. The template include a piece of art that could have been devised from a photo that Getty is claiming is theirs, and granted use of the images. They need to first show that the photographer sold them *exclusive* rights to the photo. If they can do that, then they probably have recourse to write to the template company. I highly doubt they can. The US military sites have tons of completely free photos, most of which can be cropped to what you probably need.

  40. they are pathetic they did the same thing to me for a website that was closed like 4 years ago. they are trying to make money in any way they can, GETTY IMAGES I PATHETIC!

  41. I just received letter number two. Although I had consciously selected a non-copy righted photo, Getty’s letters made me think perhaps I had made a mistake. With letter number two on the desk, my partner checked the source code of the original image copy and lo and behold, we discovered that it was tagged “public domain” as of the date we incorporated the image into the website.

    I am curious to know Getty’s response to my request for proof of copyright and comment on the fact that image we used was tagged “public domain”.

    Anyone encounter that slimy twist?

  42. Hello, I’m web developer from Croatia! I received letter from them to. I called the lawyer’s office from whom i get the letter. In 2 minutes of talking with them they lowered the price from 1000 euros to 500 euros, then from 500 to 100 euros.So I told them on the phone that they can go fuck them selfs and They are full of crap told them to not call me any more, otherwise i will pursuit them! 🙂 CONCLUSION :They can’t do you nothing. Just ignore them! Have a nice fay, OK bye, bye then!

  43. I got this letter which indicating the website I have using an image from getty images. And ask to pay for settlement fee. However, there is no such image on our website from what I can see. When I called, they said that it’s still on the “about us” page. But there is no such image on it! Plus the picture they sent in the letter is not “about us” page. Wish someone collect those cases and put them into trial.

  44. I just got a letter from “Getty Images” claiming I am using one of their photos on my website. The funny thing is I got the picture from a former partner’s CD of free stock photos, but before I posted it on my site made sure that I had the right to use it. The picture in question is offered for free at, so I downloaded it and forgot about it. Funny thing is that I used the CD’s picture, which is the same but includes details about the copyright holder, precisely to make sure that it could not be reused. Unless is a scam, which I do not think, Getty Images could be getting in turbulent waters with false C&D letters for use of pictures they do not have exclusive rights for.

    CONCLUSION: If you got this pictures from a third party and they told you they were free stock photos, make sure you check the free stock photos web sites before taking them down – you could be on the right and they could be on the wrong.

  45. Hi, I received a formal notice from GI (without receiving letters 1&2) and It says that my website used a couple of their images. I know that ignorance is not an excuse, but I’ve seen a lot of website owners use GI’s images and credit them by way of listing their website as a source of their images, and I do that whenever I use their image on a specific post. Now they’re asking for more than $5,000 settlement.

    I’ve been seeing a lot of posts regarding GI’s letter and I’ve learned that they’ve been doing this to a lot of people already. My question is, what will happen if I don’t pay the money?

  46. GI b@stards, received the letter too, removed and deleted the picture from server; and will burn the letter!!!

    thanks everyone!!!!

  47. Statutory damages

    38.1 (1) Subject to this section, a copyright owner may elect, at any time before final judgment is rendered, to recover, instead of damages and profits referred to in subsection 35(1), an award of statutory damages for all infringements involved in the proceedings, with respect to any one work or other subject-matter, for which any one infringer is liable individually, or for which any two or more infringers are liable jointly and severally, in a sum of not less than $500 or more than $20,000 as the court considers just.

    Where defendant unaware of infringement

    (2) Where a copyright owner has made an election under subsection (1) and the defendant satisfies the court that the defendant was not aware and had no reasonable grounds to believe that the defendant had infringed copyright, the court may reduce the amount of the award to less than $500, but not less than $200.

    Special case

    (3) Where

    (a) there is more than one work or other subject-matter in a single medium, and

    (b) the awarding of even the minimum amount referred to in subsection (1) or (2) would result in a total award that, in the court’s opinion, is grossly out of proportion to the infringement,

    the court may award, with respect to each work or other subject-matter, such lower amount than $500 or $200, as the case may be, as the court considers just.

  48. I received the same threat letter from Getty Images about 7 years ago. They demanded $10,000. I removed the offending pictures and did a little research. I discovered that Getty was intimidating people with legal threats. They were threats because they were not pursuing anybody with an actual lawsuit. I decided I’d fight them if I actually got served papers for a law suit. If I was going to pay $10,000, a judge as going to make me pay it, not some asswipe from Getty images who makes claims without due process. But, of course, I was never served papers and there was no suit. I received a second demand for payment. I tore it up and threw it in the trash. Junk mail. Total nonsense. What happened in my case? Nothing. Nada. These are nothing but scare tactics.

    If you get one of these letters, remove the offending pictures from your website in good faith and DO NOT communicate with these people. And certainly don’t give them your money. From what I’ve learned, they’ve never sued anybody (way too messy legally and expensive for them), and they just hand you off to a collection agency to extort money from you. If you are really scared, calm down and realize that there are laws that protect you and nobody but a judge can demand you pay for something like this. Don’t write a check to somebody just because they send you a letter or two or five or a thousand.

    I have no doubt that Getty’s executives are running around in their limos in Las Vegas laughing at all the people they’ve bullied into paying them thousands of dollars. Don’t be one of them.

  49. This is vulnerable time to any company. Getty is not making any friends. They sent those letter in a thousands. They can only ask for Cease and Decease if the image is not registered. I can see this company to ge belly up. Their share will be shorted by their enemies. If you happen to pay, you can get the money back several times by shorting this company. If all the letter recipient gang up on shorting Getty Images, I think they can bankrupt this company.

    1. Can you explain a little better how this could potentially cause them grief? Is it due to speculation and then other investors would start to bail out? Is that the strategy you are suggesting. Interesting… I personally like your thinking if that is how it works. I know very little about the stock market…


      1. Hate to burst your bubble Rosa but check out how much money Getty made last year. I would bet that less than 1% of that is from these copyright infringements.
        The simple solution is to check where you are getting your images from. If you have obtained the image legitamately, then tell them that when you recieve a letter and all will be sorted. Getty aggressively protect the rights and property of their photographers.

        1. Read my response to one of your previous comments. No further replies will be approved for posting to my blog until you discuss it with me directly. Thanks in advance.

  50. Let’s Compare Photos to See if They Planted on Royalty FREE sites!

    Ultimately, I never use anything unless it’s from royalty free sites and in my guess, they plant images strategically so they can later extort funds from people. I cannot prove this, yet, but let’s list images and see if there is a pattern worthy of exploring their true origin. In my case, the claim is based on art that evolved in the early 2000 time frame, so nearly impossible to trace, but if we can establish a pattern…

    List your photo catalog number here and see if there is a pattern. It is very likely that some of the art was on royalty free sites, and what if they planted it there. Not only that, if the art was on royalty free sites in large enough numbers, then that is a good aspect of a defense since they did not properly protect their interest by substantially watermarking their images.

    List the image number and a brief description. This can apply to other companies too I suppose.

    Just list the image in this form so it’s easy to read.

    Company Name – Their Catalog Number – Brief Description

    Getty Image la5391-003 – An excited young black man with blond hi-lighted hair holding fist fulls of money.

  51. I have received two letters for so far. What’s weird is the image in question that was on my site is one that hardly even resembles the one on the Getty site, as mine has been photo shopped, cropped and reversed. The image I used is all over the web and i can’t find any indication on any of the images that is belongs to Getty. My web designer is certain it wasn’t copyrighted, but can’t remember where he got it. Oh well.
    I upshot is I did not deliberately “steal” an image nor did my web guy. An the image doesn’t even look like Getty’s. I had to literally use a magnifying glass to look for any similarities. For $600 they can take me to court. I have not responded to Getty nor will I.

  52. I have received 2 letters from Getty Images saying I owe them $2400.00 for 2 images. I have ignored them both. Last week I recieved a certified letter from McCormack Intellectual Property Law from Seattle WA, requesting I now owe them $3500.00. Has anyone else received this letter? Should I ignore this letter too?

    1. If you received a certified letter from a law firm, you need to get a lawyer. It’s worth the $100 consultation to ensure that the letter you received won’t bite you. Did you take down any allegedly infringing images yet?

  53. I have received a letter from McCormick regarding an alleged Getty Image infringement too. I would not ignore this letter. However I would require McCormick to show proof that Getty is the registered copyright holder and if not to show the chain of title for that image. I would also insist that they provide information about how they arrived at that price. Meanwhile you should use Google’s TinEye to find other examples of this image and document them — particularly if anyone else is selling or claims copyright on the image. Most of these requirements will be refused, but you can make it clear that this is your policy. The Getty line is “We only reveal our paperwork if the issue goes to court.” Well a judge is not going to look at that favorably. Also, if they continue to pester you, ask them to remind their client that a copyright case is one of the few where a prevailing defendant can recoup all court costs — and your attorney is VERY expensive.

    Finally, I recommend a visit to this site (I hope it is okay to post an outbound link here — it’s for educational purposes and not my site) There are hundreds of people that have been hit up by Getty and the majority that take the advice on this site have not paid any money or decided to settle for much less. Although Getty does file cases, it is extremely rare and as long as you are engaging them, it is highly unlikely they would file.

    Don’t let them scare you. If you arm yourself with knowledge you can push back on this.

  54. i had a meeting with our MP yesterday about the getty extortion letters – she was appalled that large companies using expensive lawyers bullying small businesses with extortionate demands for money – using copyright laws not for what they were originally intended – which is to protect the originator and not to be used to keep a company that is in administration from going under by menacing small businesses to pay large sums of money to them.
    She wants everybody receiving these letters to contact their MP to make everyone aware that these laws are being abused.

  55. Two weeks ago I received my second letter, this one from the McCormick Law firm representing Getty, sent via first class mail that I almost scrapped for junkmail. It was a demand C&D settlement letter and demanded $1820 within 3-wks to clear this up. The image in question was a silly little stamp size thumbnail put on my site by a web developer who I no longer have any contact with over 10yrs ago. When I was first contacted by Getty over a year ago I did my due diligence and tried to connect the rep via phone, but played phone tag for a couple wks and then let it go. Now I’m talking with an IP attorney and he is incredulous about this entire thing and says that if they cannot give proof of copyright registration they don’t have a case. We’ll see where this goes but I sure as hell would rather give an attorney a few hundred bucks to lay this to rest then support these pirates of the internet with so much as one red cent.

  56. After receiving two ‘demand/extortion’ letters I decided to respond – this AM a fed ex delivery of a reply arrived. The letter was from a ‘copyright compliance specialist’ and says that:

    The image is ‘rights managed’

    That images that were changed are considered ‘derivative works’ and are protected. (this stems from my reply that suggested their image of a ‘hand with a pin’ was substantially different than the image they claim is copyrighted)

    That the ‘burden of proof’ lies with my company to prove proper license was obtained. (wonder if they’ve ever heard of due process under law?)

    That even though the use may have been unintentional, the law may still find the end user liable.

    That the amount of the demand was based on ‘an average cost of licensing for our images and collections today’.

    That the settlement would cover ‘lost licensing fees, administrative handling, and policing of this case’.

    That their settlement demand ‘is representative of the average costs for first offense infringements for 1 year of use plus a minimum premium of 50% of standard license fees.

    They go on to say they don’t really know how long the image existed on the site and that they ‘would not provide copies of our contributor agreements at this stage of a claim’. (which is something I asked for in my reply)

    I’ve told them that the image, contained in an informational blog post, was not commercial in nature. I told them that the image was provided by a contract writer and has since been removed. I told them that “reasonable people might conclude that we were using an image of a hand with a pin, but very possibly not the hand and pin they claim ownership of”.

    Among other things, their settlement demand letters required that along with payment, they were insisting that the settlement be kept confidential.

    The long and short of this is I have no intention of giving in to their extortion demands. My understanding is that the DMCA provides me adequate cover in the matter and I feel that a simple C&D letter with a polite request to go to a particular link and purchase the right to use the image would have worked much better.

    Instead of a customer and an email address that they could sell images to for months/years to come and reasonable revenue from that, they’ve decided to alienate and anger thousands upon thousands of site owners, developers and marketers, including me.

    Finally, I find it interesting that even though I replied to them and identified ourselves as a legally incorporated entity, and asked them to communicate to us corporately, they replied to me personally in the name of a domain the company owns. This seems to be their way of saying they intend to ignore my corporate protection and pursue me personally.

  57. Greetings, What should I do, if these folks from the Getty Images are using the image of a Mexican Olympic Icon that I own the Trade Mark on? You can see her image and biography via her official Facebook profile. She also happens to be my first cousin. I under an endorsement contract signed by her in July of 1999 own the rights to her image! She receives royalties in exchange for this license. Every palooka in the world, since the 2000 Sydney games has been infringing on my Trade Mark! I figure they owe us millions, including these pirates from Getty…..They are making money from a registered trade mark/business name…..Sincerely, Alvaro Guevara, composer, B.M.I.

  58. love the way when people like you are caught using the hard work of others for your financial benefit react with cries of extortion or bullying. As you said in your totally nonsensical arguement, the pix are not woth using but has been on your site forever. Getty is doing what any good agent would protecting the rights of it’s clients viz a viz photographers who work really hard to create their images. It is easy to have Getty leave you alone, dont use our images without consent, there are countless other agencies out there with images you can use. If you use our images we expect you to pay or we will take yo to court, ask all the others who have been to court . And your shameless plug for your $150 and hour law fir is just another example of the people we are dealing with, caught redhanded you are now trying to make a buck by steering others to your law firm buddy.

    1. You need to read the original article. The problem is that Getty assumes bad faith and immediately threatens. Instead of attempting to convert to a customer first, they take hostile action. No one is condoning the act of willfully infringing. Third party offshore web designers are responsible for much of the infringement, and the first notice that the site owner receives is the Getty demand and threat letter. Put yourself in the shoes of a person in this situation.

  59. I just received one of these nasty threatening letters, too. I will never buy any photos from Getty or any of their affiliates for the rest of my life. Instead of offering a reasonable fee to become a legitimate user, their approach has turned this potential customer into a determined non-customer.

  60. People are not caught in this extortion scheme.
    They are lured, kind of like, The Free Lemonade Sign.
    Then they go around and buy up all the Lemonade stands, then they go after people that fell for the sign.

  61. I AM a lawyer, and I represent my clients against Getty and the other copyright trolls. While Getty is within their rights to enforce their copyrights, they go too far, and they attempt to extort settlements without any admissible proof of their ownership of the image in question.

  62. A couple of years ago I received a demand letter from some company, C.R.S but the images were of an Alaska trip that my company was advertising for our clients. I got the cruise line involved along with the Department of Tourism of the State of Alaska and the Department made the claim go away. As you can guess I own a travel agency and with the heavies behind me it went away. The images were originally posted on the cruise lines brochure and web site.

  63. Regarding the threats in the extortion letter by Getty Images, a legislation is pending Congress’ approval to punish copyright trolls like Getty Images for misusing laws to extort money from naïve people. Try talking to your local Congressman about it. For now, the best rule of thumb is to IGNORE such a non-sense. If you will speak to an attorney, that’s how they make money and they will want you to take it seriously. No court of law will punish you for doing an innocent mistake and removing/replacing the image immediately.

    Here are sources for FREE images. Pls. check each image’s license for a special word like “CC0” or Creative Commons 0 which pretty much means no rights reserved. On Google Images search , set ADVANCED SEARCH for FREE FOR COMMERCIAL USE. Other sites of free images include, (be careful of the sponsored images on top of the search results from shutterstock), (do not remove their copyright notice in the image which is too tiny for anyone to notice) and

  64. It is rampant in other areas too. I posted a video of myself playing a 250 year old classical piano piece on YouTube, and next day had received a “Copyright Violation” notice. I have no idea why the originator of the notice felt he was entitled to some money in return for the work of a long-dead composer and me.

    But thanks for the heads up. I shall avoid Getty and any other image library using such unethical practices, and shall encourage anyone I know to do the same. getty does not just extort its image users. It exploits photographers too, offering a derisory 20% of what they receive for an image. It is encouraging that when you look at photographer’s blogs on Flickr and elsewhere, many (and usually the best ones) are ending their relationship and re-claiming their images.

  65. Getty Images is not a photo management company but a collection agency. They make most of their money by extorting cash from struggling small businesses. I’m always careful not to use photographer’s work without paying but I got the extortion letter and had to pay. I would NEVER purchase any work from Getty and I would implore that photographer’s find another source of photo management rather than use these thugs.

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