The Getty Images Copyright Demand Letter – Scam or Legit? We Explain

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Copyright infringement is wrong, and it’s darned easy to do on the Internet. But lots of website proprietors publish images for which they have purchased the right to display the images, often from a stock photo site. So you can imagine their surprise when they get a demand letter from Getty Images, stating that they are guilty of copyright infringement under U.S. Title 17 (the Copyright Act) and that they must provide “payment for the attached demand amount” if they cannot produce a valid license. Is the Getty Images demand letter a scam? Well, not exactly.

As it turns out, Getty Images has been putting the squeeze on small business web publishers for several years now. Their tactic is always the same: send a letter demanding proof of license, and payment (usually about $1000 per image) if such proof of license cannot be produced. They also state that removing the infringing image does not remove the obligation to pay the demanded fee.

Now, it’s absolutely true that one should never (re)publish copyrighted material without a license to do so. But it’s also true that Getty Images has initiated an extremely heavy-handed campaign in which innocent, or at very least unwitting, individuals have been caught up.


 

Here is a typical Getty Images demand letter:

Re: Unauthorized Use of Getty Images Photograph
Reference No (number here in the format of XXXXXXX – YYYYYY)

It has come to our attention that you are using an image (or images) represented by Getty Images for online promotional purposes. We have searched our records and have not found a valid license for the use of the image(s). Attached for your reference is a copy of the image in question and the usage found on your company’s web site.


 

As you may know, use of an image without a valid license is considered copyright infringement in violation of Title 17 U.S.C.S. the Copyright Act. Also attached, is a demand representing a settlement that Getty Images would expect to receive for the unauthorized use of the image(s) should no licenses exist.

The following action must be taken within 14 days of the date of this letter:

If a valid license has been issued for the image(s), and use, please provide license information by emailing licensecompliance@gettyimages.com. This includes the sales order or invoice number of the license purchase. If the image(s) was licensed under an alternate company name (dba) or in the name of a third party, such as an advertising agency, please provide the company name and phone number. The subject line of the email must include your company name and reference number as they appear on the attached settlement demand,

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“If you cannot provide proof that the image(s) has been properly licensed, you must cease and desist use of the image(s).

In addition, payment for the attached demand amount must be received within 14 days of the date of this letter. Ceasing use of the image(s) does not eliminate liability for payment of fees due. Payment details are included on the demand, and additional payment information is provided below.

If you desire continued use of the images, please contact our License Compliance team at the number listed below. A new license must be issued for the image(s), or use of the image(s) must cease by {date}.

Please read the attached Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for more information related to this matter.

If you do not respond within the timeframe provided, we will presume that you do not intend to do so and will take action accordingly. For questions, or to settle this matter, please contact licensecompliance@gettyimages.com or dial 1-800-972-4170. If you believe you have received this letter in error, please contact us immediately.

Getty Images is committed to investigating licensing infractions not only to protect our interests, but also to protect the interests of the photographers whom we represent. We are committed to protecting the intellectual property rights and livelihood of the artists whose work we license. We must enforce our licensing conditions rigorously and feel that your cooperation regarding this matter should be promptly forthcoming. This letter is without prejudice to Getty Images’ rights and remedies, all of which are expressly reserved.

In an effort to resolve this quickly, Getty Images is offering a one time discount of 15% on this settlement demand if payment is received by {date}.

The total amount due, less the discount is $1,087.04 USD.

Sincerely,

License Compliance Team
Getty Images

So what should you do if you receive such a letter?

Every situation is different, but what we can tell you is that attorney Oscar Michelen has made a point of becoming the go-to expert in these cases, so if you feel like you are needing legal counsel, that would be a good place to start.

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The Getty Images Copyright Demand Letter – Scam or Legit?  We Explain

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11 Replies to “The Getty Images Copyright Demand Letter – Scam or Legit? We Explain”

  1. I just got my letter from these ****!!!
    $490 for a picture that had NO indication of copyright and that LCS gave no proof of representing. We took the picture down as soon as notified even though we’re not sure we were infringing any copyright. They still want $490
    Pretty sure it’s a scam and they play the numbers game. If only a small percentage is intimidated into paying, they, LCS, remain in this despicable business.
    BTW I am ALL for copyright protection and earn my living from it being respected but this kind of scam is what gives the legal profession a bad name.

  2. I contacted the police department in Washington to find out if there was such a company at the address

    License Compliance Services
    701 Fifth Avenue, Suite 4200
    Seattle, WA 98104, United States
    Email: LCS@LCS.global, Telephone: +1 855 387 8725

    I tried google map but they were not listed. They said there is no such company by that name at this address and not to pay them.

  3. Put all of these types of letters in the bin, where they belong. Never negotiate with bullies. In most cases you will find that the image was never registered correctly or they don’t have the registration details because their paperwork is not in order. They are just a bunch of tea supping office collection clerks – keep this is mind and you’ll never lose any sleep.

    If they keep writing to you I’d suggest one of the following:

    1. Continue to bin the letters – remember that they are doing all the work, not you

    2. Threaten them with 1997 Harassment Act – Instruct them to CEASE and DESIST

    3. Charge them £30 per letter you send them and £100 per hour for any research you have to do formulating a reply. Invoice them for every separate reply you do, but the difference here is that unlike claims for copyright, claims for non-payment of invoices can be dealt with by the small claims court.

    Just view it as a little game.

  4. We got a letter. Saying we put an illegal picture on our website. We don’t even have a website nor have used a picture. It’s a scam

  5. Has anyone ever been taken to court by this company? I have been getting letters and email weekly and I keep telling them that I don’t have money to pay. Not sure what to do!

  6. Letters from Getty have moved on to letters from LCS. I’ve gotten several, “this has been flagged for escalation” notices.

    License Compliance Services
    701 Fifth Avenue, Suite 4200
    Seattle, WA 98104, United States
    Email: LCS@LCS.global, Telephone: +1 855 387 8725
    WWW.LCS.GLOBAL

  7. Getty Images are 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.

  8. 30 gardner stree beech forest I am in receipt of a Getty demand notice for 902 dollars. To my knowledge I have never used a site that charges for images. I am a non-profit private individual and I am not a company. The correspondent has my address from one of my web sites but the wrong name. I am not Selwyn Perry Christian. I have also visited a free site from which one of the published images claimed to belong to Getty which is clearly marked Free Images. I suspect that Getty is a company who is illegally claiming images to belong to itself. What advice can you give me. I am a pensioner with no funds and no income of my own. Thanks for your site.

  9. Ignore it. They won’t do anything. I have been receiving an extortion letter every few months on behalf of a client of mine whereupon we used an image that was generic and Getty does NOT own, yet they said it was theirs. I asked them to provide proof that it was theirs and they sent me a different image. They are just harassing my client now every 6-8 months or so and we are throwing the letters in the trash, where they belong.

  10. This goes much deeper than just Getty Images, I implore your readers to visit out forum dedicated to getty, Materfile and the slew of other copyright trolls that are jumping on the bandwagon, Oscar also is a memeber of outr community and offers insight on a regular basis..

  11. I just started a petition on the White House petitions site, We the People. This is in regards to the outrageous “Getty Extortion Letter” received by many webmasters who unintentionally use a copyright protected image often found of free image sites or purchased as part of a template. Getty is demanding thousands of dollars in penalties for an unintentional act.
    Will you sign it?

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