Re: Unauthorized Use of Getty Images’ Photograph – No Cease and Desist Letter?

Isn’t it a requirement to first send a Cease & Desist letter if someone is infringing on your copyrighted work or material? Getty Images seems to have just gone right past this step in sending out settlement demands to any company or person who has an image from the Getty Images library displayed on their website.

In my case, and I’m assuming that this is the case with many others, we hired a 3rd party designer to create our website. How on earth are we supposed to know if an image provided in that design is copyrighted? We certainly don’t have the time to scour through every image in the Getty Images library to compare our site.

How does Getty Images find their images on other sites anyway?
Getty uses a 3rd party service from an Israeli company called PicScout, Inc. PicScout searches for image matches by creating digital fingerprints of images in a catalog. It then sends webcrawlers out across the internet comparing images on websites against the Getty Images catalog. The PicScout engine will find images regardless of whether the name has been changed, the color has been altered, the image has been cropped, and probably more.

If you received a a letter from Getty Images – Re: Unauthorized Use of Getty Images’ Photograph what are your options?

  1. Pay the listed amount and let it be done?
  2. Ignore the letter?
  3. Hire an attorney and see what he/she can do to get you out of it?

Has anyone else dealt with this problem? Did anyone take actions via any of the 3 courses listed above? I’d like to make a post about each of the options so that people who have this same problem can use this as a reference to find out which option will best suit them.

158 thoughts on “Re: Unauthorized Use of Getty Images’ Photograph – No Cease and Desist Letter?”

  1. Apparently Getty Images themselves violate copyright on a massive scale and in 2008 got sued by professional photographers whose images were incorporated without their permission into Getty’s product “Premium Access”.

  2. Couldn’t find info on any class action suits regarding Getty’s bullying and extortion schemes that target image users. That’s a shame! Where are those shark-like class-action lawyers when we really need them?! I think many people would join in if there was a class action suit against Getty Images.

    I think it is time to organize and take a counter offensive before the Getty mobsters went too far in their campaign to extort small businesses and nonprofits!

  3. I received two letters from Getty thus far for $870. I ignored the first being that the website was for a group web development class project and I have no clue which one of my teammates used it. Unfortunately for me as part of the assignment we chose to put my home address on the site since we were instructed to model the site as if it were a legit business. The final task was to have the site hosted so we could practice loading the files. Needless to say its been up for 2 years, in which I nearly forgot about it until the letter arrived.

    After the first letter arrived I did take down the photo and replace until the hosting expires this June and will let the site go offline. But then, I received a second email and panicked and called them. Now I am realizing I think this may have been a huge mistake. I only stated in the message that I was confused about who they are and what the letter was for and that they were referencing a photo on a site for a class project and that the image is not longer in use. Three weeks have passed and the compliance department called me. Do I even call them back?!

    Did I make a huge mistake leaving them a message????? I am so scared and have no idea what to do!!! Please Help!!!!

  4. dont call them back and if they do call you, tell them they have the wrong number and mail them back anything they send you. tell them you dont know what they are talking about and act stupid. what ever you do; DONT TELL THEM ANYTHING!

  5. People WAKE UP….. use logic here….

    Say you get a letter from Getty demanding $2,500 or even $5,000

    Lets just say you say…. go a head Getty sue me. By law Getty has to hire a lawyer (at least $300/hr) then get that lawyer to fly to the city YOU ARE LOCATED AT…. (they must file where YOU ARE….. put up that lawyer in a hotel till trial is over.

    Ok so now Getty has spent…. $15,000 to $30,000 to get your $2,000. If the judge even allows the suit to go through. Judge most likely will say…. take the picture down or Pay for the cost of the photo….$50

    NO ONE HAS BEEN SUED BY GETTY FOR THE ODD PIC. It is not worth the money…. they are only trying to bully to suckers out there…. don’t be a sucker. Take the picture down and never reply back to them.

    If they call…. say SUE ME…..

  6. fight bluff with bluff? sounds good to me

    scaredstudent, just don’t receive any mails nor calls from them … if they catch you at home, by phone or visit, it will be very stressful, but just like what kathy said, just say “sue me” and put the phone down or close your door, and just wait for a summon, if any will come … they will concentrate on the fact that you’ll likely pay much more if you go to court, but just the same, they will pay a lot as well … in our country, the Philippines, the government provides pro-bono lawyers to those who can’t afford to hire one … should you find yourself in court one day, just believe that you know in your heart you didn’t do anything wrong and that is good enough

    i’m in the Philippines and i’m not bothered at all, however i’m only worried about “bullying” or scare tactics that might worry my young staff

  7. you are all right. they tried to contact me for the last 5yrs; I have not heard back from them in 2 yrs. All you need to say is send me the paperwork to meet me in court and your looking forward to it. the next thing they will say is they want to settle it out of court. That is when you can get your satisfaction. Get the person name, phone, and contact info and tell them If they call back at you will fill a harassment charges agent them and your next call is going to be the Cops if they call you ever again. That will make that person from GETTY shit in his paints. Trust me, it will not pay for them to come after you. Also, Do NOT hire a lawyer about this. all you will do is was your money. If they really wanted the money; they would have a collection agency call and so far i have not heard anyone being called by one.

  8. Hi – I’ve had the same experience also and now have received a letter from Pincent Mason demanding thousands of pounds to be paid in 14 days. I live in the UK & Pincent Mason are also UK based.

    Can I ask anyone who has also had as letter from Pincent Mason, what they have done? have they ended up paying out, or have you ignored it? Are Pincent Mason chasing you for payment and have you been isssed a proceedings warrant?

    Any advise would be great and much appreciated

  9. Hi Anna, from what i’ve read about this issue, you’re better off being in the UK. Have a look at

    I think our problem really is how to fight the “stress” that these letters bring about. Most of us were never taken to court before, that procedure is so unknown and scary of course. I’ve been taken to court 3 times, 2 of which just ended up dismissed, and I’m expecting the third one to end up the same way, I only have to put up with court procedure. One thing I learned, our court procedure does not take sides, and is designed to maintain fairness. Now, being used to attending court hearings, I now prefer to discuss argument with unreasonable people in the court, including Getty. Court hearings are run by very intelligent people: the lawyers and the judge. They are more objective than subjective. From my experience, they can see through “evil tactics”, lies, “unjust reasoning”, and unreasonable claims. I quite enjoyed my time in the court so far.

    I may be in the Philippines, so you might think it will not apply to you. But as far as I know, you’re better off in the US and the UK, as I think your people there are supposed to be even smarter.

    My point is, don’t be scared of being taken to court. If you’re found guilty, it will be the court to decide how much to penalise you for, and not Getty and your penalty would be “fair” enough, and not what Getty thinks you should pay. The way I see it, I’d rather pay a lot of money to the court rather than let Getty have them. It’s easier to part with money when you know that you’re paying for what is fair. Not that I’m saying you’re guilty. It may be that you were only a victim of the circumstances, which will mean more costs for Getty should they decide to take you to court.

  10. Hi Anna

    I received a letter from PM on 19th April 2011 and was told I had 14 days in which to pay almost £7k to them. Around 6k was for GI and the rest was supposed to be their fees.

    I’ve ignored the letter because of so many posts about GI and their tactics. I haven’t heard anything since then and should anything happen I plan to liquidate my company.

    The guy who did my website said he used Royalty free images from stock and I believe him 100%. There are stories on here and other websites saying that GI release pics on purpose to then catch out people like you and me.

    My advice to you would be to ignore the letter and see what happens.

  11. We went through this last month. They reduced the amount owed and we paid it. I was going to ignore it, but if it goes to a collection agency (which it will), even if you ignore them all and they go away, you still have this on your credit record. My credit report is spotless and I do not want this hanging out there to wreck it.

    That said, if a class action ever materialized, I would be on it in a heartbeat. Getty is petty and extorts money from small business, period!

  12. Hi, A freind that owns a charity recieved a bill for over 5000.00 US Dollars. They are a small non-profit childrens website. One of the volunteer mothers put it together. She found some photos on some free photo site. It was only 4 picures of some children in the park. Getty images wants there money now. No excuses. The charity has less than $200.00 in the bank. Shame on Getty images. Many people are talking about it. This happened 1 year ago and since then we found out many design companies will no do business with Getty images anymore. Shame on Getty images.

    God Bless You.

  13. Michael, why are you so sure that it will go to a collection agency, when the alleged credit isn’t even proven, for this matter, in court? Moreover, there are class-actions against Getty already, which you can get to by visiting some of the links posted here, or just googling getty letter.

    Looks to me you just want anybody who stumbles upon this page to just consider paying up.

    Everyone else not affiliated with Getty, don’t pay Getty, whether reduced or not, and just ignore the letters. And in order to feel good about this, read all of the comments and follow up the links posted.

    Good luck to all of us.

  14. Michael …. sucker! Getty saw you coming. Looby is right a collection agency requires a bill or other invoice to proceed. Other wise I could find your contact info hire a collection agency and tell them you owe me $10,000 for breathing air. That’s how ridiculous Getty would be for sending a collection agency.

    All I can say is …. wait till Getty comes knocking again… cause they will. Maybe your perfect credit score is what put you on the top of their list. Now they tasted blood…. they will be back.

  15. Micheal must work for Getty or he is just dam stuppid.

  16. This board is full to the brim with advice telling people not to pay these gangsters.

    Yet Michael not only goes against all this advise and pays, but also then decides to pop along here after the fact just to inform us.

    Pull the other one it has bells on it!

  17. OK, There seems to be some confusion about how Getty can actually proceed, from the fed’s article DMCA 512, please read on. . .

    Wiki> Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act

    See> Safe Harbor & Other Safe Harbor Provisions.
    Especially 512(e)(f) & (g) paragraphs.

    Someone please tell me what this all means !

  18. I received a letter from GI back in December of 2011 claiming copyright infringement. I immediately did two things.
    1. Had my web developer remove the pics
    2. Contacted GI at the number provided on the letter.

    The GI employee told me that I had to pay the $2K… I told them I used a 3rd party and they had paid for the images… I put them in touch with the designer and heard nothing more until yesterday. I received a new letter from a NCS Recovery Systems… I believe NCS to be involved in this “Extortion Shakedown” as well…

    I would like to know, has anyone actually been to court vs Getty or NCS? Has anyone actually spoken to NCS? Any results you can share? I was going to just settle the matter as I do not want to infringe on nor take money from the artist but this is flat out extortion… I plan on fighting back and in fact my attorney is communicating with other victims and various law firms considering a class action suit… It is the intention of Getty that bothers me and their unwillingness to be civil and do the right thing… It is time that NCS and Getty pay for the actions!

    Fight no my brothers and sisters! Fight on!

  19. I recieved a letter from GI last week. Read up a lot on Google, and have decided to ignore them. This post has been going on for many years. Can someone give us an update to their story, or can someone come forward and tell us that GI took you to court? Or did they just keep harrasing you with letters and calls?

  20. I got a letter from them today. It said that payment was due yesterday. I called and they said they would drop the penalty from $900 to $810. I am so glad I found this site as I was about to write them a check.

    I know I acquired the picture in question from a freestock photo website. It was so long ago, I don’t know which one it was.

    I might pay that lawyer the $200 to represent me.

  21. I (finally) received my NEC recovery letter after the original Getty request months ago. I have a feeling they’ve been trying to call, but my wife just says “the owners are out”.

    Anyways, I am looking forward to their call. My response will be as follows:

    1. Getty is unethical, shame on them.
    2. I’m glad I found blogs like this that show the truth of what they’re up to.
    3. I have a fantastic attorney out here in San Diego who said to tell you guys and Getty to F off.
    4. Tell Getty to take me to court. In fact, I DARE them to take me to court.
    5. Go pick on someone else, you’ll NEVER get a penny out of me.
    6. I would be honored to participate in a class action suit against Getty for their extortion scheme.

  22. TC . . AMEN… to back you had tp pay the lawyer for even a phone call but am glad he told you the truth and calmed your fears. Getty is right up there with those Nigerian scam bank and lotto letters.

    I just wish we could get everyone to the “TRUTH WIL SET YOU FREE” feeling you have now

  23. TC . . AMEN… to bac you had tp pay the lawyer for even a phone call but am glad he told you the truth and calmed your fears. Getty is right up there with those Nigerian scam bank and lotto letters.

    I just wish we could get everyone to the “TRUTH WIL SET YOU FREE” feeling you have now

  24. Ok. I have a different issue. I received one of these letters today and the website they use to show the “copyrighted” images is not even my website. Never has been. Have never used the images.

    This seems to me to be a clear extortion attempt.

  25. Copyright enforcement

    Getty Images uses a firm called PicScout to scan the web for unauthorized and unlicensed usages of its protected images. Websites that are found to be in violation are sent financial settlements that retroactively licensed the image. Getty is hugely notorious for sending letters for final demands due to copyright infringement. However, the settlements also demand damages, which are said to have been incurred against the copyright holder. Settlement demands are typically more than $1,000 per photograph, and are based upon Getty’s highest possible price for unlimited-use rights-managed photos. Yet the letter claims that even you have paid for the highest possible price for the unlimited use rights, you are still not able to use the pictures. You need again purchase their license to do so. Getty seldom takes individuals to court. For this reason, the letter has become widely referred to by recipients as the “Getty Extortion Letter”.[17] [18]
    More than millions of these letters have been sent out, yet as of October 2010, Getty had not taken any of these potential cases to court because they knew they had low chances of winning the court case. In Germany, Getty images lost a court case to an individual after the person has proved that he gotten exclusive rights from the photographer.[19][20][21] In 2008, Getty Images lost a lawsuit in Germany.[22] Getty claimed unauthorized usage, but the defendant could prove authorized usage as he had bought a retroactive license directly from the photographer.
    In 2008, Getty published a notice to its contributors describing how a court decision in New York makes it more difficult to obtain damages for infringement in the USA on images that are not registered at the United States Copyright Office. The letter strongly encouraged photographers to register their images.[23]

  26. Recieved my letter today. Got website set up from 3rd party.Had no idea. Payment was due same day I got letter. Contacted a lawyer. Any class action include me

  27. Just got hit by one of these Getty Extortion Letters. Apparently at $780, I had a light one. When I read the Q & A on the letter, I was terrified. This page relaxed me, and on calling a lawyer friend who specializes in Copyright, and IP, and all that helped as well. He basically agreed with everything here. Still wasted two hours of my time. This is begging for a class action. It would be fascinating if I wasn’t directly involved.

  28. “”Just received a $780 demand letter with pages and pages of Q and A. Would they take you to collection?””

    Get the demand letter and the Q&A sheet and set fire to them.

    Do NOT contact them

  29. Janet-
    Yes, Getty will send you to collections. The collections agency is a joke, too. The whole thing is one big scam. Just ignore them, they’ll go away. NEC is the company, when their demand letter shows up toss it. When they call tell them what my San Diego attorney said to tell them: “Eff off!” And that’s from one of SD’s best attorneys.
    Have fun!

  30. Got my letter on 10/24. Image was containted in a website template. The cost to settle is $965. Mad the mistake and called them, it was reduced to $750 but only is I paid it in 14 days. Glad I found this site. Count me in for any class action. The letter caused a bit of stress, even made me feel like I was guilty. Like other people wasted my time dealing with this crap.

  31. Got my letter on the 20th, Image was included in a template I purchased online. I almost called until finding this link.

  32. Same happened to me on the 17th. My husband went ahead and called them – we got a bill for $1950 and we live in canada. The bill was for 2 pictures that were on my mothers site – 150×150 size. The site was a template and those pics were already in there too. we got a company in toronto to fill the text etc and make updates. the site isnt even finished as its in the back burner – a 5 page website.

    So I have written a letter telling them that it was a mistake, we’ve since taken the images down as it has no value to us and it was just there and you would think that if you download a template – the images are alright to use.
    I have not sent the letter – I wish i never contacted them either. we first panicked and now that Ive been trying to educate myself, I understand that this is happening to many people. Im not sure what I should do as I dont want my mother to go through any courts or have any stress on her – her life is stressfull enough.

    If you know of anyone in Toronto that can help us or if youre going through the same thing in toronto.. please give me some advise.. not sure about the canadian laws and what will happen to us….


  33. Hi, I got the scary letter too about 10 days ago. I found the pic following a google search back in February, nothing indicated it belonged to GI or that it was copyrighted.. found plenty of discussion boards about this matter, I emailed them saying I put the pic down etc, today, i received an email saying they offer me a 35% discount THIS REALLY IS A BIG SCAM,

  34. I got yet another letter today discussing a “settlement”. pathetic.

    Here’s my words to them (no I haven’t replied yet via email/phone and don’t intend to), but if they ever do call and I answer the phone here’s the deal:
    1. I INSIST that Getty take me to court
    2. Even my attorney tells you guys to get f****d
    3. Please tell Getty to get f****d.

    Damn scam artists. They start off in Nigeria then spread to work for Getty.

  35. Just wanted to give an update, after my last last here in November of 2010, 13 months ago. I have continued to ignore Getty. After a couple months, they stopped leaving messages. Our company hasn’t heard anything else from them. No lawsuit. No collection agency. They were just trying to shake down suckers who panic and pay at the first letter. Don’t be a sucker. Getty Images would have to sue you to prove you intended to steal from them. And despite the section of US copyright law they cited in my letter which says I’m guilty no matter what, going to court would force them to let a judge decide just how guilty I really am, and also determine a fair fine which is likely to be closer to $50 than $5000. That’s why no one gets sued. That’s why you just ignore the letter and phone calls. It’ll take a few months for them to stop bugging you, but eventually they’ll leave you alone. I would say good luck, but you don’t need it. You’re fine. Just be patient.

  36. I received a demand for settlement letter from GI yesterday to the tune of $1065.00. My children created my website for me some years ago as a gift. I’m sure they knew nothing more than I do about copywrite law…which is nothing. I don’t think there was any notification that the one little image was copywrited. I think copywrite notification should be posted with the image. Hammering people out of the blue for monies years after the image has been used is just not right. We had no idea we had infringed on anything or anybody.

    I will take the image off my site. I don’t want the negativity involved with GI. However, I will be taking all of you people’s advice and I will not be contacting GI in regards to the settlement letter.

    Thank you so very much for sharing your experiences. I feel so much better after reading them and knowing that I am not alone. Lani

  37. My 2nd letter arrived the other day. They want $780.00! I removed the pic on the first letter and didn’t contact them. I am a very small family business, struggling like so many. The pic I used, (a flower), was easy to copy and paste to my site. How was I to know that it was protected? I feel that if any pic is not intended to be used royality free, it should have some sort of message pop up and notify the person before they use it. Or, it should be impossible to use it that easily. I know there are ways to prevent photos from being copied. I feel I was baited into this…I was not given any warning when my photo was used. Why is it any different than sending some funny pic to someone on your Facebook or Twitter page….if the pic is out there, and it can be copied, I feel it is up to the person who posted it in the first place to protect it from being used, if that is what they wish. Not paying!!!

  38. Spoke to my lawyer today. He basically told me to ignore the letters & that it would not be cost effective for Getty to go after everyone who is getting these letters. He agreed with me that if a image is protected something should indicate that when you copy and paste it so you can get permission to use the image or something should be in place to prevent the image from being copied. A simple friendly reminder FIRST would have been a better approach for Getty if an image of theirs is used without permission….like many of us, when we were notified that the image was not allowed to be used, we removed it at once….we should not have been threatened with these overinflated charges for a simple mistake we made. My lawyer also told me that to contact Getty is asking for trouble by stirring things up, so don’t call…ignore and let the bullies spend their money trying to get something from you that isn’t worth it! I can see Getty’s point if a person continues to use the image without permission, but if it is removed with the first notification, they should leave us alone!

  39. I also received the letter from Getty (20 days late from the due date). It was scary at first, but I decided to ask Sensai Google for some knowledge. Luckily I have found lots of information that advises to ignore them, because it is just a big scam. So, I have decided to do that. They really don’t have a case strong enough to sue you for the use of a picture you don’t even remember where you got it from. I simply removed the picture!

    Please let us know if anyone here really got to court. I will keep you posted in case something big happens about this, so all of us are aware.

    Thanks for your info.

  40. Janine,

    Copyright law in the US unfortunately doesn’t work like that. Everything you create is immediately and automatically covered by copyright. Nothing you find online or anywhere may be legally copied without the permission of the copyright owner. Fair Use provides some limited exceptions for things like commentary, parody, criticism, etc. Using an image because you like it doesn’t count as fair use. Copyright law has been this way for decades.

    Preventing people from copying images is a much harder technical challenge than you realize. Many of the techniques people have tried cause problems for different browsers.

    I don’t like Getty, but I think you should have done a few minutes research figuring out if copying somebody else’s photograph was legal or not. What you should do is write your congressperson and tell them you want fair use expanded and don’t want copyright extended over and over.

  41. Someone just suggested GETTY send a warning first. That’s actually a good idea – and I would guess GETTY would make much MORE money if they simply did exactly that, instead of sending these threat letters. Whenever they find an image that they can’t connect with a license, they should simply send an email or letter that says so (we found an image that doesn’t appear licensed, which technically belongs to us), but then rather than threaten the recipient they just suggest the person go buy one of the basic $50 licenses to ensure they have legitimate permissions and use of the images. I, like most here, also had no idea the images weren’t mine, but I would have gladly and immediately paid $50, no questions asked. But to be threatened with $5,000, $10,000 or more, and given less than a few days to comply – without any court action or legal authority? No F****** Way. Of all the countless thousands of people GETTY tried to strong-arm, I’m guessing they would have actually made MORE money just suggesting people get the basic $50 license. Too late for that now. Oh well. And also guess what? I haven’t done any business with GettyImages or any of the sites they own (iStockPhoto) for several years now. So, not only no $50. No nothing. Ever again. There are other resources, from creative commons images from Wiki images, to something new I just found (“Photo Pin”). Anyway, good luck to everyone. Remember: Getty cannot legally collect money unless you lose a legal judgement. You can’t send a collections firm or damage someone’s credit without a legal judgement. And so far, no one has ever indicated that Getty has ever actually taken anyone to court.

  42. ok… who works for getty??? Copyright law in the US was created to prevent loss of profits by producing a copyrighted image. It was created for all media BUT the internet. The internet by it’s own natue is a beast that can not be confined or restained by print laws. The OLD rule of thumb was….. if you don’t want your image stolen …. don’t put it on the web. Or at the very least watermark it. Getty craftly places their watermat … not ON the image but in a place it can be cropped off… therfore setting a hook to entrap a poor sucker. But the joke is on getty because they have yet sued 1 person…. they are just surfing the web looking for poor suckers to scared into paying….


  43. Gopiballava:
    (Or whatever your Getty-using name is)-
    I’m going to barf reading your stupid Getty_ful response.
    I did research my image (back in 2001). If you remember, Google wasn’t even big then, Yahoo was still the search engine leader and there was no way to find out who took my picture.
    On top of that, when Getty did send me a copy of the image, it only then had the watermark, never before. Who knows, maybe Getty added the watermark illegally? Maybe I should go around collecting images off the Web and put “TC” on the bottom. I can send you a letter asking for $2000 for an image that you supposedly “borrowed” without my asking. Youd’ never know would you…
    I hate these stupid Getty-workers who randomly put out kiss-butt pathetic statements supporting Getty. Don’t you guys get it? We get it. We’re onto Getty. Game is over.
    Hey Getty, come on and sue us. Take us to court. We all dare you. People are laughing at your pettiness in droves; the sky is falling!
    Gopiballava one more comment: You and Getty can kiss my black a$$. Happy Martin Luther King day, suckah!

  44. Hello, can someone send me the answer to this. I had a website template built in 2002. The site was for my brother. The site hardly ever had any traffic, and was never updated. The three pictures on the site in question were in the header. The three images were no larger than 80×80 each, which all were blended together left to write to make a header. The images were purchased under a Getty account. However, they are asking for a several thousand dollars for these images. I have taken down the site, as it was worthless anyway, but they are claiming they will still seek the money for the images. If these were already ‘bought’ under an account, why should I have to pay again? Aren’t their images watermarked? Don’t they know when the images have been purchased? — Class Action from the other side? What a way to piss off customers.

  45. Hi Christopher –

    If the site is down, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. That’s just my 2 cents, you should probably consult a lawyer to get a definitive answer though. If you purchased the images, you (and Getty) should have record of that, so there really shouldn’t be a problem. I would assume that most images purchased from Getty are purchased by designers, and the end-user (company, etc) would probably be the one getting harrassed by Getty because “they” didn’t purchase the image. It’s frustrating that companies like Getty can get away with this. Like you said, their images are watermarked. If they’re stolen, the watermark would be on them.

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