Thursday, June 2, 2016

Getty images has joined the ranks of fraudulent copyright claimants.
Fraudulent practices include claiming ownership of artwork or photos that the service does not own. I call it "copyright squatting." It happens when a publisher uses an automated system to crawl blogger sites to determine ownership of artwork, and when no copyright is found, they claim it as their own, wait a while, and then send an extortion letter, hoping you will not know who owns the photo or artwork. A simple way around this kind of fraud is to use a cloud-based backup service that will date-stamp your photo when it is ready to be published. It also doesn't hurt to also backup date-stamped copies of preliminary versions of the artwork.

Another form of fraud specifically being used by Getty images has been to assign an outlandish and illegal fee for the use of such images. The law clearly specifies that only a usual and customary charge for licensed artwork can be claimed in a lawsuit against a non-commercial blogger who uses artwork without permission.

Here is what the Art Law Journal suggests to those facing an extortion letter from Getty.

Here is what I suggest people do to protect themselves from fraudulent lawsuits from Getty images:

1) Block Getty Images so you will never see an image that has their copyright notice on it. (A symbolic boycott which probably won't affect their business, but it also decreases the chances that you will ever use one of their images.)

2) Always verify the owner of any pictures you post using a reverse image search program such as Google Images or TinEye

3) Use your own photos and artwork to illustrate blogs. If part of your artwork is based on portions of material taken from someone else, credit the owner with a citation listing the name of the artist or photographer, the date the image copyright (or the date the image was retrieved), the publisher that handles copyrights, and the address where an official copy of the image can be retrieved.

4) If you use someone else's work, ask permission to use it. If they fail to grant permission, find something else, or create your own derivative artwork, and credit them for the idea, i.e. original artwork by David Lloyd inspired by Photographer, T.(2016). Company that owns the artwork. Retrieved from

5) If you want to use the original artwork, buy the necessary license to publish it on your blog. Fees for one-time use as a blog illustration are normally in the $5.00 to $15.00 range (at least I have never been charged more than that for one of the images I have licensed, and in the case when I couldn't afford the license, I contacted the artist and got permission from the artist (which I have been careful to keep documented, and the artist has been credited, fully cited, and publically thanked for his permission).

6) A fair use workaround I have used for blog illustrations has been to use a link published by the owner rather than to upload a copy of the photo. (It's not fair use if you link to a stolen image). The owner must still be credited with a proper citation, and the blog must not make a profit from using the photo, nor can it be a fan page that promotes a business. The safest scenario for a fair use case is a not-for-profit use of a published link (published by the owner only) by a blog that exists primarily for educational purposes.

The downside of the fair-use route is that the publisher retains control of the source you have linked, and may take it down at any time. It is good to supply alternate text to be displayed if access to the image is later removed.


Steve Schlackman. (2014, April 13). Tips for Responding to a Getty Images Extortion Letter. Retrieved from

Image--Original mashup by David Lloyd of artwork from:

Kalina, A. (n.d.). Background Money [Image]. Hemera Collection. Getty Images Royalty-Free No Release Required. Retrieved from


Steve Schlackman. (2014, April 13). Tips for Responding to a Getty Images Extortion Letter. Retrieved from

1 comment:

David Lloyd said...

I dated this blog post using the date it was originally written, which was Jun 02, 2016, however, this entry was not actually posted until today, Jun 11, 2017.

David Lloyd