With the rise of the internet, came the rise of 'borrowing' images from other sites. Then came sites that actually sold images. Getty Images were the first to gain a world wide reputation in this field but also one of the most expensive to deal with. Due to this many people simply stole images they liked in the hope that being caught was almost impossible. That all changed last Wednesday when I arrived back at work from an excellent weeks skiing down south.
In my inbox, was an email from a client who had just been sent a bill for $2900 from Getty Images. This was for using a small part of two images that were no bigger then 150 pixels high by 300 pixels wide. Getty Images were charging $1450 per image used as settlement and demanding that if the client wanted to continue using the images they would have to seek a new license on top of these charges. I did some digging and yes those images did look suspiciously like the images that Getty Images were claiming copyright infringement on. Even though they were tiny and only a fraction of the actual image was used.
So as you do these days, I dived into the internet to see what was going on out there in regards to this. It turns out that Getty Images have a program that trawls through websites, downloads the images then compares these with its image database Any matches that come up get billed $1000 USD per image that appears on a secondary page and more if it's a home page image, regardless of how small it is. They call this a 'settlement' fee and recommend you pay it to avoid an escalating legal situation (whatever that is).
This also includes images that have been used by companies that create website templates and have them for sale. You think they are copyright cleared, but unless Getty Images have evidence of YOU paying a license fee, then they're gonna get you too. And as a warning, they don't go through the commonly perceived process of cease and desist. They just send you a bill out of the blue.
So what to do? Well first of all I would go and take a look at your website and ask yourself this. Did I take that image or pay for that image? If no, then I would suggest you get rid of that image today or you could be in for a not so nice surprise.
The good news however is since those bad old days, new online companies have arrived bringing you a massive selection of stock footage at prices you can afford. Check out istockphoto.com and others that start at around $2 NZD per image depending on what size you need. It's good karma to pay for images you use as someone had to actually take them. It's even better to have your own images shot for you so this kind of situation is avoided. And as a bonus, you will be the only one with those images