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Pursued by Getty Images or another photograph library?

Have you been sent a threatening letter by Getty images or another photo library or one of their collection agencies like Atradius Collections? You should be very careful about ignoring letters from Getty, or solicitors they use like Simons, Muirhead & Burton. Do you know where you stand? This simple website will help you:

1.Understand what these sorts of copyright claims are all about.

Provide you with enough information to deal inexpensively with this problem.

Photograph libraries.

Getty and other companies such as iStock provide a wide range of digital images which can be used on the internet or elsewhere. These digital images are the subject of copyright – so what does that mean? Copyright arises when an image is created. It does not need to be registered to exist. Generally the photographer who took the images owns the photograph and all the rights to make money out of it. Image libraries buy up images from photographers and then charge a royalty for the use of the image. So far so good. However some image libraries don’t appear to charge for the images they supply. READ THE SMALL PRINT CAREFULLY. You may well be misled and some websites deliberately set out to confuse consumers.

How does anyone know where the images came from?

This is a difficult question to answer concisely. Some image libraries now have software that patrols the internet looking for images which belong to them. This spy software then reports back to the image library who cross references the image to one in their library to find out where, when and if it has been licenced by a particular website or individual. Where it appears no royalty has been paid, the image library may well approach the user of the photograph and ask for the royalties it should have received. The problem here is that of course such policing methods don’t come cheap and the image library letters demanding royalties usually ask for damages way beyond the amount you would have paid them originally to use them on your website. It also means that you as end user or owner of the website can be falsely accused of taking images without permission. Sadly as the website owner you are legally on the hook for using infringing copyright images. If you’ve been supplied with images from a third party such as a website developer, then you must contact them and check whether or not they have receipts for the use of the images. The website creator may also be able to join forces with you to defend a copyright claim.

What damages are the image libraries entitled to?

The law of copyright in the UK is covered by a statute called the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or CDPA. This statute states that use of a © image without permission from the owner is © infringement. The Courts have a number of remedies open to them including the right for the © owner to obtain an injunction to stop use of the © image. However, the courts rarely award large damages for the relatively modest use of a digital image on the internet. An award of damages will be based on the type of image (the more exclusive the more expensive) and depending on how widely it has been used and viewed. A strong consideration for the Courts is what you would have paid to licence the image. So if it is the sort of image you could legitimately licence for £30, then these are the level of damages the Courts will award. Many image libraries ask for several hundred pounds – amounts they would be unlikely to recover if they take Court action.

I’ve been accused of “flagrantly” infringing copyright? How does this work?

The CDPA allows the Court to take into consideration the circumstances surrounding © infringement. So where people have knowingly taken © images without regard to paying a royalty for their use, the Courts can award enhanced damages. However, this does not and should not be applied where images have been inadvertently used.

Common situations where copyright infringement arises.

1.A friend or relative creates a new website and uses what they think are “free” stock images.

2.A website designer uses “free” images only to find that they have been hoodwinked or the images are subsequently bought by a stock library and damages are retrospectively demanded.

3.You buy or take over a website only to find that the images on it have not been paid for.

What can I do to avoid problems?

1.Ensure that the online contracts formed for obtaining digital images are retained by YOU.

2.Ask your website designer to provide evidence of origin and licences for images used on your website.

3.Create your own images.


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