Archive for March, 2013

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

This story comes from the Consumer Champions page in The Guardian this Saturday:

Why can’t we use Google images on our website?
I set up my sister’s website and used two Google images. It said nothing about copyright – but now Getty has billed us £950.
In August 2010 my sister asked me to design a website for her hair and beauty salon.
We found two striking images on Google and used them. We rejected those which had “copyright” or similar words, or where the identity of the model was obvious.
Three months later, Getty Images wrote claiming the photos were subject to its copyright. She was asked to remove them immediately and to cease and desist from further use. She was also billed £950 for “unpaid licence fees”, an enormous sum for a local business.
As I reckoned the images were worth about £50 at most, and were only on the site for three months, I ignored this demand. Getty sent a heavier letter in January 2011. In June, she received a “notice of case escalation” and the fee demanded was now £1,149.50, an impossible amount to pay.
We heard nothing more – I thought Getty had realised there was little point in chasing this – until December 2012 when debt collectors sent a threatening letter. Is this a big organisation trying to beat up a small business? BF, Shrewsbury

Getty Images collects fees for photographers whose work is used.
They have to earn their crust – and pay models, make-up artists, lighting technicians and others involved in a shoot. Using their images for free is copyright theft. But Getty Images acknowledges that when non-professional web designers try to find artwork through a search engine, it can be unclear what – if any – fee there is to pay, and even more unclear how to pay.
Phrases such as “These images may be in copyright” could apply to all, or none, of the images viewed. In your case, you selected two pricey images at £475 each to use for six months.
Getty accepts that you would not have taken these had you known the cost. These images were “digital rights managed” and their use is easily detectable.
You could, however, have chosen “royalty-free” images which would have given you a lifetime’s use for £10 to £20.
There are a number of websites to consult before using images [and here the left-leaning British newspaper The Guardian provides links to two American-owned websites].
Getty accepts “that there are many small businesses and image users that are new to licensing content” and says “it is not our core business to chase hairdressers”.
And while it called in debt collectors, it has not sold them the debt – it remains a matter between Getty and you.
Following our call, it has reassessed the situation. It says it is unfair for those involved in the shoot to be unpaid, but it is willing to cut the bill to £500 as a compromise solution.
We feel that this is reasonable.

Ah, poor dab! A big organisation trying to beat up an ickle-wickle image thief? The ‘compromise solution’ is more than reasonable, I’d say. I  wonder what the complainant thought of that?

“As I reckoned the images were worth about £50 at most, and were only on the site for three months, I ignored this demand.”

So that’s all right then. This ignorant, selfish, greedy web designer is complaining because her theft has been uncovered. And by complaining, she has managed to get her bill reduced by £450. Result, I’d say.

The Internet is a wondrous thing, God wot, but it has led to a number of unforeseen situations. Firstly, the value of a photograph has plummeted. Secondly, previously honest, trustworthy individuals now feel no qualms about stealing images, music, films and games on the basis that “if I can see it on my screen it’s mine.”

It’s interesting, but hardly surprising, that the people who have commented on this complaint on The Guardian’s website have all been critical of the complainant.

VictoriaLuckie writes:

Photos cost photographers to take. The photographer will probably have had to pay for equipment, studio / lighting hire and models. What you thought the photos were worth is irrelevant. As is the excuse that you were not professional. It saddens me that the Guardian would run an ill-thought out and unbalanced piece like this that completely undermines an industry that has it tough enough already.

And Baldur McQueen comments

“….I reckoned the images were worth about £50 at most…”
I love that 🙂
I do wonder if I could do the same at the Hair & Beauty Salon?
“…. I reckon this haircut is worth a fiver at most, so I’ll pay you nothing…”

Good on you both.

I’m thinking maybe we should have a Copyright notice on every fotoLibra page. We should never overestimate the intelligence of users.

fotoLibra is to Getty Images as plankton to a whale, and we do not have cadres of sharp-suited lawyers we can order to jump at our command. And obviously we can’t police illegal image usage around the world.

But we are prepared to go to law in the UK on behalf of our Pro and Platinum members in good standing who can show us proof of UK commercial usage of any of their images which had earlier been uploaded to fotoLibra. This is strung about with conditions, alas, which is not as good as we would have liked, but it is a strong gesture of intent. Where we have had sufficient evidence to go before the Small Claims Court on behalf of our Pro and Platinum members, we have done so — and we have won every time, and got the money.

What we can’t do is sue private bloggers who use watermarked fotoLibra Previews, or organisations based overseas. Any Previews they may take have all got big fotoLibra watermarks, so everyone know’s they nicked the image, and who they nicked it from. In the UK we can certainly send them take-down notices and demand payment and a link through to the photographer’s page on fotoLibra, but the threat of having a County Court Judgement against them seems little deterrent to bloggers, who are often pseudonymous.

On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog.