Anti-Extortion Case 2 – Getty Images, Inc.

Case Summary

Getty Images, Inc. is demanding money for usage of images without furnishing sufficient proof that this company has the right to make such demands.

Getty Images, Inc. ceased making demands and any other further interactions after the communication described here. Accordingly, this dormant case has been closed until there is a need to reopen it.

Contents

What Makes This an Anti-Extortion Case?

Getty Images, Inc. (“Getty Images”) demanded $1,750 for usage of 2 images for less than a year, and threatened with legal action, if the demands were not met. Getty Images was informed, that the images were obtained from other sources, and what these sources were. Despite of that, Getty Images continued to make monetary demands. At the same time, Getty Images failed to provide proof that their company has the right to make the monetary demands that Getty Images was making.

What is Demanded From the Suspected Extortionist?

The demand made here is to STOP EXTORTION. Getty Images should not make monetary demands, accompanied by threats, for images, for which the company cannot provide verifiable proof that the images have been available exclusively through Getty Images, and who the authors of the images are.

Case Background

My name is Thomas Eklund. From 2006 to 2011 I worked with contractors on several website development projects. Some of this work is also documented on http://www.elance.com/e/creativitymodel/. In 2006 I worked with a team of contractors who helped me to redesign my website, ProjectDeveloper.com. I also worked with the same team of contractors in 2009 on a custom blogging software development project. At the same time I asked that team to do Internet searches for me and to collect images for my next project. I worked on that creativity management related project as a hobby over several years. I also started a company, CreativityModel Enterprises, Inc., but after additional, more thorough market research decided to close it. In September of 2011 I transferred some of the creativity management related content to ProjectDeveloper.com and also created additional images for that purpose.

On 08/20/2012 I received a 10 page long letter from Getty Images. The letter contained demands for $1,750 for usage of 2 images, explanatory information, payment information and threats of legal action.

The same day I emailed Getty Images and informed them of how I obtained the images in question in 2009. I also informed Getty Images that in 2009 I had explicitly requested from the contractors, that all the images must be free of charge and such, that they can also be used for commercial purposes. At the time I also asked the contractors to send me information on the sources of the images, which were:

I had kept the relevant email’s content from 2009. On 08/20/2012 I sent this email’s content to Getty Images, together with the company name for which the contractors worked, who had conducted the Internet searches for images for me in 2009. I also sent to Getty Images these contractors names and email addresses. I copied that email to the contractors as well.

I also informed Getty Images that other than the photo of me, all the images on my website ProjectDeveloper.com are either original images that represent my database work, or original collages that I had created or were created based on my instructions. The two images that Getty Images was referring to, appear in collages that I made and put on the Internet in September of 2011.

On 08/22/2012 I received a response email from Nancy Monson, Copyright Compliance Specialist at Getty Images. Ms. Monson wrote in length about Getty Images, settlement terms, the demanded settlement amount of $1,750, and stated that the settlement must be accomplished on or before 08/30/2012.

I responded on 08/22/2012 and on 08/24/2012, and asked to send me by 09/07/2012 the following information:

  • (1) Please provide verifiable proof that the images in question have been available exclusively through Getty Images from the moment the images were first used by any other party than the original author.
  • (2) Please provide verifiable proof that the entities you claim are the authors of the said images are indeed the authors of the said images.
  • (3) Please show in an itemized and auditable manner, how the amount requested for the two images in question was calculated. To put it differently, please show that you are asking for a reasonable compensation for the specific two images, within the timeframe that these two images have been used, and are not asking for exorbitant, unreasonable amounts of money under the circumstances.

On 08/24/2012 Ms. Monson responded, stating the following:

  • “Getty Images does not own the images. Getty Images has contracts with its contributing photographers who are the copyright holders and owners of the images. The contributor agreement contains representations and warranties that the contributor is the sole copyright owner. Consequently, Getty Images does not require contributors to provide Getty Images with certificates of registration and leaves the option of copyright registration to the individual photographer. Due to confidentiality concerns, Getty Images does not provide copies of our contributor contracts.”
  • Ms. Monson also stated that “We are unable to accommodate your request for documentation at this time.”

I replied the same day and listed again the above questions, but so far I have not received any complete response to them. Apparently unable to provide meaningful responses and realizing, that they have more to lose than they possibly could gain from trying to get money from me, Getty Images ceased communication with me and moved on to the next potential victim.

Getty Images and people who work for this predatory company seem to function like a “victim mill” that keeps producing misery. This is a business model that should be put out of business.

Case Analysis

Getty Images has contracts with individuals and companies that submit photos to Getty Images (contributors). Getty Images in return leases the photos to customers and collects the fees. An image that is available through Getty Images may, or may not have copyright registration certificate as an ownership document. Further, apparently, an image that is available through Getty Images, may have been available through other sources as well.

Getty Images is making monetary demands, accompanied by threats. Thus, Getty Images must be able to provide proof that it actually has the right to make such demands.

  • So far, Getty Images has not provided verifiable proof that the images in question have been available exclusively through Getty Images from the moment the images were first used by any other party than the original author.
  • Let’s say, that at some point in time Getty Images obtains an exclusive contract for representation of an image. However, prior to that, the same image may have been available through other sources as well, as a free image.
  • If I got a free image in the past through other sources, and Getty Images claims that it is leasing that same image for a fee now, but is unable or unwilling to prove that the image has not been available for free in the past, then why would I have to pay to Getty Images now? I have no interest in leasing anything that Getty Images may be representing now. My transaction of obtaining the image in question took place in the past and involved different people and companies.
  • I do not have to prove anything to Getty Images regarding my past transactions. Once again, Getty Images, which is making monetary demands, accompanied by threats, has to handle the burden of proof.
  • So far, Getty Images has not provided verifiable proof that the entities Getty Images claims are the authors of the specific images are indeed the authors of these images.
  • Let’s say, that Getty Images says that based on their records, a person whose artist name is Santa Claus is the author of an image. However, maybe another person, whose artist name is, let’s say, Easter Bunny, is actually the author of that image? Getty Images is unable or unwilling to provide any proof that their relevant records contain valid information.
  • Continuing with the above example, perhaps the person whose artist name is Santa Claus found a free image that was actually made by the person whose artist name is Easter Bunny. After the fee image was no longer available in it’s original source, Santa Claus could have submitted it to Getty Images as his work, hoping to make money on it.
  • I am not suggesting, that Getty Images necessarily operates this way, but what reason do we have for ruling out this option? Just like we don’t have any solid proof of this being the case, we do not have any proof that this, or something similar, is not the case.
  • Why would I have to pay to a company that claims, that it is in the business of representing photographers/artists, but at the same time is unable to provide verifiable proof that the works represented were actually made and are currently owned by the individuals or companies that Getty Images represents?
  • So far, Getty Images has not shown in an itemized and auditable manner, how the $1,750 requested for the two images in question was calculated.
  • I put the collages that I had created on the Web host’s server on 09/14/2011. This action left a time stamp on the Web host’s server. This is the only date that Getty Images, perhaps, could have known, when they sent me their request for $1,750 in a letter dated 08/16/2012. At the time when Getty Images sent me the invoice, they could not have known that I obtained the images that I used as a source material already in 2009, and that the contractors may had obtained these images much earlier (these contractors maintain their own collections of free images).
  • Getty Images has failed to show, how $1,750 for 2 ordinary photos that have been used for less than a year is a reasonable compensation, and is not a demand for an exorbitant, unreasonable amount of money.

I have not paid Getty Images anything, and under the circumstances I have no intention of paying them anything.

In their correspondence, Getty Images also requested that I must remove the two images in question from my website. Under the circumstances I have not done so, and I have no intention of doing so.

Both Getty Images and I know, that the probability that Getty Images will ever get any money from me is extremely small, even if they will take a legal action against me. If Getty Images wants to proceed with a legal action in this case, it is very likely, that their cost will exceed substantially any potential gains, and that they will lose the court case as well.

I informed Getty Images, that I will publish our correspondence on the Internet, and that my objective is to evaluate evidence that indicates that Getty Images may be engaging in extortion. I also I informed Getty Images that they can proceed with litigation against me any time they feel justified to do so. If that will ever happen, I will blog about that process on the Internet as well. I will hire a good lawyer, which will cost me, but in the battle against extortion, that is worth it.

Next Steps

As this Anti-Extortion Case 2 documents, Getty Images is aware, that their company has made monetary demands, accompanied by threats, without being able to prove that Getty Images actually has the right to make such demands. If Getty Images continues this practice, it provides proof that Getty Images is knowingly engaging in extortion.

If either Getty Images or any other entity has demanded money from you in a manner that is similar to what is described here, please become this website member and either describe your situation on this site, or contact me after becoming this website member.

Together we can accomplish more in the combat against the suspected extortionists.

Thomas Eklund

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