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arts, business decisions, copyright, design, graphic arts, liability, print, production, productivity, royalties

Getty Me Outta Here!

This week I learned a valuable lesson at a rather high price. This will never happen to me or any of my clients again. Hopefully, I can help to keep this from happening to you.

I have a web site, of course. I started it in 1998, around the time I incorporated my company. Last year, I redesigned it (it looked like it had been designed in 1998) and I had updated most of the artwork, featuring my more recent work. I didn’t delete everything from the old site. I left links to some old portfolio pieces which no one would access unless they were drilling deep.

I found out just how deep someone will drill if they can suck money out of you. The premiere photo archive (whose name has been not-so-cleverly concealed in this article) found an image on my site which they claimed was benefiting my company greatly, to the tune of over $1200 for past use and copyright infringement.


I read the threatening letter from License Compliance and they claimed rights of ownership to an image of the White House taken by one of their client photographers, referenced prominently and boldly on my little web site.

I use virtually no photography or artwork that is not my own, unless I am contracted to do so for a client. The client pays for the right to use these images for their purposes. Here’s the problem: if I use the produced piece, where the image was used legally, to show my skills as an illustrator, retoucher, page layout artist, etc., on my web site, then I am liable to pay for that same image for however long it remains accessible on my web site, even though I am not using it to directly promote my company, only to demonstrate my skills.

So, where was the errant image being used? On a very old Gallery page showing the image in question juxtaposed with a piece of artwork I had created for a client in the year 2000. I had been asked if I could turn the White House into a log cabin. I did. It looked pretty cool. The client liked it. I was proud of it and never felt compelled to remove it from my web site.

Mind you, you really had to LOOK for this to find it. It was not exactly prominently featured. In fact, it was buried. But the page and the images were there on the web server until I got that email last week.

Once I discovered the problem, I removed the image and any references to it. Then I wrote to the License Compliance person, explaining that this was an error, that I removed the image from my web server, that I am a very small, struggling business with very little revenue to support such an extraordinary expense. I was not using it directly in any marketing or promotion. Please do not kill me, because financially, this will hurt very badly.

Well, I got a response a couple of days later and I was offered a reduction of about 10% off the first threat, but they were not backing down. I have until July 30 to pay or get sued.

I called the person behind the email to ask if they could please negotiate something more reasonable. The very best they could do was $980. I still have until July 30 and yes, I can pay by credit card online.

So, on July 30, I will make my payment and take my punishment for this stupid oversight. In the meantime, I have scoured my site for any other potential image issues. So far, I’m good until the end of the year. I may delete one ad after I check the terms of use on another image.

Be warned folks. If any images are used on your web site, make sure you have the right to use them. Or you just may find yourself parting with a big chunk of change that could be better spent on just about anything else I can think of.

Author’s Note: I did NOT pay. I am NOT a criminal and this company hasn’t got a leg to stand on. I got educated and will share my experiences with you next week. In the meantime, if this issue is important to YOU, please sign my petition today!


About traceysl

Author of the groundbreaking book "Dementia Sucks", Post Hill Press, May, 2018. Having cared for my father, who had vascular dementia and died in 2004, and my mother, who died on April 14, 2015 after a long fight with Alzheimer's disease, I have refocused professionally to helping others through my experience. My company, Grand Family Planning, provides Coaching and Support Services. I am a professional speaker, offering programs for businesses seeking solutions to recruit and retain employees who care for loved ones. In this way, I share my knowledge and give meaning to the tragic turn of my parents' journey through the misery of dementia.


11 thoughts on “Getty Me Outta Here!

  1. I’m sorry you had to go through this. I’m a graphic designer and used to have my portfolio online, but after reading about people getting sued for such little things (frankly, you are right people are just trying to milk others for money), I’m sort of afraid to put it up again.

    Posted by lowestofthekeys | July 26, 2012, 4:52 pm
  2. Check this site out before you pay http://www.extortionletterinfo.com/forum/index.php

    Posted by Mike | July 27, 2012, 8:38 pm
    • Thanks Mike. Another friend actually referred me there today. I’ll let you know if I learn anything helpful.

      Posted by traceysl | July 27, 2012, 9:29 pm
      • It may also help others that read your story.

        I got my letter a few days ago. All because I had a small screen shot image of a web template that soneone else created on my website.

        Posted by Mike | July 27, 2012, 9:42 pm
  3. This is just terrible. I too am in the same boat for one photo thank goodness. I went to that ELI site today and the amount of money that I could end up paying frightens me. I went through all of my website photos and changed them to free ones generated through weebly. This is like a year later from your experience, but I wanted to reach out regardless.

    Posted by BernardCharles | June 3, 2013, 8:33 pm
    • Hi Bernie,

      You’re quite correct, this situation IS terrible and people need to know. The problem is, most people DON’T know the facts about Getty et. al. and their nefarious practices. Removing your images won’t stop them. For several months after learning the facts from ELI, I fought them off myself, but the letters continued and I didn’t feel like wasting more time with this nonsense. I contacted Oscar Michelin, paid the $195 and have not heard a word from the Getty minions since. I don’t mind paying the good guys to fight the good fight against the greedy bullies. And it’s been more than worth it for my peace of mind. I wish you luck and, whatever you do, don’t let the bullies intimidate you. I highly recommend the folks at ELI as a support system. They educate and defend the rest of us!


      Posted by traceysl | June 8, 2013, 10:20 am
      • Your words are greatly appreciated. I want to educate more people about the circumstances of Getty and copyright. Everyone needs to know now since we all are sharing content and most of it doesn’t have the rightful owner credited.

        Posted by BernardCharles | June 9, 2013, 12:15 pm
  4. I commented above last July 27 2012

    It has been almost a year now since I received my letter from Getty. My strategy has been to totally ignore the letter, and so far I have not heard a peep out of Getty since the letter I received July 2012.

    2 years to go.

    Posted by Mike | June 8, 2013, 8:56 pm


  1. Pingback: Copyright, Photography and DMCA Takedowns « - July 26, 2012

  2. Pingback: A kinder, gentler approach to copyright enforcement « Speaking Productionese - October 20, 2012

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