Getty Threatens The Wrong IP Law Firm In Its Copyright Trolling Efforts

from the this-won't-end-well dept

Image licensing giant Getty Images has quite a reputation for being something of a copyright maximalist and occasional copyright troll. The company has been known to blast out threat letters and lawsuits not unlike some more notorious copyright trolls. And that’s true even as the company just recently lost a copyright infringement suit in which Getty helped in the infringement. A few months ago, we had told you about Getty starting a new program in which it was making many of its images free to embed, saying that it was “better to compete” that way on the internet, rather than trying to license everything. We actually just tried embedding some Getty images ourselves recently.

However, it appears that this new program has not dampened the company’s enthusiasm for copyright trolling. Nor has the recent lawsuit loss convinced Getty to be any more careful in how it goes about that trolling. The company may soon regret sending a troll letter to Florida-based intellectual property law firm Schneider Rothman, claiming that the company had engaged in copyright infringement by posting images to its site and demanding $380 (while threatening a lawsuit). The lawyers at Schneider Rothman know better than to make use of infringing images, so they scoured their site to figure out what the issue was. And they quickly figured out the problem — and it appears to be with the sloppy way in which Getty sends out these demand letters:

There was a problem, however. We never copied or displayed the Getty image referred to in Getty?s letter.

We looked more closely at what Getty was doing and were shocked to discover what was really going on.

You see, Getty is apparently using an image recognition system to generate its letters to accused infringers. Getty?s system identified a thumbnail image on our website here. Getty matched the thumbnail to an image more than six times the size on Getty?s site.

We are not responsible for the thumbnail. The thumbnail is displayed on our website because we use the Zemanta plug-in for WordPress. Zemanta put it there, something that should have been obvious to Getty.

But Getty did not bother to look. If it had, Getty would have seen that we are simply employing web-feed syndication, a common and generally accepted Internet publishing and search engine optimization practice.

So, instead, the law firm has gone to court, filing for a declaratory judgment that it does not infringe. It’s interesting to note that the lawyers didn’t just include Getty as a defendant here, but Zemanta as well (seeking, at the very least, indemnification, on the off chance that Zemanta did not actually license the image). They note that Zemanta appears to have properly licensed the image, and to then try to shake down their law firm for using Zemanta’s properly licensed use of the image is quite problematic. Plus, since the use is just a thumbnail and (thank you Perfect 10!) the use of thumbnails is fair use, Getty should have quite obviously known that its threat letter and demands for payment were bogus.

The lawyers at Schneider Rothman don’t mince words:

Getty?s unfair and deceptive practice has caused actual damages to SRIPLAW by requiring SRIPLAW to expend time and money to bring an action to obtain a declaratory judgment that SRIPLAW did not infringe Getty?s copyright.

Getty?s unfair and deceptive practice has damaged other individuals and businesses similarly situated to SRIPLAW who received letters from Getty that falsely claimed copyright violations and, because these other individuals and businesses lack the technical or legal knowledge and/or funds necessary to defend themselves from Getty false claims, have instead paid extortion money to Getty that Getty was not entitled to.

Unless enjoined, Getty?s unfair and deceptive practice will damage other individuals and businesses who receive letters from Getty that falsely claim copyright violations and demand settlement payments to resolve such false claims.

While it’s fun to watch the lawsuits with the small-time copyright trolls like Prenda, it will be interesting to see what happens here, though my guess is that Getty will look to quickly settle this matter…

Filed Under: , , , , , ,
Companies: getty, getty images, schneider rothman

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Comments on “Getty Threatens The Wrong IP Law Firm In Its Copyright Trolling Efforts”

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Anonymous Coward says:

“Plus, since the use is just a thumbnail and (thank you Perfect 10!) the use of thumbnails is fair use, Getty should have quite obviously known that its threat letter and demands for payment were bogus.”

Please feel free to correct me if I am mistaken, but to my knowledge there is no case that has held that thumbnails are, per se, fair use (a conclusion I draw from your article that I have quoted). In some cases their use has been deemed fair, but I seem to recall at least one instance where the opposite result was reached after analysis of the fair use factors.

Anonymous Coward says:


“thank you Perfect 10!) the use of thumbnails is fair use”!
Really? That’s pretty sloppy thinking.
Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that under the Perfect Ten case, use of thumbnails in a search engine that searches for images on the Internet can be a fair use? I’m not saying that the appearance of the thumbnail on the law firm’s website cannot be a fair use, but you haven’t begun to make the cas that it is.

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