Why are Getty Images and Flickr teaming up? It may cost you.
If any of the images on your site are licensed to Getty Images, it may cost you thousands of dollars. And soon thousands of Flickr images will be licensed to Getty Images.
A friend of mine (let's call him Joe) owns a company with a web site. Some 5 years ago, he hired a designer to redesign the site. The designer used some images from a CD that was thought to contain royalty free images. Some for still images and some embedded in flash animations.
Just a short time ago Joe received a cease and desist letter from Getty Images alleging copyright infringement for 4 of the images on his site. The letter demanded the removal of the images and several thousand dollars in back royalties and damages.
You wouldn't suspect the images of being licensed, they weren't particularly special, or of recognizable people.
Joe removed the images in question, and was able to negotiate a lower price with Getty Images. Note that Joe would never have paid this much for the images in the first place, they're just not worth it.
A little searching on Google will turn up dozens of cases like Joe's. Some of the people used a web designer, and some bought web site templates (with included graphics) from online template sites. Those template sites had included elements from a Getty Images photo.
So, how does Getty find the infringing images? One way is picscout.com, a company that advertises the ability to find images without watermarks. The system "easily detects the image even if it has been cropped, colorized or altered significantly."
Just recently Getty and Flickr have entered into an exclusive partnership to sell Flickr images.
"Getty Images editors will select the most marketable Flickr images and create a Flickr collection according to Getty Images' unique understanding of what our customers need, using insights from the creative research processes developed by Getty Images. Photographers will have the option to take part, or not."
Individual images must be exclusively licensed to Getty. Why?
Picking photos that people might want later is a guessing game. But picking photos that are on Flickr and copyrighted and already being used on commercial sites without permission is a sure thing. They could find infringements using picscout.com's technology before they offer to select the photo.
So, check your site carefully. Have you used anything from Flickr? Do you know exactly where all your images (and the elements within them) came from? Is it even possible to be sure?