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Why are Getty Images and Flickr teaming up? It may cost you.

Posted by scottschram on July 19, 2008 at 9:21 AM PDT

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, 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'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?

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it's really the same with everything else...if something ...

it's really the same with everything else...if something belongs to you, whether photography, art, literature, music, intellectual, doesn't matter. it's theft if someone uses it without explicit permission. i see this a lot, especially in the photography sites, youtube and facebook. using a lot of "free" quotes that belong to some other author. for some reason, a photographer will brag about being accepted as a getty images contributor, and yet, that same person seemingly has no respect for other people's property. you might look at their profile, or descriptions, and see that they adamantly refer to copyright laws and that it is illegal or an infringement to use their photos in any way without explicit written permission, and yet, for some reason, they feel it is appropriate to put literary quotes under each of their photos (seemingly without any permission at all to acknowledge the right to do so). it's theft. clear and simple. and i'm not speaking of copyrights that have expired. and i have also seen these same photographers brag about the book covers their photos have been chosen for...and, here again, they would never allow that without compensation and permission...but, yet, they take quotes from these same books at liberty to describe their photos with cutesy quotes on flickr. pretty amazing.

Chance Cases Helpline is surely an independent organization ...

Chance Cases Helpline is surely an independent organization that can help that you get the pay out not to mention criminal justice one crave. We discussion you thru the many office paperwork combined with put in plain words every claim vocabulary capital easy and simple that you might accident claims.

I just hope that this (ludicrous but probable) situation doesn't arrise: Getty suing me for copyright infringement, after I link from my web site to my own images which happen to be stored on Flickr. This could happen if Flickr is able to transfer the image rights of my images to Getty without my knowledge. The terms of service make it fairly clear that this can't happen, I think: "Yahoo!7 does not claim ownership of Content you submit or make available for inclusion on the Service. However, with respect to Content you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Service, you grant Yahoo!7 the following worldwide, royalty-free and non-exclusive license(s), as applicable: "... " * With respect to photos, graphics, audio or video you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Service other than Yahoo!7 Groups, the license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Service solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available. This license exists only for as long as you elect to continue to include such Content on the Service and will terminate at the time you remove or Yahoo!7 removes such Content from the Service. " That just leaves my images that contain "creative elements", whatever they are. Picscout scares me: what if, for instance, I have a photograph of a scene that just happens to have a bilboard in one corner that contains a Getty-copyrighted "creative element"...?

From my understanding Flickr is not selling the images to Getty but Getty will buy them from people posting them on Flickr. Seems pretty fair at first glance but I've not read the fine print.

I have no sympathy whatsoever for people who use images on their websites without prior permission from the copyright holder. Whether that copyright holder is Getty, Sun, or me doesn't matter, they're infringing copyright and should be held accountable.

I've had some battles myself to get compensation, and wish Getty all the success in the world.

As to CDs of "free" images, your friend should have known what he was getting into. It's well known that the vast majority of those images are stolen from websites by people under the impression that anything that's on the web is "free" unless it explicitly states otherwise.

What I do find somewhat disturbing is Getty acquiring images from Flickr, though without further data on the exact agreement I can't know how much of a problem it would be, and what compensation the people placing those images on Flickr will get (and what controls will be put in place to make sure that the images aren't copyrighted by someone else rather than the person/organisation putting them on Flickr, and apparently signs over their copyright to Flickr else Flickr can't sell them to Getty).

As said, all the more reason to never use any content you don't know the origins of and have proof that you are using it with the consent of the copyright owner (or are that copyright owner).

Good faith doesn't help you here, you have to pay anyway. As you say, you really do have to KNOW. Getty Images recently made a deal with Template Monster. Before that it's not hard to find cases of people buying templates from them and then getting the demand for payment letters for small creative elements in the template. A friend told me of an intern at his company grabbing a sample disk (handed out for free and marked "not for commercial use") and using it. A clear case of infringement, but it's made very easy by having those disks around. These kind of mistakes can be very costly. It might good idea to review all images on your existing sites, and replace anything that you can't trace back.

Of course it is possible to be sure --- take the photos yourself or licence them from the photographer direct or via a company like Getty. Secondly the default position for images is that they are copyright and their author is entitled to be recognised and compensated for their use. So unless you KNOW better don't use them.

A good background article on the deal is here: "Participation is optional and will be limited to Flickr photographers who have been invited by Getty." This is interesting: "Flickr will not be a party in the licensing and will not take a cut of the fees." ... "The companies declined to share other details of their financial arrangement." I hope you have the right to take a picture of a scene which includes a copyrighted billboard or poster. If they send you a letter, you can end up talking to a human being (Joe described them as "unsympathetic.")