Can I ignore the Getty Images Settlement Demand Letter?

I’ve been getting an increasing number of emails from blog readers asking, “Can I ignore the Getty Images settlement demand letter?”

Readers have also been asking for an update on what’s happened since I shared my personal Getty Images story last fall (October 2012).

Let’s handle first things first…

Can You Ignore a Settlement Demand from Getty?

Obviously, you can ignore the letter. But you must be prepared to deal with whatever consequences that follow. Matthew Chan shares his perspective in response to a user-submitted question on the ELI forums:

Technically, you can ignore the letter. The question you (and anyone else getting the letter) must ask is whether you can deal with the consequences. If you ignore it, they will likely keep harassing you about it even if they do not escalate the matter to a collection agency or to a lawsuit. Even if you respond, both could happen also.

As a personal preference, I do not like to ignore these matters because they have a way of sneaking back into your life when you least expect it. Unresolved matters have a way of coming back to haunt you.

But that does not mean you have to play into their hands. I chose to aggressively fight back and defend myself. I was prepared to do what ever it took because I too looked at my own case, situation, and so forth. Even if I had “lost” in court, the other side would have had a very high price to pay.

I am not an attorney but it certainly sounds like you have some grounds for negotiation and a defense. The fact of the matter is Getty has to be selective on who they escalate the matter to. You have to determine whether they will likely come after you. I personally think they have bigger fish to fry than 2 images. But if you choose to ignore them, who knows?

There are certainly no guarantees either way. Some people prefer to avoid and ignore the situation which I have heard works just fine. Others like me have chosen to confront it and it has also worked out also.

Has Getty Escalated My Case?

A blog reader who received a settlement demand from Getty writes:

Great article online about your experience dealing with Getty Images and their extortion techniques. Have you heard anything more on your situation? I plan to fight them all the way on this!

Keep me posted if you don’t mind and I’ll do the same.

So here’s an update on my situation…

As I mentioned last fall, I personally made an offer to settle with Getty for $157. This amount was far less than what they were demanding, but far more than fair market value for the image that had been posted on my site.

Getty declined my offer and countered with a much higher sum than I was willing to pay.

I have since ignored all communication from them.

In fact, I haven’t heard a peep from them since summer 2012.

There is a three-year statute of limitations on copyright issues like this one, and I’m almost two years in. I may receive a couple more harassment letters, but I doubt anything more than that will happen.

At this point, Getty will have to escalate my case or take me to court. Both seem unlikely simply because they’ve already declined my offer to settle for a fair and reasonable amount. If I ever testified in court, I can’t imagine a jury siding with Getty, especially after my effort to settle the matter.

You may want to attempt to settle, as I did. Or you may decide to use a more unorthodox approach…

A Creative Way to Respond to a Settlement Demand

One reader decided to use the CAN-SPAM law for his defense. Below is a reproduction of the dialog he had with Matt Miller, a so-called “Recovery Specialist” at NCS IP Solutions LLC.

Email #1

Mr. [NAME REDACTED],

Good afternoon, and I hope this has reached you well. I am in receipt of your most recent email correspondence to my office regarding the above referenced matter.

I am unclear how our follow up to our clients claim for the unauthorized use of their rights-managed and copyright protected material on your company website without the appropriate license may be somehow construed as spam. Please be advised that our client has every right to protect the copyright in the imagery in question, and fully intends to do so. As the aggrieved, Getty Images seeks the recovery of the lost licensing fee and now additional costs.

In the spirit of settling this matter quickly, and amicably, my client is willing to accept $700.00 as full and final settlement to this claim. If however, you have qualifying proof from Getty Images that a license was issued by them for the use of the material (the attached), please forward that to my office as soon as possible so I may review such findings with my client. If your position in this matter is to refuse to settle, please make that abundantly clear in your response and we will attach that response to your file and submit both back to Getty Images and their Legal Department for escalation.

Best Regards,

Matt Miller

Recovery Specialist
NCS IP Solutions LLC
PO Box 50276
Sarasota, FL 34232
T – 941-371-9900×227
F – 941-371-9901

THIS IS AN EFFORT TO EFFECT A SETTLEMENT AND ANY INFORMATION OBTAINED WILL BE USED FOR THAT PURPOSE.

Response #1

You have been previously notified of our demand to be removed from your mail list. In fact, last year, we responded with “Unsubscribe”. You are to remove us immediately from your list or you may face civil prosecution. This is not an attempt to collect a valid debt; therefore, your continued attempts to harass and extort has been noted and we are considering taking legal action at this time. CAN-SPAM ACT VIOLATION: Public Law No. 108-187. Each separate email in violation of CAN-SPAM Law is liable for a fine of up to $16,000.

Email #2

[NAME REDACTED],

A debt would mean there is a defaulting contract, or perhaps a judgment rendered against your company. This is not a debt, but instead a claim for the unauthorized use of our clients protected material.

Please indicate if you are going to work with me to settle this matter, or if we need to escalate this back to our client and their Legal Department.

Matt Miller
Recovery Specialist
NCS IP Solutions LLC
PO Box 50276
Sarasota, FL 34232
T – 941-371-9900×227
F – 941-371-9901

THIS IS AN EFFORT TO EFFECT A SETTLEMENT AND ANY INFORMATION OBTAINED WILL BE USED FOR THAT PURPOSE.

Response #2

There is no matter to settle here. Be advised that your email and domain has been blocked from future emails being received by our company email box and I have forwarded this on to our legal team to take the appropriate action. Furthermore, it has been well documented that you continue to violate the CAN-SPAM ACT VIOLATION: Public Law No. 108-187, even after numerous warnings by our company to cease and desist.

So that’s one way to handle the situation.

Whether it will work or not remains to be seen.

Keep in mind, nothing I have shared in this post constitutes legal advice. I’m not a lawyer. You must do your own due diligence and seek professional legal help if you feel it’s necessary.

Can you ignore a Getty Images settlement demand letter?

Ultimately, that’s up to you.

-Ryan M. Healy

P.S. Here’s something you shouldn’t ignore…

My friend John Breese is giving away the 6 critical components of freelance success that could mean the difference between a lucrative career… or returning to the cubicle. Click here for details.

9 Comments

  • Bob

    April 16, 2013

    You can count on a letter from the law office of Timothy B. McCormack any day now. It’s Getty’s typical M.O., good article and thanx for helping expose the trolls!

    • Ryan M. Healy

      April 16, 2013

      Yeah, I figure I haven’t heard the last of Getty (unfortunately).

  • Etienne Juneau

    April 16, 2013

    Well that’s a good one.

    Didn’t know Getty image were such losers.

  • Ryan M. Healy

    April 16, 2013

    Sharing this link here partially to bookmark it for myself, partially for the benefit of anybody else who’s reached the “Timothy B. McCormack” stage of their fight with Getty:

    http://www.extortionletterinfo.com/forum/getty-images-letter-forum/my-3-year-experience-fighting-back-in-playing-getty%27s-dirty-game/

  • Jerry Witt

    April 16, 2013

    After I got my “Demand” letter from Getty, I vowed to never do business with them again. Since that time I have learned that Getty Images also owns iStockPhoto. So if, like me, you would rather not do business with a company that threaten their current or future customers, I would urge you to not purchase images from iStockPhoto as well as Getty.

    • Ryan M. Healy

      April 16, 2013

      Good point, Jerry. Here are the stock photo companies who are known to use extortion tactics:

      Getty Images
      iStockphoto (owned by Getty)
      Masterfile
      Corbis Images
      Jupiter Images
      Superstock

      The company I’m now using is Fotolia. So far as I know, they don’t engage in any extortion tactics like the above companies do.

      • Jerry Witt

        April 16, 2013

        I have used Fotolia a bit (they support a usergroup I manage). I also use Pond5, which seems to have nearly everything iStock has. Both Pond5 and Fotolia seem to be run by good people and don’t run the Copyright image Extortion scam.

  • Oscar Michelen

    April 18, 2013

    Hang in there Ryan and thanks for pointing your readers to our site. We have been providing information and education on the Getty Images and other trolling issues on the site since 2007 but the word needs to spread far and wide as the problem has not diminshed over the years.

    • Ryan M. Healy

      April 19, 2013

      Hey Oscar – You’re welcome. I try to send people to ELI whenever I can. :-) And you’re right… the problem has not diminished. If anything, it seems to have gotten worse.