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Appropriation – Photography Edition

‘my photos are free’… ‘not if there’s anything we can do about it’…
no wonder people get so upset over ‘capitalism’… or in this case blatant uncaring arrogance…

A well-known American photographer has now sued Getty Images and other related companies—she claims they have been wrongly been selling copyright licenses for over 18,000 of her photos that she had already donated to the public for free, via the Library of Congress.

According to the suit, Getty and its affiliates have not only sold unauthorized licenses of Highsmith’s photos, but they have sent threatening letters to people that they believe have infringed the copyright.

One of those recipients was Highsmith’s own non-profit group, the This is America! Foundation. The copyright enforcement entity, License Compliance Services, demanded $120 in payment. LCS is believed to be connected to Getty Images, which has developed a reputation for aggressively pursuing claimed license fees over alleged afoul publication.

Source: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/07/photographer-sues-getty-images-for-selling-photos-she-donated-to-public/

It’s ironic, humorous, that a company so interested in copyright could so flagrantly violate somebody else’s copyright. I guess this is just another case of ‘rules for thee, but not for me‘.

If you’re not a photographer, you’ll most likely know Getty from the images used on mainstream news sites like CNN…

Anyways, the licensing mess continued!

A PR person from Getty has reached out to us and pointed us to Getty’s completely nonsensical “statement” on the lawsuit (and, actually, the email pointed us to the wrong URL, but we found it anyway).

“We are reviewing the complaint. We believe it is based on a number of misconceptions, which we hope to rectify with the plaintiff as soon as possible. If that is not possible, we will defend ourselves vigorously.

The content in question has been part of the public domain for many years. It is standard practice for image libraries to distribute and provide access to public domain content, and it is important to note that distributing and providing access to public domain content is different to asserting copyright ownership of it.

LCS works on behalf of content creators and distributors to protect them against the unauthorized use of their work. In this instance, LCS pursued an infringement on behalf of its customer, Alamy. Any enquiries regarding that matter should be directed to Alamy; however, as soon as the plaintiff contacted LCS, LCS acted swiftly to cease its pursuit with respect to the image provided by Alamy and notified Alamy it would not pursue this content.”

Source: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160729/13362135105/getty-makes-nonsensical-statement-photographer-carol-highsmiths-lawsuit-falsely-claiming-copyright.shtml

Apparently nobody told Getty they gotta get their facts straight before sending off PR emails??? But seriously, that is an astoundingly weird reply.

First off this part here…

The content in question has been part of the public domain for many years. It is standard practice for image libraries to distribute and provide access to public domain content

Kind of misses the entire point. Highsmith donated her photos to the Library of Congress so as to give people a means of free access. Highsmith’s point in her lawsuit seems to be that Getty is perverting her intent by charging people for the licenses to otherwise free photographs.

it is important to note that distributing and providing access to public domain content is different to asserting copyright ownership of it

And again… weirdness.

Highsmith’s point again seems to be that Getty or related parties is perverting her intent by sending threatening letters implying the recipient has infringed on the copyright of her donated images. And if I remember right, only the copyright owner or agent authorized by the owner can make claims like that. If Getty were simply distributing a public domain photo like they claim, they wouldn’t have that authority.

So… if Getty knew the image was in the public domain, why was it (or related companies) attempting to assert copyright control over them?

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