Verify An Image Copyright Number



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Getty Harassment, Threatening Letters and Fake Lawsuits



Getty targets small business owners, the elderly, churches and charity organizations, by using software image identification programs such as  This software crawls the search engines to find an image outline that the software program can recognize, and then attempts to match that image to a photo Getty claims they own.  The names of the websites where there might be a potential photo match are automatically listed by the software search program.  This program is free, so Getty makes 100% profit when they collect money from anyone willing to pay them.  Often times, the software will find a photo that may be close to the search image submitted by Getty, however the image found by the software may be an entirely different photo altogether.  Any veterinarian will tell you that certain breeds of dogs all look very similar, especially as puppies.  Just because Getty has put a photo of a puppy into their image search software, it does not mean that if the software pulls up a photo of your puppy, that you must pay Getty to keep your puppy from being taken to the pound.


Will The Real Copyright, Please Stand Up?


Image 1 with Watermark

Image 2 with Watermark

Shutterstock claims ownership

123RF Getty claims ownership


Notice that the two images above are identical, however two different "licensing" agencies claim they own the copyright on this photo.  In realty, it is completely possible that neither company holds a valid copyright registration for the above image.  This tactic is not exclusively unique to Getty, as you can see, but Getty has been found to be the worst offender concerning predatory debt collection tactics.  You can find results like this for almost any keyword phrase you enter into any search engine's image finding browser.




Before you can stop Getty from harassing you with fake invoices for copyright infringement, threatening letters about "legal escalation", fake lawsuits, and phony collection agency bills, you first need to understand how the Getty Scam works.  Learn how to stop Getty by filing multiple Complaints against them with Consumer Protection Agencies, that will expose their unethical business practices and stop the harassment.







Step 1: The Initial Form Letter


The harassment begins with a simple, unsigned Form Letter.  It will be addressed to the "Legal Department" of your company, as found on your website, rather than to a specific person at your company.  Getty calls this letter a "Notice of Unauthorized Use" which typically consists of 9 pages expressly designed to make you think you have been named as a Defendant in a lawsuit for copyright infringement.  However, if you read the form letter, you will note that Getty avoids using the word "copyright" but instead uses the word "license", which are two completely different things.  Copyrights are issued by the United States Copyright Office in Washington D.C.  A "license" can be issued by any entity from a private photographer to a dog pound, and carries no actionable authority in litigation concerning copyright violation.  The letter is signed with nothing but the term "License Compliance Team" as the signatory.  This letter is NOT FROM AN ATTORNEY.  Attempting to intentionally mislead you into thinking that Getty has retained legal counsel, in their Reference line they use the term "Case Number:" which is followed by a fictitious court docket number.  Nowhere in the letter, will you find an actual Copyright Registration Number issued by the U.S. Copyright Office. (see example)


Step 2: Show Me The Copyright


Attached to the form letter is a page called "Report Data". This page contains nothing but a black & white grainy Xerox copy of a photograph which has a Getty catalog number listed above it.  Next to the Getty photo will be a photocopy of a page from your website called a "Screen Capture".  More often than not, the screen capture of your website page DOES NOT MATCH THEIR OWN CATALOG PHOTO.  (see example).




Attached to the "Report Data" is a fake invoice which ranges in average from $600 - $4,000.  This demand for payment contains the fictitious "Case Number" and a "Settlement Demand Due Date" which is normally 14 days from the date of this first letter. Under the section called "Details", you will find the name of the Photographer who Getty claims owns a Registered Copyright for the photocopied image.  If you visit the website of the U.S. Copyright Office Data Base you can quickly find out if, in fact, the person named in the Getty invoice, holds a valid copyright, including the copyright registration number and date of issue by the U.S. Copyright Office.  (see example)


Included in this initial form letter, is a 3-page document called "Frequently Asked Questions".  Nowhere in this document will you find a single citation from the U.S. Copyright Office regarding federal statutes governing copyright law.  However, in the FAQ documentation, you are directed to the Getty website section called "Copyright 101" where Getty has posted patently false and intentionally misleading information for the express purpose of extorting money from you for images you have not used on your website or, in the alternative, for a photo that Getty does not hold a valid copyright registration. (see example)


Step 3: Wire Them The Cash


The final attachment to the letter is an "Instruction For Payment Form" which lists Getty banking ABA and account number where you are directed to wire your "payment" in cash only, for use of the photo which Getty claims they hold a valid copyright registration.  You are instructed to pay the invoice which averages between $600 - $4,000 , with NO RECEIPT FOR PAYMENT.  Getty promises they will E-mail you a "confirmation" when the payment is received, and that your payment will be considered "full and final settlement for the claim".  (see example).





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TO Getty




TO Getty

*If you mail your Response Letter,

be sure to send the letter via

"Certified - Return Receipt Requested"



File a Complaint with the FTC if you believe

Getty has violated your rights under

the Fair Debt Collection Act


Contact U.S. Congressman Jim McDermott

who represents Washington's 7th District

where Getty does business

and tell him what you think.



File a Complaint with WA State Bar Association

against any lawyer representing Getty


File a Complaint with Attorney General

of Washington State, Rob McKenna



Contact King County District Attorney

Dan Satterberg - Seattle, WA



Report Getty to the

Seattle Better Business Bureau


Washington State Residents





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