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Getty Images trolls for suckers using (cc) on Flickr
Do they plant the (cc) images or just take advantage?

A friend of mine, +Tasha Turner  got a letter today from +Getty Images asking her very impolitely for $780 for an image she used on a web site, which she had picked up from Flickr as being +Creative Commons licensed for commercial use.   It turns out that the person who posted it on Flickr didn't have the rights to the image.

Well, the person who posted it on Flickr was breaking Flickr's TOS, and violating Getty Image's TOS and copyright -- but  that didn't seem to matter, when Tasha explained it.  Getty Images, rather than pursuing the Flickr source, told Tasha to sue the user on Flickr.


Tasha is lucky enough to be married to my ex-husband (who I'm rather fond of -- he's also the godfather of my son), and so +Larry Lennhoff got hold of me since he knows I know a bit about IP law and asked me what to do about this -- they were both upset -- and if I could refer him to a lawyer.

Instead, I asked if he wanted me to call whoever sent them the letter first and get them off their backs, and pointed them to the article attached (not yet knowing it was actually Getty).  I told Larry that this was a classic IP trolling scam -- perfectly legal if heinous -- and that if he responded with the correct protocol it was likely that he could get off with just having taken down the image, but worst case, with a small fee for a formula response (see link below) since this is such a common scam --- err...ploy.  Income generating mechanism in this age of changing copyright landscape?

Legally they are obligated to protect their copyrights. So by rights they could send C&Ds to the users on flickr but they would usually never have personally identifying information there, you see? But on the web site that uses the flickr image, the web site owner has a name and address so they can send a letter, so instead of sending a letter, they send a bill. If one bill in a thousand pays up on reflex without realizing it's a scam, they make their expenses on paper and postage.


The idea that they can't just send a form C&D and have to scare the britches off of people is disgusting.  The idea that they tell people to go sue the Flickr source is ludicrous (if they could, they would, but it wouldn't be cost effective for them or they'd do it themselves, duh).  It's cynical and rude, and sad that it probably works way too often.

It's not identity theft.  It's dignity and peace of mind theft.  It's like a plot of revenge against Creative Commons, undermining the confidence in the use of the mechanism by predatory practices against "innocent infringement."

From US copyright law:
“(Notice of copyright) informs the public that the work is protected by copyright, identifies the copyright owner, and shows the year of first publication. Furthermore, in the event that a work is infringed, if a proper notice of copyright appears on the published copy or copies to which a defendant in a copyright infringement suit had access, then no weight shall be given to such a defendant’s interposition of a defense based on innocent infringement in mitigation of actual or statutory damages, except as provided in section 504(c)(2) of the copyright law. Innocent infringement occurs when the infringer did not realize that the work was protected.”

Really, unless the image says, embedded in it (c) Getty Images, Tasha is safe.


Dotty Scott's profile photoScott Thomas's profile photoKim MacDonald's profile photoJulie R. Neidlinger's profile photo
Thanks for all your help with this and explaining it so well. It is great to have friends with knowledge to turn to when in need and before panicking.
Wow. Thanks for this. I use CC images on my blog all the time and never thought that someone might go after me for use of an image improperly tagged with a CC license. Sharing this.
YW, Lisa!  I was just lucky I had read an article on this a couple years ago - and they are still at it -- I seem to have a brain that with all it's various issues is a sponge for various issues like this, so I was able to call up the article in about 30-45 seconds, and got it to Larry even before I knew the letter was from Getty.  Go fig...  But yes, spread it around.  

Chilling effects.  The way they are doing this is like stomping on creatives using Creative Commons.  If they don't see it as malicious, it sure looks like it from this side of the fence.
How difficult would it be to investigate whether the original image in Flickr was inserted by a Getty employee? To bait and entrap others who might copy from thereon?
A subtle correction: legally, they are not obligated to defend their copyrights; a copyright remains valid even where there is large-scale and systematic violation. Only trademarks must be defended or lost.
I've actually been looking at that, and it seems not.  But it pisses me off, the whole thing.  The original image Tasha lifted had been heavily modded from the image on the Getty site by adding a caption and such, for a blog article on another web site, and then that person just plunked it on flickr as (cc) commercial use because they label all their own stuff with that license.  But you know, you'd think they didn't lift stuff from Getty usually.

Incredibly annoying conversation with the Getty lawyer when I called them.  At one point, he said "I understand you are trying to be respectful here but..."  And I said, "I'm not entirely sure I am trying to be respectful -- you are telling me you want the value of damages to your client, not the value Tasha received from innocent infringement, and you don't sound terribly interested in negotiating from my side?  If you are interested in negotiating I'm interested in being respectful.  If you are firm in that position, I'll consider you as part of the system like the CFAA -- just a corrupt piece of legal machinery out for opportunistic bullying, not a piece of the system trying to make justice work for social good.  What part of the system do you want to be?  It is your option.  You can tell me you're working for the artist, but frankly sir, I think you're working for the corporation.  You've protected your copyright, you've preserved the license, but you are not going to further your artist by being predatory on someone with little enough income that they have to ask me to stand in for a real lawyer."

Well, he wasn't the person with the case anyway, so he told me I'd have to talk to the woman on the case tomorrow.  But he didn't like that.

Felt like I did my share of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable today at least.  What a bunch of asses.  I'm going to drill down in the site I linked more overnight anyway, and see what they have to say about it.  They seem to say to scofflaw it and just let the things go to collections but that doesn't seem right.
Sorry, they aren't required to defend their copyrights -- they are however, under obligation to defend their licensees, in all likelihood.  Even more to the point, they are under enlightened (in a loose meaning of the term) self-interest to preserve the system under which they make money.  Preserve the goose that lays the golden eggs.  MPAA and all them, they're pretty desperate to bail out a leaky status quo.

HBO used to have us patrol eBay for them to send take-down notices for people selling Sopranos knock-off merchandise when we were running the official online merch store for them for example -- and I can tell you that was one of my least favorite parts of the job, the C&D work.  UGH.  

People used to do the most amazing lame-ass things -- like slap a Sopranos logo on a box of Kraft Mac&Cheese and put it up for auction.  No joke.  Sell it for $15 or more.  Boggles the mind.
Looks like the options are, send a series of a dozen letters back and forth over likely a couple months, or pay an atty a couple hundred to handle it for you.  I've been studying it up on

Sad that this stuff has to be out there (and so many people so glad that it's there!  But a pity it's so necessary...)

The photographer in question has a pretty generic name -- I kind of wish I could google stalk him and find out if he knows people are being bullied in his name.  Wouldn't it be a pip if he didn't know and was appalled...?
Yeah I was thinking that to. But Jon Bradley collection Stone... I'm guessing is pretty impossible to track down directly and why do I suspect he will see little of the money?
+Tasha Turner  I think that is him!  I'll drop him a note, not to be mad or anything -- I'll bet he doesn't even know they are doing this in his name really.  I'll say I won't contact him further if it's unwelcome (I don't want some restraining order or whatnot if he does want us to go through representation).  But it could well be that we can settle this  as human beings.

Worst he can do is get mad and tell me to talk to the lawyers.  I'm already volunteered for that.  

And if he's delicate about it, then he'll just be a bit more aware that there's a human cost to what he's setting the attack dogs off to do for him.  I don't think I can feel but so bad about that...

But I'll be very polite.  God knows, I respect the artist's part in all of this.  I have been in that position as artist, writer (and coder), and so has +Tuna Oddfellow and a good many others in my life. 

As a writer I depend on copyright, but I also use (cc) as inflection to market rights, and as a cultural tool, and I do not use this kind of chilling tactic -- and it's nothing but chilling when it's used against individuals without ample cash.  It's punitive and petty.

Hmm...  I have a filk song brewing about petty Getty...  But meanwhile, it's past my bedtime!
Sleep well. Thanks for helping with this. I'm very big on protecting copyrights and the such as a writer I think us artist need to stick together. But I also think we need to be understanding when someone genuinely thought something was ok to use. I regularly lecture writers about respecting photographers copyrights. I just didn't think about the unscrupulous out there and the effect it would have on me to trust someone. I'm going back to creating my own pictures or not using them at all. So much safer.
I'm a full-time photographer that works for Getty Images. Sorry to say, but this isn't a scam, it's typically how it works. It's most likely that you used an image originally licensed as "Rights Managed", which allows G to license the image with specific terms, one of them being exclusivity for a given period. If they can't guarantee that the client has an exclusive use to a given image, it could open Getty and the photographer to a lawsuit. Some of my biggest sales are exclusive buyouts, in one case it's been an injection of cash that's allowed me to pay rent. As it is, the pricing structure used is a race to the bottom, and it's become very difficult to make a living in this industry.

My advice is to not use CC images. There are all kinds of issues you could run into by using them, only one of them being that somebody could have stolen the image, stripped the metadata, and re-posted it with an invalid license. You could also be sued by the subject of the image for improper use, be it a person, or a property, or a brand. For all the images I submit to Getty, I have model and property releases on file that give permission for these images to be used commercially, and I've spent lots of time in Photoshop removing serial numbers, logos, licence plates, registration numbers, removing unreleased people...  all kinds of things that would open a customer up to issues.

If you find an image on the internet, one option is to do a reverse image search on it via Google Images or TinEye. If it originally came from a stock house, that'll show up. Another idea is to simply license images legally. You can buy images FROM Getty, or from a microstock agency like iStockphoto, for a couple of dollars, and then you know you have a licensed and released image.

By the way, what happened to you is extremely common. I estimate that for every legitimate license I sell, two or three images are stolen. I'm fairly certain that Getty isn't posting bait images... I find stolen images of mine all the time, there are so many out there that the need for bait images is pointless... and I do pass them to the Getty lawyers. I don't have a lawyer of my own on call, and this is one of the reasons that Getty charges me such a high commission on my image sales, is that they have the resources to protect both of our interests.

I would be happy to answer any questions you have.
+Hal Bergman Sure. How about this:

Why the fuck do you think it's reasonable to sue people for abiding by license terms which they were offered as a legitimate representation of the actual underlying copyright status of the work, when there is no alternative method of checking the copyright status of any given image?
There are several ways to check to see if an image is copyrighted. First, there is copyright information in the image EXIF metadata. If it came from a stock agency, it will always include the photographer's name, the photographer's phone number, email address, website URL, the rights usage terms, the date the image was taken, and what jurisdiction the copyright falls under. Getty itself will also add a digital fingerprint to the image, which is one of the ways they can find misuse, even if the image has been used in another composition or the metadata has been stripped. Adobe Photoshop has the ability to read this fingerprint as well.  Another option is doing a reverse image search on the image itself, using TinEye or Google Image Search (and ideally both). All the major image libraries are crawled by TinEye more often than the rest of the web is, so if you do a search on any image that is from a stock image library, it will show up as a result.

Anybody can stick a "CC" license on an image/song/whatever they don't own. If somebody went into a store and put "free" tags on all the merchandise, and I left with something without paying, I'd still be liable for shoplifting. Asking the clerk if it really is free (by checking metadata and doing a reverse search in this case) would nip that problem in the bud. Even if it is a legit CC image, there are all kinds of other legal issues you could run into, such as unreleased subjects. You should trust CC images as much as Wikipedia. It's a fantastic resource, but you still can't cite it in research.

The best way to avoid this problem is to just legitimately license images. Most of the sales I make are in the $5-10 range, and often less.
+Hal Bergman Copyright is not property, and copyright infringement is not theft. If Getty Images would like to avoid innocent infringement, then I would be perfectly happy if they required a public registry of copyrighted materials, and left everything else without legal strings.

Except that that's precisely what your employer, and all other major copyright holders, have been fighting over the past eighty years, leaving the vast majority of abandoned copyrights not in the public domain (where they belong) but in a no-man's-land where any random holder can sue an innocent infringer for the obscene statutory damages for infringement.
There is a public registry:

I'm not saying the copyright system in the US is perfect, in fact, I'm the first to admit it has serious problems. There are a lot of bad actors (Disney comes to mind) hijacking the system for their own gain while films that should be in the public domain are rotting in vaults.

That's really not the issue here. The images I spend lots of money shooting, processing, and cataloging get stolen constantly, they wind up on Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook, other people's Flickr and Instagram accounts, they get shuffled around, and inevitably they wind up somewhere a bit higher profile where they become a target for legal enforcement.

Look, it sucks, I do have sympathy, and the demands are honestly kinda ridiculously high, but, that's how it works. My point is that if you don't want to do the (sometimes frustrating) legwork in figuring out if you really can use an image you found for free somewhere on the internet, just buy it. It's easy, and it'll save you a lot of time and headache down the line. Seriously, iStock RF is hella cheap, and Getty offers RM licenses for "social media use" now.

All I'm saying is, you're not the victim of some scam, and nobody is tricking you into stealing something. Just don't trust images that are given away for free (especially anything with any semblance of quality production value), and you'll be fine.
Hal Bergman is right. It is the users responsibility to research each image used to be sure it is in the public doman. I'm an illustrator for istockphoto and for every legitimate sale there are ten people who just steal my images and use as they please with no thought for me or my need to make a living. My entire collection was recently mirrored onto Getty and it would please me greatly if they went after violators. You can't win the argument that people should be allowed to use images they find on the internet without checking to see if they are copyrighted.
I can not agree that Getty is correct in saying Tasha owes them $780 non-negotiable and the gent on flickr who stole the image, modded it, and marked it as (cc) commecial use, should be Tasha's responsibility to sue to recover that money.

What do you photographers say to that?

It's ridiculous to me that they are going after the person who took the image in innocent infringement while ignoring while they are perfectly aware of the person who tore it and modded it off Getty's site - because Tasha's PII is available and his is not. To my mind that makes this bullying and a racket.

They are not interested in negotiation. There are whole web sites available, however, that document in great detail, exactly how to get out of paying them -- like tax loopholes.

It's a pain in the butt but you can do it.

Listen, if I am buying a handbag, and it is covered with Louis V. logos, I am likely to think, "wow, these folks are selling me a knock-off handbag! I had best not buy it! Perhaps I should report them..."

If I see a Disney T-shirt without tags, I won't buy it as a collector. I do not download music or movies or media that I am not reasonably sure of its provenance, and I get obnoxious at my housemate and my son about it (and occasional others) because I worry particularly about forms like opera and special effects movies where huge numbers of people are involved -- how will the recorded forms thrive in an open download environment? I have been called a fossil.

But neither do I believe in this. This is the greatest danger to the old model. If the arts want to survive on a paid model, they need to back down, not ramp up, the legal attack dogs. These will lose you the last public sympathy you have for the older model, which favors a small number of apex artists and ferocious lawyers and marketers. You can not sustain that memetic war.

You might retire on it, if you are old enough. But art will suffer, and that will be on your head with every check and self-serving, self-important argument you make.

In the words of my tradition, "you're doing it wrong." I doubt I can change your mind, because what I am saying is certainly contrary to what serves your everyday purposes. But you are not serving justice by your attitude, you're just hiding behind a line of bully lawyers.

To my mind, you are no better than a crew of folks saying you deserve to make a living by poisoning the water through industrial waste, at your factory, because no one has made it illegal yet -- and we, the little people, should simply admit you are right, because you have the lawyers.

Getty using copyright, the RIAA, the CFAA in the hands of corporate idiots who would rather pay for PR silence than protect user security -- it's all one ilk. One brotherhood of venal lazy legal corruption.

And you are going along, not because it serves the arts long term -- but because it serves you short term, and like most people, you are afraid and incapable of pulling back you perspective and looking at the problem at a distance.

Or, looking at it close in. Tasha's a friend, but she's not a lawyer. Most people don't understand the risks of licenses, and if I had a dollar for every EULA clicked through without reading in the USA in one day, I could retire comfortably -- you know that. Stop crowing triumphally over a particular low income middle aged woman's troubles. It makes you look bad.

If we want to talk about art, let's talk about the capitalist competitive marketplace -- if Tasha had gone and legally licensed comparable graphics, IMNSHO, she could have done so for not more than $25-50, royalty free. And look up my resume, I used to be VP of marketing at an Inc1000 company, so I know a bit about this. $780 is insane for innocent infringement. Pushing like that hurts your cause, long term - and again, Getty is punitively pursuing the wrong person and it's blood from a stone and cruel and rude.

If you were not with Getty, behind this thin pinstriped line of attack dogs, likely you would not be so finely aware of the detail of the law either. Your masters trained you well in the party line.

Regardless of how you deliver it, Getty is using the body of all of y'all's work as a manger upon which they bark and snarl and tear people apart, and poison your brand and model. And eventually, as they become better known for more and more "extortion letter" activity, and there are more and more alternatives out there -- your businesses will inevitably die.

And gradually writers such as myself will become polarized (as I have just today) actively against you.
+Kathy Konkle I am a frequent blogger and I like to use images in my blog posts. I rely on creative commons licenses to know what images I am permitted to use freely, and with attribution.

As a writer and fellow content creator, I am acutely aware of the problem of stolen work, which is why I NEVER EVER filch images from the internet.

But Creative Commons was supposed to ensure that the content creator was in charge of how his or her work was used. If I go and search here: and find an image to use, it is with good faith that the creator has licensed that image for use.

How much due diligence is enough? Must I search the entirety of the internet to make sure the image is TRULY from the person who posted it under the CC license?
I gave thought. I did a specific search for creative common license only as a am very big on copyright. I found a picture labeled that. I put it on a blog post. Asking me to take it down is reasonable and I took it down in under 24 hours of receiving the notice. The amount I'm being asked to pay seems outrageous ($780) since I did try to do due diligence. A charge of under $100 would seem reasonable.

The fact that Getty Images has no interest in going after the Flickr account who has the picture up (& 2000+ more) is not convincing me that this is to stop pirating of pictures. Now I go back to my policy of no pictures on my website as my business is brand new and I don't feel confident even if I pay for I picture that it will turn out I paid the proper copyright holder.

I thought I checked. I did several different creative common searches and found this one several times. Would one of you be willing to be interviewed on my blog on all the correct steps to take to confirm who the copyright holder is?
Ultimately, even Getty apparently won't confirm that legally, +Tasha Turner -- that's a mechanism often used to make them back down. If the image is around the web and it would take their lawyers leg work to establish origination, they'll drop the case. They just hope they'll make you cry and pay up first.
Oh I'm more than happy to spend a few hours finding and taking screenshots of all the places I can find the graphic available online under CC licensing. Started last night with Flickr. If the charge were the least bit reasonable I'd pay it without a problem. I tweet and FB about this issue all the time - artist needing to stick together and not steal each others work. I yell at friends and family that pirate software, books, music, pictures, movies, etc. and have since I was in my teens. 
If Getty was primarily concerned with protecting their copyrights, then why when we called were they uninterested in the Flickr site from which Tasha downloaded the image?  The fact that they said it was our responsibility to go after that company and not theirs indicates that they want that image up there to generate more business for them.

Additionally, how do we even know that is Getty's image to begin with?  Who says that if we pay off Getty we get a letter a month later from some other law firm saying they actually own the image and we should sue Getty, but in the meantime pay them some outrageous amount.

I also strongly disagree with Tasha about it being reasonable to pay them some small amount.  Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute!  If we don't stand up then they have no reason to cease from the practice.  
I think it works this way: copyrighted content distibuted by Getty is being used without licencing thousands or millions times daily. This is just out of control. But commercial usage without licencing is much harder to ignore (for both photographer and Getty) and much easier to pursue.

Next time, when someone offers you something valuable for free, you should be more careful.
I ask again are you willing to be interviewed on the various ways someone can confirm that the picture they plan to use is actually owned by the person claiming copyright. Telling me to go use a company owned by Getty Images is not an answer. I'd never heard of TinEye prior to this conversation. You can be sure I'm sharing it. But ideally I'd like to do an short interview with a photographer for my blog on how to make sure the picture you are using is owned by the person making the claim. Is that to much to ask? That I be able to educate others so they can do the due diligence you say you want us doing? 
Next time someone offers you something valuable for free, you should be more careful.

Check to be sure you aren't obligating yourself next time a child offers you a hug, or a cookie.  Make damn sure you check next time you go by a street musician, that they aren't the front for a pick pocket.  If a friend offers to help you with a project in your home, be sure your homeowner's insurance covers you, and have them sign a release from liability, and film the whole thing to make sure they can't hold you liable (and get a photography release for the footage).  If someone offers to hold the door for you, make sure you tip them, or they might attack you for your ingratitude.  Never accept an offer of collaboration without a contract of at least twenty pages per day of collaboration involved.  Never volunteer for a project that might help a local cause -- it only weakens society.

My partner +Tuna Oddfellow  and I, did a project in Second Life in 2008, entirely based on art sourced as Creative Commons share-alike non-commercial for the opening of a human rights festival.  The images -- if they were not all originally openly licensed -- were so openly available on the net that they had become cultural assets and were listed as such in many locations.  This was made part of the installation, as the documentation of the process. (   

I don't believe that a case like this maps to that -- an image like this doesn't count as a public event in the same way, where the image itself becomes part of history after a time.  (Just as the words, say, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" go down in history as Jack Kennedy's -- they were written by Ted Sorenson.  He got paid salary to write them, and would never have disputed a credit in Bartlett's Quotations, eh? :)

I don't dispute the photographer's copyright here.  What I dispute is the photographer's decency in retaining attack dogs.  It does not serve Art.  It does not serve society or justice.  It serves Getty, and it might not even serve the photographer's needs for more than a few years, at most.

We need better models.  This one can and will continue to be circumvented -- the technology can't be turned by via law at whatever marginal cost of finding some people who will be intimidated by rottweiler lawyers when they've had no intention to infringe in an otherwise benign ecology of cultural sharing.

You are the folks who are not adapting.  The law always changes eventually to recognize reality and technology and cultural change.  It is inherently conservative, and that's good -- but it's the only reason it hasn't changed.  The law should not be willy-nilly volatile, or we'd all be in chaos more than we are.

But the struggle on this is on our side, inevitably, because reality and technology can't be turned back.

You've already lost this one.  Just sit on your checks for the few more you get, and stick them in savings, and figure out what to do next.  But in the meantime, I'd recommend a bit less smug and a bit more community-mindedness -- it will do you better in your next career choice.
The sad part is that being attacked for doing the right thing makes it harder for me to support my case to my friends to do the right thing because they see me trying to do the right thing and getting screwed and treated with contempt for trying. I belong to a group called WANA commons where we share our pictures so people have things to use for blogs. A number of the members are professional photographers and they use the group as a way to market some of their work as well as to give back to those trying to do the right thing. I'm much more likely to by art from them than someone who treats me poorly because I made a genuine mistake.

Commercial use... I'm a small start-up that possibly earned $200 last year. I gave away more of my hours to help others than I billed. I'm writing some short-stories and a book so i know all about the worries of pirating. I have lots of artist friends and the problems they have. I get the being angry about your work being stolen and used intentionally. But those of us trying should get help in educating others. 
My bet is that the Getty photographers have retreated behind the hired guns and will just wait for their next checks now that we've shown we aren't contrite on their party line. Doubt you'll get your interview. That would require them to give legal advice and I am sure the rottweilers have advised them not to. They are allowed to attempt to demoralize you but not to give anyone a way to avoid getting a bill, you see. ;)
It's not legal advice it's how to tips... I'll put legal disclaimers in. If the photographers truly want to stop pirating of their work they should want to talk to me and get the word out. It's really simple. Either they want things to be done correctly from the start or they don't. 
"You are the folks who are not adapting." - Ah, the old argument from those who feel they should get something for nothing.  Not "adapting".  Because technology made it so easy to take something for free, it's certainly how things were meant to be, so "adapt".  " It does not serve Art.  It does not serve society or justice."  It's not meant to "serve art" or "society", but it does serve justice. Furthering the illegal distribution of a work can severely diminish the artist's ability to fund their business from that content.

Tasha, you've already got the answers you need from Hal, up above, on how to check the image you're using.  Which will help.

However, the real solution is to not use services that pass the risk onto the user, like flickr and any site that uses CC.  They don't vet their contributors.  Anyone from anywhere can open an account and flood a portfolio with stolen images.  They don't check anything.  I don't know why you'd even think of just using a service like that in "good faith".  It isn't innocence, it's naivete.  Flickr is not your friend, and it isn't a kid giving you a cookie.

Real stock agencies take the steps needed to verify valid contributors.  That's why real businesses use them.  Being a "start-up" does not excuse one from the responsibilities incurred by someone doing business.

The photographer needs to feed their family and pay for their equipment.  Those pixels don't arrange themselves.  If people aren't a little scared to just randomly use "free" work, then those people's ability to legally license the great images they need will disappear as the photographers hang up their memory cards.
+Sean Locke there are plenty of amateur photographers (my spouse included) who enjoy taking and posting photos and allow creative commons usage. His photography is his hobby. He doesn't intend to make money from it. When I'm looking for images to put with my blogposts, I first look through his archives, then for cc licensed work on sites like flikr. I try to do my due diligence, looking at the metadata for the photo and through the entirety of the user's posted work, getting a feel for their style, etc. It's not that difficult sorting out photos that are intended to be stock photos from those that are personal images shared for public use.

My blog is not a business. It produces no income. Without cc licensed images, I wouldn't be able to justify the expense of purchasing photographs for what is a hobby.

However, if I needed images for a book cover or promotional materials that would generate income, I would purchase the appropriate license for professional work.

When I do use a cc licensed image, in addition to citing the source under the license agreement, I also post a note on the user's flikr page with a direct link to the content and offer to remove the image if requested.

Here's my question: if I look at the metadata and do an image search and in my best analysis conclude that the photo is legitimately offered for free use, have I done enough? Where does my responsibility end and the image poster's or image site host's begin? This is a murky area. It seems to me that sites like Getty are taking the easy way out and going after end users where they should be directing their resources at the source of the actual theft--the image poster and the site host.
The war on creative commons is part of a larger war to monetize every aspect of our lives, and wherever possible, to turn owners into renters.  Look at ebooks - one does not purchase an ebook, one purchases a license to read it - your ability to lend it is highly limited, etc.  Kindleworld might be a step locking down fan fiction.  Just as it is important that copyright owners have their rights protected, it is important that those who wish to share their art under some form of creative commons be able to do so, rather than having everyone forced to abstain because of the chance that the works are not actually theirs.
I'm not sure what war you are perceiving.  CC could be fine if you are sourcing the work from a trusted source who vets out the contributors.  You're still "renting" - CC is a license, not ownership transfer.  The issue here is blindly using a service that just passes the risk fully onto the user.
Ok so I do a search on google, TinEye, and and that would be due diligence in your opinion? Given I'm a professional willing to share my knowledge for free I have no problem using creative common licensed images. I know too many photographers who are happy to share their work or portions of their work that way. I do link back to where I get the image and credit that on my website.

It took 15 minutes for me to track down the mailing/email information on the Flickr person whose image I used. It would seem that Getty Images has an obligation to send a cease & desist to that person and a demand to Flickr that all Getty Images be removed from their site. If I could find his site listed using the tools you recommend than Getty Images could also. I found a bunch of Getty Images up on Flickr including the one we are discussing. Between my discussion with someone at Getty Images and the fact that so many of their images are all over Flickr I have to wonder if they see this as an income stream. While they may or may not be able to track down the individual putting the images up I know that they can legally have his images or even his account shut down... If it can be done with books and other artwork it can be done with photos.

If you don't want your work under Creative Commons licensing I agree you should not be forced to allow your work to be used for free. But I believe you need to go after the supplier of your images and the places that have them posted and not JUST people like me who didn't know better. I also think a 2-part C&S and only if that does not work, a bill would be a more appropriate way to handle this kind of situation.

I do think artist should get paid for their work if that is what they choose. But do you really think $780 is reasonable for 44 page views? Yes this penalty will make sure I never do this again. The photographer may make a one time fee off of me. Business is about repeat customers. Working with your customers when their is a problem. Coming up with a solution that works for both of you so the next time they need your kind of services they will think of you first. Why would I want to work with Getty Images or iStockphoto after being treated like a criminal for making a mistake?

As to TinEye its not reliable in my opinion based on the fact that they only want very large portfolios:
"One of our goals at TinEye is to connect images to their authors and facilitate attribution. And growing the TinEye index is an important step in that direction. Today our index is over 2 billion images. We are continuing to grow the TinEye index by crawling and adding partner image collections.

To date we have added image collections from F1 Online, ID Image Direkt, iStockphoto, Getty Images, Masterfile, Photoshelter, Wikipedia and many more. We will continue to receive partner image collections by hard drive. However, to make it easier to have your image collection included in the TinEye index, we are introducing beta support for imagemap files.

Please note that for the duration of our TinEye imagemap beta, submission priority will be given to:

stock photography and editorial image collections
art and illustration collections available for licensing
archival and historical image collections
creative commons image collections
If you manage such a website, you can become a TinEye content partner by creating and submitting an imagemap file to TinEye."

Cost start at $200/month to be listed will make sure indie and small photo groups cannot afford to be listed. Which to me does not map with their stated goals... But then by looking at whose sponsoring them I'm less surprised.

I don't think you need to move to a new model of giving your work away. I do think you need to find better ways of defining commercial and how you deal with people in the time of social media and the importance of customer/potential customer relations. 
"I know too many photographers who are happy to share their work or portions of their work that way." - Why not get your image from them?  Like I said, source your content from people or sources you trust instead of a corporate behemoth like flickr.

Is it an income stream?  Sure.  Is it their main source of revenue?  No.  As you said, it's a deterrent.  If they asked $25, in the future, you might not care and do the same thing.  With a larger deterrent, you'll be sure to make a more careful choice in the future.  There are plenty of legitimate sources out there that will license an image for pennies, and you'd be fine.  "Free" isn't, really, it comes with risk.
I can assure you the letter alone freaked me. I was upset I'd misused someone's work. At $200 it would equal my income I can assure you that would have been a major deterrent.

I will also be sharing, blogging, tweeting about how to better confirm the pictures you use are legit. But I still believe this could have been better handled for a 1st time offender. 
And I will still disagree. Go read all the work on freemium markets. Go read all the analysis on the genius of the Grateful Dead as a marketing engine. Look at the transformation of the apps market and the MMO market and tell me with a straight photogenic face that digital asset markets can't flourish in a market where the base price is free?

Reality just doesn't bear out what you say. It is logically consistent until you test it against what is really happening in profitable digital markets.

2009 was four years ago -- it's just possible that looked reasonable then. It just isn't coherent with market realities now.

Try again?
"digital asset markets can't flourish in a market where the base price is free?" - No, they can't.  This isn't the music industry where a majority of income comes from high priced venue tickets and performances.  Do you expect free imagery as a way to draw you into a photography performance or something?  When you use a work in a way that benefits you, or your business, the artist should be compensated, simple as that.  This is not personal use of a song for $.99.  Or an app meant to draw you in to in-game purchases.   You can't paint everything made of 0s and 1s in the "digital market" the same.

Try again?
Sean your articled ones not include what searches to do just to use a specific paid for site and your summary is:

"Toward that end, I will, of course , suggest using as a source for content. Regular buyers are able to view and screenshot a list of licensed content. A record of a purchase, even for a prior project of the designer, ensures proper licensing, since, with iStock’s Royalty Free licensing, the designer can use the content in perpetuity (forever). "
Yes, I know.  I said it was a while back, and I just threw it out there for fun reading.  For example, since then imageExchange has arrived as a plugin for browsers to help locate an image's source.
In the book industry it looked like free & $.99 was going to win. Now book prices are going up for indies. Yes they are coming down for the big 6 but their ebook prices IMHO are overinflated for a book I don't own, can't lend, can't leave in my will, can't transfer when technology changes, and can be yanked from me without warning. And the true content creators are paid peanuts for & are considered a failure if they bring in a profit of $30k/year. So yeah I believe free and paid can work if people change and adapt.

The music industry refused to adapt and had been screwing the content providers for a long time. The book publishing industry may change in time to save themselves. But indie book sales are already showing a change from free to 3.99 being the best paying strategy and giving authors a living wage... Which many of them did not have previously from their writing.
But it didn't take $780 dunning phone pools at legal firms, did it? ;)
LOL Sean another company owned by Getty Images.
Shava, no it's readers determining that free & $.99 too frequently = badly edited, poorly written crap but that they can buy 2-4 good written indie books for the price of a single trad published book. The readers are deciding what he right price is and that if priced right and easy to find/download in the format they want they are less likely to pirate... Funny that a combination of giving your customers what they want, they way they want it, at a price they feel is affordable and they are all over it, and the content providers are all of a sudden able to make a living,.. Not all... But that can be said for those going the trad route also.

Baen by going DRM free, lending, multiple formatting, affordable bundling, reasonable pricing, also has less issues with pirating... How about that... Education and treating customers/potential customers well and you get... Loyalty and money... What a concept.
"LOL Sean another company owned by Getty Images." - Sure, but it includes non-Getty property, like Photoshelter and others.
+Sean Locke I could not find a plugin imageExchange in my searches on Wordpress or google. Do you have a link? I found something called Daylife when I searched for +Getty Images in WordPress... Installed their plugin but was told they are under new management & haven't yet decided on monthly pricing... Current monthly pricing is 3k/month.
Ah you meant a browser plugin while I thought you meant a WordPress plugin and I was specifically looking for imageExchange and not having much luck with the plugin part because they don't offer browser or blog plugins.

Thanks for the PicScout link I will include it in my article as well as install and use it. See if you give people the tools and make them easy to use they are more likely & able to do due diligence and/or pay the correct party for use. So now I have several different tools to check an image and one of them is set up to let me buy the image on the spot.

Now see how my questions are leading to useful answers & why I wanted to interview someone in the business? The more we talk the more helpful tools I'm finding out about. And again you know exactly what you are looking for when googling so its easy for you to find something which is not as easy for me. I see this all the time when newbie authors want to look into something as they don't know exactly what it is they are looking for and it can lead them into all sorts of trouble.

Now had Getty Images included information on these tools in their letter I'd feel like they were trying to cut down on piracy versus just scaring the pants off me and making a profit. Telling me to use their site as the only future solution looks self-serving rather than helpful. 
Having just found this thread, I can say this: Screw Getty Images. Any company that has the temerity to send an extortion troll letter along with a sales pitch to buy images from them for a special price can go straight to hell.
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