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.


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