It must be a strange moment when you receive a copyright notice from Getty for a photo you took. This is how it started for photographer Carol Highsmith, but after diving into the rabbit hole, she has since filed a $US1 billion lawsuit against the company for allegedly appropriating over 18,000 of her images.
As PetaPixel’s Michael Zhang explains, the reason Getty had access to the photos in the first place was because Highsmith had donated them to the Library of Congress, placing them in the public domain.
While this gives one a wide berth when using such images, as Highsmith herself argues, Getty’s reported “ownership” of the images it could be considered a “gross misuse”.
Getty didn’t take long to respond to the claim, stating that while it hopes to resolve the issue directly, it is prepared to “defend [itself] vigorously” should the matter escalate. Going from the statement, Getty is hoping the technicalities of the situation will see it through unscathed:
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.
It goes on to mention that once it discovered what was going on, it informed License Compliance Services (LCS), the company that served the notice on its behalf, to “cease its pursuit”.
Hard to say which way this case will go, but whatever the result, it’s going to set quite the precedent for stock image sites such as Getty.