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Getty Images Being Sued Again, Claims of Trying to Profit From Public Domain Images

Getty has found itself in hot water after a class action naming the licensing giant has been brought about. The lawsuit alleges they have been licensing images that are already freely available to the public, as well as using “deceptive techniques” to convince potential buyers that Getty holds the image rights.

Digital marketing company CixxFive Concepts has made the claims in the action. As it reads, Getty is:

 … fraudulently claiming ownership of copyrights in public domain images (which no one owns). Selling fictitious copyright licenses for public domain images (which no one can legally sell), including operating an enterprise of third-party contributors to perpetrate this egregious scheme.

CixxFive also accuse Getty of “creating a hostile environment for lawful users of public domain images,” said to be because of letters they sent out accusing image users of copyright infringement, despite said images allegedly being public domain.

If found guilty, Getty will face the consequences of breaking the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) as well as the Washington Consumer Protection Act.

To clarify, it’s perfectly legal to profit from public domain images. Claiming to be the copyright holder of such images, however, is not.

Getty has twice been sued recently – including an incident in 2016 when Getty tried to charge a photographer for her own photo – but ended up winning both cases.

Lead image credit: Giammarco Boscaro on Unsplash.

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michaeljin's picture

Hopefully somebody will be merciful enough to finally put down this pitiful dinosaur of a company.

Dan Marchant's picture

"If found guilty, Getty will face the consequences of breaking the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)"

No they won't. They may be found guilty of something but it won't be RICO.

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

I realize that the courts will make their own decisions, but, in this case, the RICO accusations are at least arguable:

(1) conduct - asking for money for public domain images for use (not hard copies or prints etc), (2) of an enterprise - non-criminal enterprise of running a photo licensing company, criminal enterprise of knowingly asking for money for public domain use, (3) through a pattern, (4) of racketeering activity - criminal copyright infringement, mail fraud, counterfeit labels, trafficking of goods using counterfeit labels (I do agree that this is the hardest to prove as it will require a judge to stretch (5) causing injury to the plaintiff’s business or property - paying for something that there is actually no charge for.

Tough to prove, sure, but, there is a case.