Documentary photographer Carol Highsmith is suing the outfit for a billion dollars after she discovered that Getty was trying to bill people for 18,000 snaps she had donated to the Library of Congress for public use.
Highsmith’s photos which were sold via Getty Images had been available for free via the Library of Congress. Getty has been accused of selling unauthorised licences of the images, not crediting the author, and for also sending threatening warnings and fines to those who had used the pictures without paying for the falsely imposed copyright.
The charge said that the defendants have apparently misappropriated. Highsmith’s generous gift to the American people. “Getty is not only unlawfully charging licensing fees…but is falsely and fraudulently holding themselves out as the exclusive copyright owner.”
Getty’s scheme went tits up when it made the mistake of threatening to sue Highsmith on December 2015 after using the images in website material for her own non-profit organisation
The communication, sent by the License Compliance Services, associated with Getty, charged her with copyright infringement and demanded a $120 payment (approx. £90).
Highsmith said that Getty has continued its ‘brazen and extortionate’ practice of threatening users of her photos, despite her raised complaint. She claims that the stock library is liable for statutory damages of up to $468,875,000, but is seeking $1 billion after previous copyright infringement judgements against Getty allow her to triple the amount.
Getty Images’ vice president for communications commented that this was ‘the first time Getty Images was made aware of the matter’. She continued that the company is ‘looking into these allegations with the aim of addressing these concerns as soon as possible.’