You Get(ty) what you pay for
Or what you don’t pay for. We all have seen the copyright notices on movies, books and photographs, and we know not to copy them without permission. But what about when there is no notice? How many of us surf the internet, Google something, and see all the pretty images, just for the download?
They may be pretty, but if it’s not your photograph, most likely, you can’t use it, copyright notice or no copyright notice. If you do, then you may get a letter like this:
FOR SETTLEMENT PURPOSES ONLY
Thank you for your email. The image at issue in this settlement is a Getty Rights Managed (RM) image, exclusively available for license through Getty Images and would have required the appropriate licensing prior to its use on your website. Getty Images has been unable to find the necessary licenses for this use. As you may know, Getty Images is one of the leading providers of Royalty Free (RF) imagery and Rights Managed (RM) imagery.
The use identified on your website, would have required a digital media-corporate and promotional site license. At the very least 1 months use would have cost $425.00.
Getty Images respectfully declines your $xxx settlement offer. We remain willing to accept $520.00 as full and final settlement. This offer is made conditionally and it will automatically be withdrawn if full payment is not postmarked by February 28, 2017. Getty Images expressly reserves all rights and remedies available under copyright law.
And this is less of a demand than others I’ve seen. If you receive a letter like this, contact a qualified attorney right away to determine how you should respond.
If you see an image online, you can find out who owns it. You can run the image through TinEye.com. Or, you can search directly at the agency’s website. Getty owns thousands, if not millions, of images, which you can license from gettyimages.com, iStockphoto, thinkstock and photos.com. Go to any of these websites and describe the image, say “pine tree” “Eiffel Tower” or “Lady Gaga.” Just about any major news agency, such as the Associated Press, or museum, like the Art Institute of Chicago, has a searchable image database and a way to license their images. You can also buy licensed stock images from Shutterstock, Fotolia or Adobe. The cost of a license depends on the image, its size and how you want to use it. As just one example, you can buy a basic license on istockphoto for $33.
One more point. “Royalty-free” does not mean “copyright-free.” You still have to pay, just in one lump sum, rather than over a period of time. Truly “copyright-free” images can be found at Unsplash, stocksnap.io imagesource.com and at CreativeCommons.org. And yes, I licensed this image from stocksnap.