Photographer Files $1 Billion Lawsuit Against Getty After Being Charged for Her Image

New York, NY-Renowned America photographer Carol Highsmith gave 100,000 images of America in the early 21st century to the Library of Congress to used royalty free. But much to Highsmith’s surprise, she received a bill from Getty images who wanted her to pay them for using one of her photographs. She struck back this week by filing a $1 billion copyright infringement suit against the image-sourcing giant.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Highsmith used a photograph she took and posted it online on one of her websites, but after doing so, she received a letter from Getty Images which accused her of copyright infringement. The letter demanded that her non-profit pay Getty $120 with an implied threat that they would take her to court is she didn’t pay up.

Highsmith didn’t take that threat lightly and struck back by filing a $1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit against Getty Images and Alamy, a British company. The lawsuit states that the defendants sent out letter similar to the ones she received to other individuals who used her images and reportedly selling licenses to her photographs.

Highsmith’s lawsuit says that Getty Images is “unlawfully charging” for images they don’t own and accused them of “misappropriating Ms. Highsmith’s generous gift to the American people.” The lawsuit states that Getty and Alamy are “falsely and fraudulently holding themselves out as the exclusive copyright owner” of Highsmith’s photographs.

High-quality versions of Highsmith’s photographs are available copyright free on the Library of Congress website, but Getty coopted many of those photos for themselves and are selling usage rights without crediting Highsmith.

The lawsuit states the Getty violated 17 U.S.C. § 1202 on 18,755 separate occasions, and over 18k of her images appear on Getty’s website, so she is seeking damages to the tune of $1 Billion.

Getty Images has been accused of being a copyright troll numerous times, and this lawsuit seems to feed into that narrative. According to Wikipedia, a copyright troll is: “a party that enforces copyrights it owns for purposes of making money through litigation, in a manner considered unduly aggressive or opportunistic, generally without producing or licensing the works it owns for paid distribution.”

Anyone who has received a threatening letter from Getty Images or other copyright trolls knows how intimidated and helpless they felt. Most people are so afraid of being locked in a legal battle with a deep-pocketed and litigious company, but this case is an example of how companies like Getty Images take advantage of individuals or business with fewer resources and revenues

Copyright or patent infringement is serious, and those affected should take action by retaining a patent lawyer. These can be costly lawsuits and if you can tie you up in court for months or more. No matter what side of the aisle you stand on, USAttorneys will help you find an attorney to work on your case. Contact one of our patent lawyers in New York today and get the legal assistance you need.