Copyright Troll #2–Aurora Photos: Member of the Getty Images Copyright Mafia Cartel

January 15, 2016

Sorry that’s it’s been awhile, but there is so much information both old and new when it comes to Getty Images and their collection of shill companies and their unholy monsters: LCS (License Compliance Services) and Picscout. Their extortion operation seems to be growing by the day or is it more people are talking about it or both?

The Getty Images extortion operation is one of epic proportions, and they seem to keep growing their empire by gobbling up a lot of the competition and adding their collection to their already huge collection. They have a reach that is worldwide and they target just about anyone, and they are deliberate in who they target. They don’t want to tick off bigger companies or poach a silver tuna to draw attention to themselves.

To read about all the complaints about the Getty Extortion Letter Campaign, all you have to do is put the bold phrase into Google (or your favorite search engine) to get pages and pages of commentary.

ELI has an entire forum here.

To describe these people the most adequately, I use the illustrations of cartels and mafias as opposed to Nazis. Even though they are used interchangeably, mafias and cartels are slightly different in their definitions, but when you put the two together, then it best describes what we have here. Apart from using ‘legalized’ forms of extortion and such, there isn’t much difference between them and any other organized crime organizations out there.

Mafia: (source Google): 1) an organized international body of criminals, operating originally in Sicily and now especially in Italy and the US and having a complex and ruthless behavioral code.

  • any organized group using extortion and other criminal methods
  • a closed group of people in a particular field, having a controlling influence

Cartel: an association of manufacturers or suppliers with the purpose of maintaining prices at a high level and restricting competition.

So if you think for a moment, “mafia” and “cartel” adequately describe what we have going on in regards to the stock photography world in how they deal with people (ruthless, controlling influence) provided by loopholes and gray areas of copyright law which they exploit. Also, get this: Getty Images is the world leader in the stock photography department. This world leader with the largest collection of stock photography is also a copyright trolling firm and an extortionist.

This could explain a lot why the stock photo industry is going straight to hell aside from the capability of mobile devices that are able to take snapshots. We will always need photographers though since not everyone can take a picture of a polar bear in their back yard nor would it be feasible (and unsafe!) to get a closeup of a lion or a tiger for whatever reason.

I really believe that photographers need to have an indie movement themselves since these huge firms are abusing them as well as pissing off their potential customers by threatening to sue them when no infringement has occurred and extorting them or setting them up so they can score a big payday. Heck, the photographer may not be getting any of the dough from these fake “settlements”.  The stock phrase from LCS about the poor photographers trying to feed their families to invoke sympathy when they (LCS) are, in fact, using said photographers’ work for extortion schemes and not paying the photographers is as valuable as possum scat. Give me a break. Yes, support the photogs by licensing their work from them directly. Not these huge corporations who are abusing them and their clients and potential customers.

It’s also worth noting that I have read people’s posts about them trying to rectify wrong with a photog by contacting them directly and were willing to pay them instead of LCS, but were unable to do so due to some clause that could never be disclosed since they were sworn to secrecy. Something wrong with that picture (no pun intended)?

Here is a good thread on ELI about Getty and its satellite companies really treat its contributing photographers here. Getty has been known to be sued by its own photographers for infringement and using trademarks (the scented trees) and photos without permission. And they are suing people and have a trolling operation for the exact same thing? The hypocrisy is unbelievable. Un-freaking-believable.

Getty Images also behaves like and hangs out with Corbis and Masterfile who I have knighted the Three Racketeers whose motto is “All for money, money for all!”

It’s also noted all 3 of these companies use Picscout, which is conveniently owned by the kingpin Getty Images. There appears to be some knob-buffing going on around there somewhere.

LCS and Aurora Photos: My Experience

LCS and Aurora Photos are just two of many entities under the Getty Roof. There seems to be a new “company” almost all the time, and they used the stock email of [email protected] Are they creating these “companies” to divide up their huge collection of photos? I also believe the existence of these companies is to try to deflect the fire and ire off of the parent company considering it has been under fire for infringement and for questionable business practices, but they manage to somehow sleaze their way out of it or pay the piper so that no further harm comes to their empire. Pretty slick.

Anyway about 3 months or so after the fiasco with that Waffen SS Nazi John DeBoer, I receive an email letter from LCS who is “representing” Aurora Photos. I have already done tons of reading so I knew who LCS was and their address is the same one as Getty Images which I had almost memorized from all the articles I had read.

I am not at all intimidated since I already know what is going on and what to expect. In a way I am dreading it. Am I going to have to deal with these crackheads for the next 3 years?! Frickin’ frack! Ugh!

I don’t respond to the email, but I do go and see what photo it is that they are complaining about. And, oh, what do I see? It’s not even the same freaking image. Further, I know it is an internet meme and that was a derivative created by another artist (which also meant they did not own the rights to this image) which I also HOTLINKED to–according to the judgement Perfect 10 vs. Google or Perfect 10 vs Amazon means that hotlinking is not copying, so there is no infringement. The creator’s website url was located in the lower right corner of the image I was linked to. There had never been a copy on my server and it had never been downloaded to my computer hard drive. Regardless, I delete it so they would shut the heck up.

It is very close to a similar story such as this right here.

Then I use Tineye to do a search on the image version that I hotlink to and there are tons of derivatives on multiple sites.

I go the Aurora website to see how much they are charging for said photo (the one that is theirs not the one that was actually on the site), but in order for you to get pricing information for this site, they force you to create an account to access it. Hmmm. I don’t do it, but you can still find pricing info on other Getty sites. Similar photos are about $25, so $600 bucks is not the FMV.

Getty and its satellites are also notorious for slapping the photos they are launching a gambit for on their rights managed page (which they seeded and/or yanked from the public domain in some cases) which means they are claiming exclusivity for so they can ‘ask’ for the ridiculous price they state in their demand letter. Their RM catalog has inflated pricing as opposed to their royalty free (which isn’t free) that most folks cannot or will not pay for. They NEVER give you any pricing history or signed agreement or anything to support their argument. Their canned answer is “we will provide it when we sue you.” That, my friends, is a smoke screen. They can’t prove jack.

It doesn’t take too long for the hard copy to reach my house. I keep the letter, but I ignore it. I plan on writing a hard copy response letter should a second letter arrive. It does. Just like clockwork.

I cuss them out without using a cuss word and give it to them with both barrels. I also tell them that my time is not cheap (if you don’t believe your time is valuable no one will) and if you keep harassing me with beating this dead horse then I will bill you for $1000 an hour and I have 10 hours on record as well a summary of my findings and mail it off. I also tell them to not contact me and definitely do not call.

I receive the 3rd letter before they get my letter. I get a phone call (after I told them not to call) which I don’t respond and they leave a voice mail to let me know they received my letter. My LCS trollette “Madison” wants to try to smooth things over and that my case would be reviewed. I never call back. I know from research that talking with these people is a waste of time, brain cells, and oxygen. I have dealt with hard-selling, boiler room jerkoffs before, and I definitely am not in the mood, especially when they don’t have a case in heck, and I don’t have anything to say or prove to them. All they want is to extract information to attempt to incriminate me when I am 100% innocent.

A couple weeks later they call again, but I don’t respond. I haven’t heard from them ever since.

More Questionable Antics by Getty Images et al

Here is a list of other things that I have found that apply to Getty et al as opposed to John “The Waffen SS Nazi” DeBoer and other scum like him. This is in addition to the fraud, extortion, and racketeering.

Suing over Internet Memes: Artists and photographers usually create these to be shared and used by people in hopes they will go viral. This is kind of like what happened with Grumpy Cat. Getty and its shill companies don’t own these, but they pinch them and stick them on their RM page and sue the bejeezus out of folks. However sometimes this may not be the case. Here are a couple articles or plug in the phrase “Getty suing over internet memes” for more.

Techdirt

Art Law Journal

Suing over public domain images: Getty is known to grab from the public domain as well and put things into their huge collection in hopes no one would notice (that is why it is important for you to research before doing anything). Check out a post in this thread on ELI where a photog (unnamed at the moment) generously put her entire collection in the public domain and someone is being sued by LCS. This is one example of many.

Suing people over hotlinked (even thumbnail!) images: Even though hotlinking is not copying, but not everyone knows that. These people are in the business of exploiting you on what you don’t know. There is a person on ELI who received an extortion letter for hotlinking to a thumbnail image in a comment on a blog who didn’t pay but was harassed for 3 years. I am another example of this in my story. Also check this out this article of an IP attorney who received an extortion letter for a hotlinked image by using the plugin Zemanta (I also use it as well). This attorney turned around and sued Getty. Whoops!

A tip of advice: If you are one of many users who use Zemanta, never use anything from Getty. You can tell which ones are from Getty by hovering over the image and it will tell you the source. Also, never use the “free” images offered by Getty as they will probe into your website and since their licensing language is as ambiguous as an Author Solutions publishing contract.

Denial of Service (DOS) Attack: The unholy monster Picscout is what is responsible for this part of the deal. I will talk about Picscout more in a moment. Here is the definition (source: Google) of what this means: In computing, a denial-of-service (DoS) attack is an attempt to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users, such as to temporarily or indefinitely interrupt or suspend services of a host connected to the Internet.

I talk about this some in this thread (among other things).

In case you didn’t know a DoS attack is illegal. Yes–ILLEGAL. Let that sink in for a moment. Here are some more articles about that.

Article #1

Article #2

Article #3

When Picscout is probing your site it steals so much bandwith that it crashes or times out. Around Jan and Feb the website they were scouring was taking forever to load, timing out, and crashing to the extent it was annoying. I was able to zoom in on the screen capture (which is their only proof of “copying”) to verify that. I have all that in my records.

Another thing that Picscout did to really piss me off was my “end of the year” snapshot courtesy of WordPress to see how my year in 2015 went that Picscout was my 3rd leading traffic generator. WTF?! Goes to show how bad the invasion was and that worthless POS accusation is the best they could come up with? Really? I know that this is not a real stat for traffic, but it is valid proof they were raping my website.

So I blocked that stupid robot from my website since it is doing nothing but raping me. I have no use for Skynet and its terminator and HK army.

Picscout is a Very Bad Robot

For the more techy people of the world, they have figured this out. Some of their commentary about the way Picscout behaves should make you wonder. Everything is not A-OK under the hood. The more you read about it, the more it looks like a hacker bot and a botnet used by hackers that hack into servers everywhere. If what they are doing is really ethical, would that really be necessary? I don’t see all that much difference between the actions of a hacker bot that is trying to hack into the US government or the Common Joe’s website except for the scale of the target involved. Why would they need to outsource it to a thug company that could be considered the Taliban or ISIS of the Internet?

For comparison, the Google Bot is a good robot. It doesn’t mask itself, lift your information (including email address, mailing address, name, and phone number), ignore your website rules, or steal you bandwith. It rewards you for following good SEO rules and ethical rules.

Articles (for more do a Google search about Picscout  complaints):

Hacker Factor

SEO Mike

IncrediBILL

Webmaster World

Webhosting Talk

Oopsie, Getty/LCS Just Pissed Off the EFF 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has just now written an article about some of the practices of LCS/Getty Images when one of their clients had received a letter. They make mention of the inkblot conundrum (mentioned above) within the article. Their complaint is that LCS is deliberately misquoted the law to try to bully and collect money. This, unfortunately has been going on for more than a decade and happens to thousands–if not millions–of people across the globe.

Trouble is that we have to have some people with some clout to do something about it, and that has been the case for a long time. Maybe in recent years LCS and Getty have the “to big to fail” mindset and maybe has gotten too big for their breeches, and that maybe they have screwed up just bad enough for someone to do something about it. Maybe, just maybe, they will give the President an extortion letter or something to that degree and really screw up.

*Crossing Fingers* Here’s hopin’!

I think Getty and their host of companies all deserve award too. I also will give them 1st runner up for the Asshat Award too 😛

 

AK Taylor

About the Author

AK Taylor

AK Taylor is an award winning YA author who has been writing novels since age 16. Beekeeper, outdoor sportsman, avid adventurer, and animal lover. Taylor lives in the backwoods of Middle GA where she continues to write stories.

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