Bloggers Beware – Copyright Trolls on the Prowl

Certain large companies, including Getty Images , routinely send out demand letters claiming copyright infringement based on a one-time or accidental use of an image that Getty Images claims is protected by copyright.  However, the actual validity of alleged infringement is rarely, if ever, tested in court.  Getty Images seems to have perfected the “price point†for extracting money based on weak claims of copyright infringement.

Simply by sending out a demand letter, Getty Images is frequently able to extract money from bloggers, based on a weak claim of copyright infringement.

A red and blue slide on top of a green background.

A weak claim means that it is unlikely that Getty Images would actually prevail if this matter went to court. But these matters rarely (if ever) make it to court because the cost of fighting this copyright infringement claim was so much higher than paying off Getty Images. This is often referred to as a “business decision†— it’s far cheaper in terms of time, money and emotional health to pay the demand than to fight it.

Moreover, even if the blogger took the matter to court and prevailed at trial, there would be little to no financial benefit to the blogger. A favorable ruling would find non-infringement by the blogger, after spending tens of thousands of dollars on attorneys’ fees to reach this conclusion. The blogger – now proved innocent – would be unlikely to recover the cost of attorneys’ fees.

Recipients of demand letters such as those sent by Getty Images are faced with a choice — spend lots of money to fight a weak claim with little or no financial benefit if they prevail OR pay off the demand. There really is only one reasonable “business decision†in this matter, and Getty Images is counting (its dollars) on that.