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Received a Getty Images threat letter?  Don’t know what to do about it?

Are they accusing you of using images without permission on your website or blog?

Are Getty Images demanding large amounts of money? 

Is a debt collector like Altradius harassing you for the money? 

Don’t understand copyright infringement?

If you have been threatened and don’t want to pay the very large sums Getty Images claim there is help.

It will cost you nothing to contact us to find out more: telephone 0208 663 0044 – email “mail { at } cliffordmiller.com” and include a copy of Getty Images’ copyright threat letter.

Many years ago someone came seeking help with one of these Getty Images threat letters and we told them it would cost more to get advice than to pay up so they went away.  And that bothered us then and since.  So after later taking on a couple of cases successfully we decided to offer a service like this.

It takes a lot more time to provide the service than it is worth to the average lawyer but we know these Getty Images threat letters worry people a great deal we so offer this service generally at well below normal cost semi-“pro bono“.  It helps the “little people” who are threatened even if it is just one image.   It also saves people in business a great deal of their time and worry and lets them get on with their business and do what they do best – earn a living.

Some people and businesses receive initial demands for thousands of dollars, pounds sterling [and almost any other currency you care to think of]. These Getty Images demand letters have earned the nickname with some as the Getty Images “extortion letter“. Business owners almost invariably are unaware of any potential problem until the Getty Images threat letter arrives. Often an independent website designer was responsible for selecting and including the alleged offending images in the business’ websites.

If you cannot phone or email right now you can still post a comment on this page at the end and let us know with some brief details of the problems you have experienced.  We will need your contact details to contact you so don’t forget an email address and/or a telephone number.  Or you can contact us via our website: Clifford Miller.

This post is an addendum to our main post on this topic found here:-

The Getty Images Rip-Off, You, Copyright & The Law – February 28, 2011

Clifford Miller’s legal practice website can be found here:-

Clifford Miller

He is a commercial lawyer with specialist expertise in:-

  • Intellectual Property
  • European & Competition/Anti-Trust Law
  • Computer Law & IT Law

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[STOP PRESS – Lawyers too expensive? Then see:-

Getty Images Threat Letter – UK Survival Service  Updated 9 April 2014]

Getty Images, the international online supplier of photographic images has been routinely threatening numerous morally blameless and innocent owners of legitimate UK businesses with copyright infringement and damages for using on their websites images Getty claim rights to.

Have you received a Getty Images copyright infringement letter demanding large amounts of money and accusing you of using images without permission on your website or blog?  Is a debt collector like Altradius harassing you for the money? 

Don’t pay up.  There is help.

Read about the issues in this article and if you decide you want our help it will cost you nothing to contact us: telephone 0208 663 0044 – email “mail { at } cliffordmiller.com” and include a copy of Getty Images copyright threat letter.

We could save you a great deal of money even if you think there is no way to avoid it.

We have saved clients a great deal of money.  Even if you think there is no way to avoid it we could help you.

We have successfully dealt with Getty Images for clients and know how to deal with their threats.  To date none of our clients have been sued by Getty Images.   

We have a modest inexpensive fixed fee which is affordable by small businesses and private individuals.  You know what it will cost from the outset and it is a fraction of what Getty Images want from you.

Some businesses have received initial demands for thousands of dollars, pounds sterling [and almost any other currency you care to think of]. These Getty Images letters have earned the nickname with some as the Getty Images “extortion letter”. The business owners almost invariably are unaware of any potential problem until the Getty letter arrives. Also often an independent website designer was responsible for selecting and including the alleged offending images in the business websites.

Getty Images’ business practices and their threats are discussed extensively on web fora worldwide.  Try this Google search Getty Images Forum.

It is stressful and frightening to receive these demands. Getty also seem to engage in “hit-and-run” claims.  They pop up, issue a demand, get ignored or challenged, disappear for a few years and then pop up again with their lawyers making threats and demanding more. Getty typically start by claiming approximately £2000 per image. Most business owners consider these sums are extortionate.   The problem was reported in UK’s The Guardian newspaper: “Is a Picture Really Worth £1000?Wendy M Grossman – The Guardian, Thursday 27 November 2008

The fees charged by Getty appear unsustainable and uneconomic. The Guardian was told by photographer Tony Sleep (halftone.co.uk):-

In the UK they’d struggle to make these amounts stick,” he says. “UK law is only concerned with restoring the situation had licensing been correctly obtained. The courts don’t like to be used as a means of extortion.

Are Photographer Copyright Owners Losing Out Also

Some photographers who signed exclusive deals with Getty have received not a penny.  Flickr users are offered just 20% of what Getty might charge.  Getty may not sell a single image [but still tie up the photographer in an exclusive deal].  Similar genres and types of images can be purchased outright “royalty free” for between £3 to £5 from other sources such as istockphoto.com, which is now ironically owned by Getty Images.

Is There Anything You Can Do?

The problem for any business is that it is far cheaper and less risky to pay up than to risk a legal claim in the Courts.  So is this the end of the story?

No. 

We have assisted a number of clients who have had this problem.

What is the law?

Innocence is no defence to infringement in copyright law.  There is an innocence defence but only to damages claims  and it is normally unlikely to apply. The copyright owner cannot claim damages if you can show you did not know and had no reason to believe that copyright existed.  The problem is that most modern photographs will be copyright works so you will be always likely to have reason to believe copyright exists [even if in the case concerned it did not, but then there could be no damages].

To be able to sue in their own name Getty Images must be either the copyright owner or have an exclusive licence from the copyright owner.  This is not the case particularly for  non exclusive “rights managed” images, where Getty Images only have the rights to manage and do not own copyright and may not have an exclusive licence.  This is potentially curable if appropriate agreement can be entered into with the photographer/copyright owner.  If it has not been or cannot be, then Getty Images can take no legal action in such cases.

So what is the position over the damages claims Getty Images make?

Without our help you might not know how to avoid paying.  You may decide to pay something, but how much should you pay and can you recover compensation yourself?  And how can you avoid paying anything?

A copyright owner or exclusive copyright licensee is entitled to claim damages to put them in the position they would have been in had there been no infringement ie as if a licence had been paid for.  The amount of the licence fee is the commercial rate.  If the images concerned have never been licensed or only rarely licensed there is no commercial rate.  A Court would have to consider all relevant evidence to assess what a commercial licence fee would be.

There are methods by which it can be possible to avoid legal proceedings.  Even in very difficult cases where large numbers of images have been used and eye-watering amounts of money might be claimed, you may be able to have a reasonable licence fee established despite lack of agreement by Getty Images or continuing threats from them.

Compensation from Website Designer

If the website designer is still in business and can be found it might be possible to claim a contribution or indemnity from them.  In many cases the designer can no longer be found.  Clearly when choosing a website designer it is worth covering key issues in a brief agreement and getting details  of insurers and confirmation of insurance cover for copyright infringement claims and other public liabilities.

Technical Legal Issues

Some technical legal issues are mentioned here but not in detail. For most contemporary photographs it is unlikely they will affect the ability to sue for infringement of copyright in modern photographs from contemporary photographers. The UK law before 1989 is also different to that since 1988 [and similarly for 1957 and 1956 and 1912 and 1911].  Where and when a photograph is taken and by whom can affect the position as well as where and when the picture was first published.  The photograph must be an original copyright work, which most if not all photographs will be.  If the photographer who took the picture is not a UK national the nationality must be of a country the nationals of which qualify for UK copyright protection for their copyright works.

Need Help?

To find out about our very modest and reasonable fixed fee telephone 0208 663 0044 or email “mail { at } cliffordmiller.com” and include a copy of Getty Images’ copyright threat letter.  You know what it will cost from the outset.

You can also just post a comment on this page at the end and let us know with some brief details of the problems you have experienced.  If you post a comment just asking for our help the comment is not published.  Don’t forget we will need your contact details to contact you so don’t forget an email address and telephone number.

Our fees are modest because we have the know-how to deal with these cases efficiently from acting previously for paying commercial clients with substantial sums involved.  You can benefit from that know how and expertise.

Clifford Miller’s legal practice website can be found here:-

Clifford Miller

He is a commercial lawyer with specialist expertise in:-

  • Intellectual Property
  • European & Competition/Anti-Trust Law
  • Computer Law & IT Law

Published March 2013 for The Law Society Advocacy Section Newsletter under the headline “Pointing the finger

Clifford G. Miller, a solicitor and a former university lecturer, considers recent developments questioning the infallibility of fingerprint forensic evidence

For nearly 100 years, internationally and in the UK, 16 ridge characteristics of partial latent fingerprints found at crime scenes have been used as the standard by fingerprint examiners to compare against inked prints taken from suspects (see R v Castleton (Thomas Herbert) (1910) 3 Cr App R 74). These identifications have, in all but rare cases, been treated unquestioningly as an exact means of linking a suspect to a crime scene print.

The standard of taking 16 ridge characteristics was based on a 1912 paper published in France by M. Alphonse Bertillon (Les empreintes digitales, Archives d’anthropologie criminelle, pages 36-52).

In a 1999 Court of Appeal judgment, the then vice president of the court, Lord Justice Rose, found that:

 … in recent times, the originals of the prints used by Bertillon have been examined and revealed conclusively to be forgeries. It is therefore apparent that the 16 point standard was adopted on a false basis” (Buckley, R v [1999] EWCA Crim 1191 (30 April 1999)).

In the last decade, there have been dramatic developments calling into question the reliability of fingerprint identification of crime suspects. The scientific foundation of the fingerprint field has now come to be questioned. Latent fingerprint identifications may not be as reliable as previously assumed (see SA Cole. 2002. Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification. Boston: Harvard University Press; Epstein).

Uniqueness of prints is impossible to establish scientifically. It is not possible to state with certainty that no two people have exactly the same fingerprints, nor that an individual’s fingerprints are unchanging over time. Fingerprints of genetically identical twins are closely similar but not identical. This suggests a reasonable inference is that two individuals’ fingerprints are highly unlikely to be indistinguishable. But can one determine with adequate reliability that an imperfect impression at a crime scene was made by the same finger that made an impression in a file from years before, possibly with imperfections which differ?

In October 2007, Baltimore County Circuit Judge Susan M Souder refused to allow testimony of a fingerprint analyst that a latent fingerprint was made by the defendant. It was a capital case. Judge Souder held that traditional fingerprint analysis to be “subjective, untested, unverifiable identification procedure that purports to be infallible” (State of Maryland v Bryan Rose. In the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. Case No. K06-545).

Developments in this most basic of all forensic evidence fields have often been overlooked, including in England and Wales, even though some of the most important have happened very close to home – in the 1998 trial in Scotland of David Asbury for the 1997 murder of Marion Ross. The repercussions led to The Scottish Fingerprint Inquiry, chaired by Sir Anthony Campbell. The extensive report was published on 14 December 2011 after six months of hearing evidence and considerably longer in consideration. The origin of a fingerprint – “Y7″– from the murder scene was alleged by Asbury’s defence to be that of police officer Sharon McKie. In evidence, McKie denied the print was hers and ever being at the scene. After Asbury’s conviction, McKie was prosecuted and convicted of perjury. In 2002, in consequence, Asbury’s conviction was overturned in an unopposed appeal. McKie, her family and her supporters, however, fought hard to establish her innocence. She was eventually unanimously acquitted and, in 2005, won £750,000 damages from the Scottish government.

The main conclusion of The Scottish Fingerprint Inquiry, which almost all courts internationally had not in over 100 years come to appreciate, is:

Fingerprint evidence should be recognised as opinion evidence, not fact, and those involved in the criminal justice system need to assess it as such on its merits … Examiners should discontinue reporting conclusions on identification or exclusion with a claim to 100% certainty or on any other basis suggesting that fingerprint evidence is infallible” (Scottish Fingerprint Inquiry final report, page 740).

Perhaps greater heed should have been taken of the 1999 detailed advice of the English Court of Appeal in Buckley on standards and procedures to be adopted with forensic fingerprint evidence. Lord Justice Rose in judgment also noted the concession of an expert’s testimony in cross-examination, that he “was expressing a professional opinion and not a scientific conclusion”.

Clifford G. Miller BSc ARCS is a solicitor, a former university lecturer in law, at Imperial College, London University, and a published academic on complex technical and medical evidence.

As published December 2012 – The Law Society Advocacy Section Newsletter

Are unproven unscientific theories accepted in court?

Clifford Miller, a solicitor and a former university lecturer, considers some family cases where testimony from since-discredited scientific experts has led to injustices, and looks at how the legal system should manage expert scientific evidence.

In our courts, the innocent are sometimes convicted and children removed from parents on the basis of what are presented as scientific theories. Parents may be accused of Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy (MSbP), now renamed Fabricated or Induced Illness (FII) (alleged abuse by inventing illnesses in their children), or murder (due to Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) or when more than one child dies from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)). What the average family practitioner may not know is the details of the science behind these allegations.

SIDS

In some cases of SIDS, a parent, often the last person alone with their still living child, is accused of murder. The now discredited expert witness, Professor Sir Roy Meadow, a past President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, devised ‘Meadow’s Law’: that in a family ‘one sudden infant death is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder, until proved otherwise’ (The ABC of Child Abuse, Gower Press, 1986).

For SIDS, Meadow’s ‘expert’ testimony was that the chance of two SIDS deaths in one family was one in 73 million. The correct position is that a family with one SIDS death is far more likely to suffer another. This was revealed through one of many sad cases: that of solicitor and mother, the late Sally Clark, accused by Meadow of infanticide, and convicted to life imprisonment. Clark was acquitted on appeal in R v Clark [2003] EWCA Crim 1020, after she had served three years of her sentence.

SBS

In the majority of SBS cases, there is no visible sign of external trauma. Experts infer child abuse by intentional shaking based on evidence of a ‘triad of injuries’ in the brain: subdural hematoma, retinal haemorrhage, and cerebral oedema (Shaken baby syndrome, BMJ 2004;328:720–1).

But in alleged SBS cases, the ‘triad of injuries’ alone now cannot justify a finding of abuse, as demonstrated in R v Harris & Ors [2005] EWCA Crim 1980. Additionally, two British pathologists have found that the ‘triad of injuries’ in SBS can occur in children who have died naturally and not through any abuse. Even where there is evidence of other injuries, it may still be inappropriate to allege abuse. Jayden Wray’s parents were acquitted of murder after evidence showed his fractures could have been caused by his severe rickets due to Vitamin D deficiency.

MSbP

MSbP / FII is a theory and not science. It was originated by Meadow, and if such a syndrome ever existed, even Meadow claimed cases were rare. Post-Meadow, in the case of A County Council v A Mother & Ors [2005] EWHC 31 (Fam), Mr Justice Ryder stated:

‘For my part, I would consign the label MSbP to the history books … I would caution against its use other than as a factual description of a series of incidents or behaviours that should then be accurately set out (and even then only in the hands of the paediatrician or psychiatrist / psychologist). … What I seek to caution against is the use of the label as a substitute for factual analysis and risk assessment.’

The need for change

How or why did the legal process fail? Later it succeeded, but only in some cases. Are the legal systems not dealing with such cases appropriately? Or, once such theories take hold, are lawyers dependent upon experts who, like supertankers, change course only with utmost difficulty once these theories become part of their formal published literature? An NSPCC briefing paper (PDF) published as late as 2011 suggests that MSbP / FII is common, rather than rare, and some of the research cited is by publicly discredited experts. Are expert opinions always dispassionate and objective, or are they sometimes ‘unbalanced, obsessive and lacking in judgment’ (as quoted by the judge in R v Harris & Ors)? The theory-dependence of observation shows that experts may tend to fit evidence to preconception.

Evidentially, we need to know what is true. Lawyers and judges must always question all theories underlying expert testimony, no matter how eminent the expert, or how well accepted such theories might seem. If the expert consensus favours such theories, will the Law Commission’s proposed ‘gatekeeper’ function (for English judges to allow only expert testimony which satisfies a reliability test) ever prevent expert injustice? And do we exclude new theories which may be correct but which are not widely accepted?

Clifford Miller BSc ARCS is a solicitor, a former university lecturer in law, Imperial College, London University, and a published academic on complex technical and medical evidence.

[Originally Published 18 June 2012 – For The Law Society Advocacy Section]

Clifford Miller, a solicitor and a former university lecturer, considers modern evidential practice and some new proposals for evidence put forward by the Law Commission.

If you find evidence, its legal rules and how to apply them confusing, you are in good company. The logic can appear tortuous, but mastering it can sometimes make the difference between success and failure on decision-turning facts.

The problems with evidence are compounded by the growth in and need for complex technical, scientific and medical evidence in the modern technological world. As lawyers, we need to be equipped to deal with expert opinion evidence. An expert opinion can now be decisive on the ultimate issue.

The need for change

The philosophical and theoretical bases underpinning modern evidential practice and procedure in the English courts have long been in need of attention. About 20 years ago in his compilation of exploratory essays, Rethinking Evidence (Cambridge University Press), William Twining made a compelling case for a renewed and new approach to the study of evidence, proof and fact-finding in law, recording how evidence scholarship has been, at best, fragmented and spasmodic. Twining noted how Bentham’s Rationale of Judicial Evidence and Wigmore’s Principles of Judicial Proof rank among the major achievements of our scholarly heritage, yet have been largely ignored.

New proposals

Since Twining published Rethinking Evidence, other writers, including Susan Haack and Dr Déirdre Dwyer have been addressing the same issues. Additionally, the Law Commission proposed last year a new reliability-based admissibility test to be applied to most expert opinion evidence tendered for admission in criminal proceedings. The Commission also proposed a rule that expert opinion evidence is admissible only if the court is satisfied that it is sufficiently reliable to be admitted. See the Law Commission Report No 325 on Expert Evidence in Criminal Proceedings in England and Wales (agreed text 21 February 2011).

These proposals follow from the experience in the US of the ‘Daubert rules’. US judges are now ‘gate-keepers’: they are expected to allow the admission of reliable scientific and technical evidence, and to exclude the unreliable before it goes before a jury. The Daubert rules have had a mixed reception in the US, and raise questions that have not been properly dealt with.

Looking ahead

However, proposals of these kinds are considered by many to be a ‘sticking-plaster’ approach to the underlying issue: the need for better developed skills and knowledge necessary to deal effectively with complex scientific and technical evidence in court. And achieving that aim clearly remains some way off.

Clifford Miller BSc ARCS is a solicitor, a former university lecturer in law, at a College of London University, and a published academic on complex technical and medical evidence.

The reforms of the Family Court unveiled today by Mr Justice Ryder are likely to be a case of re-arranging the deckchairs:-

Inquisitorial judges at heart of family reform proposals Tuesday 31 July 2012 by Catherine Baksi

The longstanding problems with the Family Court will never change until control over the Court and its cases is taken out of the hands of Judges appointed from the English Bar and out of the control or influence of their colleagues at the English Bar.

The Family Court has a reputation amongst the public, practitioners, politicians, expert witnesses and journalists for administering injustice. Ryder reform plans will likely not bring about change to that reputation.

We need a new system to break up the incestuous organic and social relationships behind the English Bar’s system of Barristers’ Chambers and appointments to the Judiciary – mainly from its own members.

There is an unhealthy relationship between the Judges, predominantly from the English Bar and their friends and former colleagues at the Bar who appear before them. They in practice control most of what takes place. The problems with the Family Court are systemic and organic. So it is unlikely any judge appointed to deal with the problems will ever go to the heart of the matter.

The Family Court is and will continue to be a Court whose Judges fail to observe basic principles of procedural fairness and justice. The long abandonment of pleadings means issues are introduced on spec in Court instead of being defined in advance. Litigants can be and are taken by surprise and faced with a litany of invention and accusation introduced “on spec” during the course of a case which they have to try to answer and when least fitted psychologically to do so.

This is at the culmination of a long process during which they have been softened up by unpalatable conduct of some lawyers and when they have been are subjected to considerable stress, not knowing what invention and accusation they may face at the next hearing before the trial.

The position is compounded by the Judges of the Family Court who appear to do nothing whatsoever about improper litigation conduct by the lawyers who appear before them as Officers of the Court and who may be their former colleagues, current friends and social peers.

It is a Court system which rewards the wrongdoer and punishes the victim. Those of the lawyers who fail to observe accepted standards of conduct in Family Court cases and routinely act in contravention of their obligations to the Court and under the rules of Court go undealt with, save to the extent they are rewarded with the outcome they seek by such conduct.

The worst aspects of course are when it comes to children and the false evidence presented by social workers from some local authorities and the consequent cases which some members of the English Bar present. There has long been complaint about these abuses and nothing has been done. Ryder will never address that. The litigants cannot do it – it is the lawyers who do it for them and the Judges who make it all happen. And the Judges just let it go on day in and day out.

The Family Court thus operates and maintains a Cheats Charter. Under the auspices of the Court wrongdoers who play the system and break the rules are rewarded and victims of that wrongdoing punished. The Judges do nothing about sometimes rampant impropriety taking place daily within the walls of their Courts and even under their noses. And nor do other members of the English Bar despite it being their duty to report it.

Regrettably of course it is a self-perpetuating system in that those members of the Bar who do operate unscrupulously and unlawfully may eventually be recruited to the ranks of the judiciary. Not all members of the English Bar behave improperly and likely many or most do not, but one too many do and they are allowed to get away scot free by their colleagues and Judges alike. The public as always pay the price and the lawyers collect.

We could clean up litigation in this country in six months if improper conduct were to be dealt with at source at the time in the Court. With the current social and other relationships between Judges and the English Bar that will of course never happen.

We can see from the report in the Gazette yesterday that the claimed high ethical standards of the English Bar are a myth, which go unpoliced by any effective system of regulation:-

“Review slams ‘systemic failures’ in bar’s disciplinary system” Monday 30 July 2012 by Catherine Baksi

Solicitor Judges and Solicitor Advocates are a step forward in breaking up this cosy insidious cartel in British justice controlled by Judges appointed predominantly from the English Bar and by the Bar. But that is hardly even a pin-prick on the carbunkel.

The Bar Council better start looking at its own ranks before it has any standing to attack the only relatively recent phenomenon of Solicitor Advocates.

The pictures here are of road closures signs officially placed in London for the 2012 Olympics saying “Ha Ha Road Closed”.  Olympic Road Closures took effect from today.   These signs were last week at a junction near the The Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich South-East London which is hosting Shooting, Paralympic Shooting, and Paralympic Archery at the London 2012 Summer Olympics.

Road closures will cause significant traffic disruption for Londoners.  Last week similar pictures were touted to The Sun and Daily Mirror newspapers but were not published.  By today the signs have gone – no doubt someone realised the potential public relations impact.

Click on the pictures to seen an enlarged version in a new window.

More information on road closures can be found on Get Ahead of The Games website.

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