A Photographer Is Suing Getty Images For $1 Billion Over A Picture Of A Giant Shuttlecock

For once, the little guy (in this case gal) is sticking up for herself against a big business.

Carol Highsmith is a US-based photographer. She has been taking pictures professionally for a very long time, long enough to have a massive portfolio of work and countless top-level clients. In December 2015, the This is America! Foundation, a non-profit founded by Highsmith, received a letter from the License Compliance Services. The letter was from Alamy, a Getty Images affiliate.

The letter read:

“We have seen that an image or image(s) represented by Alamy has been used for online use by your company. According to Alamy’s records your company doesn’t have a valid license for use of the image(s).

Although this infringement might have been unintentional, use of an image without a valid license is considered copyright infringement in violation of the Copyright Act, Title 17, United States Code. This copyright law entitles Alamy to seek compensation for any license infringement.”

The photo in question, pictured above and here’s the original, depicts a massive shuttlecock on the front lawn of the Kansas City Art Museum. To settle the matter, Alamy wanted $120. Here’s the problem — Highsmith actually took the photo and she never licensed it to Getty. Here’s how Getty got their hands on the photo.

During a near half-hour telephone conversation with LCS, Highsmith began by explaining that she is the author of the image. However, she also revealed that she had donated this and thousands of other images to the Library of Congress and makes them available to the public to reproduce and display for free.

In the dying days of December 2015, Highsmith received confirmation from LCS that the case against her had been dropped.

That wasn’t good enough for Highsmith, nor should it have been, since Getty and their companies were making bank on her photos. The companies were also making available more than 18,000 of Highsmith’s other free photographs on their websites. In some cases, Getty was demanding $575 for use of ONE of Highsmith’s images, despite her making the photos free to the public.

As a result, the tables are now turned, with Getty on the receiving end of a settlement demand. For using her images without permission, Highsmith says that Getty is liable for statutory damages of up to $468,875,000.

However, since Getty lost another copyright case (Morel v. Getty) within the last three years, Highsmith believes that the court has the power to treble the statutory damages. In this case up to a cool $1 billion.

This might end up being one of the most expensive pictures of a cock of all time.

[via Torrent Freak]

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Chris Illuminati is a 5-time published author and recovering a**hole who writes about running, parenting, and professional wrestling.