Any time you need photos for any kind of marketing material, but don’t want to spend a fortune on a professional photographer, you probably go online and search for photos that are either in the public domain (and can, therefore, be used for free) or photos with licenses that can be bought for a price that fits your budget. But how can you tell if the entity you’re paying for the rights to the photo really has the license?
Getty is the go-to source of high quality, affordable photos for many people. You pay them a small fee for the license of the photo you want and you’re free to use it within the restrictions of the license. Except, according to a recent proposed consumer class action lawsuit against Getty, you were always free to use some of those photos without having to pay Getty anything.
CixxFive, a digital media marketing company based in Texas, recently filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against Getty for allegedly deceiving customers about the licensing of some of their photos. According to the consumer lawsuit, Getty allegedly regularly fabricates licenses to photos that are, in fact, in the public domain, and can, therefore, be accessed and used without paying anyone, but Getty allegedly deceives their customers about that fact.
When people use one of these public domain photos without paying Getty anything for the license, Getty allegedly sends them letters accusing them of copyright infringement, even going so far as to demand thousands of dollars in compensation for the use of the public domain photo. In one instance, Getty sent such a letter to a photographer of a nonprofit organization, demanding thousands of dollars in compensation because she used her own photo (which was in the public domain).
CixxFive alleges these letters are evidence that Getty’s deceptive practices are conducted willfully and intentionally. The consumer class action lawsuit alleges Getty knowingly violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Practices Act, as well as Washington’s Consumer Protection Act.
If you’re thinking Getty charges less for the licenses to the photos that are actually in the public domain, you’d be wrong if the new allegations against Getty are true. According to the lawsuit, Getty charges the same amount for its fabricated photo licenses as it does for the legitimate photo licenses it sells. Getty even allegedly presented the public domain photos the same way it presented all its other photos: with an overlay of their copyright symbol, so consumers had no way of knowing they didn’t have to pay to use those photos.
At the moment, the consumer lawsuit is a proposed class action, which means it needs to be certified as a class action by a judge before the lawsuit can move forward as such. If the lawsuit gains class-action status, anyone in the United States who paid Getty any time in the past four years for licenses to photos that were actually in the public domain will be eligible to join the class. The consumer class action lawsuit, which was filed in Washington federal court, is seeking both financial compensation for the alleged violations, as well as injunctive relief.
Our Evanston, Illinois consumer rights private law firm handles individual and class action gift card, data breach, privacy rights, deceptive advertising, predatory lending, unfair debt collection, lemon law, and other consumer fraud cases that government agencies and public interest law firms such as the Illinois Attorney General may not pursue. Class action lawsuits our law firm has been involved in or spear-headed have led to substantial awards totaling over a million dollars to organizations including the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Consumer Law Center, and local law school consumer programs. The Chicago consumer lawyers at Lubin Austermuehle are proud of our achievements in assisting national and local consumer rights organizations to obtain the funds needed to ensure that consumers are protected and informed of their rights. By standing up to consumer fraud and consumer rip-offs, and in the right case filing consumer protection lawsuits and class-actions you too can help ensure that other consumers’ rights are protected from consumer rip-offs and unscrupulous or dishonest practices.
Our Schaumburg and Naperville consumer attorneys provide assistance in data breach, privacy violation, fair debt collection, consumer fraud, and consumer rights cases including in Illinois and throughout the country. You can click here to see a description of the some of the many individual and class-action consumer cases our Chicago consumer lawyers have handled. A video of our lawsuit which helped ensure more fan friendly security at Wrigley Field can be found here. You can contact one of our Glencoe and Wilmette consumer protection, gift card and data breach attorneys who can assist in consumer fraud, consumer rip-off, lemon law, unfair debt collection, predatory lending, wage claims, unpaid overtime and other consumer, or consumer class action cases by filling out the contact form at the side of this blog or by clicking here. You can also call our toll-free number at 630-333-0333.