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2.0 Washington State AG Complaint Redacted

2.0 Washington State AG Complaint Redacted

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This is my complaint letter filed against Getty Images with the Washington State Attorney Generals Office. In this complaint I outline the history of correspondence between Getty and myself as well as make my case that Getty Images should be investigated and is practicing a form of legalized extortion.
This is my complaint letter filed against Getty Images with the Washington State Attorney Generals Office. In this complaint I outline the history of correspondence between Getty and myself as well as make my case that Getty Images should be investigated and is practicing a form of legalized extortion.

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Published by: Copyright Anti-Bullying Act (CABA Law) on Aug 25, 2012
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08/03/2014

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Yeah, We Do That.
3023 Ash Court Mason, Ohio 45040-1400 
Gregory A. Troy (513) 544-7069Owner July 18, 2012
The HonorableRob McKennaOffice of the Attorney General800 5th Ave. Suite 2000Seattle, WA. 98104-3188
RE: Getty ImagesMain OfficeGetty images601 N. 34th St.Seattle, WA 981031-800-972-4170D. Bieker and Copyright Compliance TeamGetty Images605 5
th
Ave South Suite 400Seattle, WA 981041-206-925-5000Dear Attorney General McKenna:My name is Gregory Troy and I am the owner of a sole proprietor remodeling business in Mason, Ohiocalled Yeah We Do That I am writing to you today asking for your assistance in dealing with and theinvestigation in a stock photo company located in Seattle, Washington called Getty Images. I feel that thiscompany along with an individual working for this company by the name of Douglas Bieker are usingunethical business practices to try to extort money from individuals and small businesses by makingclaims of copyright infringement along with overinflated an exaggerated settlement demands while at thesame time refusing to provide any proof upon request that they have rights to the image in question.Below is a chronicle of the experiences I have had to date with Getty Images and Mr. Bieker.On March 29, 2012 I received my first letter from the Getty Images Copyright Compliance Team, thetone of this letter was designed to instill a sense of fear in the individual receiving it, and basically statesthat I was guilty of copyright infringement and only have 14 days in which to pay a settlement demand of $875 for the use of one image found on my website. The letter also included a screen capture of a blog
 
page on my website containing the image in question. I was informed that this image was owned by GKand Vikki Hart and that Getty Images has exclusive rights to this image. This letter was of course verydisturbing to me as I firmly believe in respecting the rights of artists and their work, and as such thought Ihad been extremely careful in selecting a few images on my website that I did not own as being free andnon-copyrighted work. I of course immediately removed the image in question along with two otherimages I did not own since I could no longer be sure that they were copyright free as I was led to believe.I replied to the Getty Copyright Compliance Team on April 1, 2012 stating that I had removed the imagein question while also providing screenshots of the website where I had obtain the image. The image wasobtained from the website which contained several image gallery folders, one of which was labeled publicfolder. Inside this public folder I found the image in question. All of the images in this folder appearedwith the owner of the
website’s
name and a title for each image making it appear that each image was thework of the owner of the website. The image in question was labeled "Greg Mankiss-Dog Days of Summer". I provided the screenshots to the Getty compliance team showing that this image appeared tobe owned by Greg Mankiss and was offered up for free in a gallery folder labeled public. Mr. Mankissalso had several other galleries which were not public and all required passwords to access them. I alsotold the compliance team that this was an innocent infringement and that all of my online researchsuggested that in cases of innocent and non-willful infringement a simple cease and desist letter is all thatis required unless the image is not taken down. I informed him that I felt that their settlement demand of $875 was unreasonable in the light of the circumstances.I received a reply back on April 16, 2012 from Mr. Bieker in which the topic of my claim of innocentinfringement is totally ignored. Mr. Bieker goes on to explain how they have exclusive rights with thephotographers and if they allowed infringers to be "excused" with a cease and desist letter it would not befair to the rights of their photographers. After the initial letter with a settlement claim of $875 Mr. Biekernow states that after careful consideration Getty Images is willing to accept $625 as full and finalsettlement, but again only if paid within 14 days or the offer goes back up to $875. I replied back to thisletter letting Mr. Bieker know that I still wish to settle this matter amicably between us but I stillfundamentally disagreed with him on this issue. I requested since he was presenting me with the demandand claiming that Getty had exclusive rights to the image that he provide me with the followinginformation. I requested to see the copyright of the image in question proving that it had been registeredwith the United States copyright office, I requested to know if this copyright was for the individual imageor for a group of images, I requested to see a signed copy of the contract between Getty and the artisttransferring copyright and giving them exclusive rights to the image as Mr. Bieker had stated hiscompany held, I requested to see the sales history and records of the image as well as prices they hadreceived for the image justifying the settlement demand amount and finally I wanted to see the preciseformula used to arrive at their settlement figure.I then informed Mr. Bieker that I had gone to Getty's website where I looked for and found literallyhundreds of similar images all of which were available ranging in price from $10-$25 for the size of theimage used on my website. While I still firmly believed I had done nothing wrong I wanted to settle thismatter amicably and offered him $75 which was three times the amount similar images sold for on Getty'ssite. I also let him know that his deadline of 14 days sent with each demand letter was unacceptable inthat I would take a fair and reasonable amount of time necessary to research and reply to his letters.
 
While trying to research the situation and trying to find help on the Internet I came across a website calledextortionletterinfo.com. This website has close to 1000 members all of which have received these lettersfrom stock image companies asking for outrageous settlement demands, with Getty's recipients being themost numerous. This site is owned and run by a gentleman named Matthew Chan who like me, hadreceived a letter from Getty although his was four years ago. He started the site to provide information tohelp others receiving letters like this. I found the site to be full of valuable information and soon realizedthat what Getty Images was doing was not truly trying to enforce copyrights and protect their artist butrather has turned this into a business model based on profit and greed. Getty Images and Mr. Bieker useartificial deadlines and the fear of eminent legal action to extort monies from innocent infringers far inexcess of their fair market value.As I had mentioned in my response above to Mr. Bieker's letter of April 16, 2012 I had requested proof that Getty Images had exclusive rights to the image as Mr. Bieker had claimed he had in his letter. Mr.Bieker responded to my letter on May 1 of 2012 stating that he would not provide the proof requestedexcept through means of discovery, in other words the reasonable request for proof would only beprovided to me when Getty Images sued me and took me to court. Since I'm being presented with thedemand for $875 and have provided Getty with proof that this is at worst a de minimis and non-willfulinfringement I feel that the information requested be provided me is more than fair and reasonable. As abusinessman myself I could never get away with telling a client requesting an explanation of how Iarrived at the amount on my invoice by telling them I will only show you when I sue you, now pay me.Yet this is how Mr. Bieker and Getty Images chooses to conduct business on a daily basis.My case is not the only one nor am I the only one in this situation, the Getty Images forum onextortionletterinfo.com is filled with person after person after person making the same claims and notknowing what to do. They have all received a letter almost identical to mine in which is installed the fearof an eminent lawsuit and all requests for information regarding the images are denied, yet they are toldthey must pay within 14 days or risk escalation to their legal department. I also believe the reason that Mr.Bieker and Getty Images refuses to provide any information requested is that they cannot. One of themembers of the Getty demand letter forum on extortionletterinfo.com posted a reply received from Gettyto their request for information, the reply was from Getty Copyright Compliance Team member NancyMonson, in which she states:
Getty Images has contracts with its contributing photographers who are the copyright holders and theowners of the images. The contributor agreement contains representations and warranties that thecontributor is the sole copyright owner.
Consequently, Getty Images does not require the contributors to provide Getty Images with certificates of registration and leaves the option of copyright registration to the individual photographer.
 Here Ms. Monson is stating that they do not even know if these images that they are asking $875 andmore for are even registered! Furthermore, while researching Getty's business practices online I foundthat they had recently sued in advertising company called Advernet for $24,275 over the use of 35 imageson their website(s), the case is listed as
Getty V. Advernet 09CV1895.
This is a very interesting case asGetty actually won this case by default. Even though Getty won this case by default the court ruled thatthey would receive none of the monies they had requested, the court ruled that for every image Getty was

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