The Hidden Danger Of Blogging You Need To Avoid

A couple of weeks ago I got a letter telling me that I owed $1,300 to a company called ‘August’ for the illegal use of one of their images.

After some digging I found they were owned by ‘Getty Images’ a business that is developing a major reputation for issuing ‘fines’ to bloggers for using unlicensed images.

I phoned the company and immediately offered to remove the image – but no dice, they wanted their money too.

They did offer to drop the amount to just over $900, which I thought was unusual.

Psychological Anchoring

Until that is I realized they had tried to use an anchoring technique on me.

Have you ever been stopped by the Police for a traffic violation?

If you have, you will know that they tell you what they could charge you with, but that they aren’t going to hit you for the full amount.

Maybe they say you were doing 50mph in a 30mph, but they’ll only ticket you for 40mph and you will save $120.

They don’t do this because they love you.

They do it so you will feel relieved, think you got away with something.

You are then exponentially less likely to appeal the ticket and waste their time having to go to court.

This is what ‘August’ were doing to me. The immediate offer to drop the amount was an attempt to make me feel relieved and pay.

The image in question was a quote by Will Smith that I took off Pinterest when I was writing a post at A Daring Adventure on famous celebrity quotes.

I did a search and found the same image and quote on a lot of other websites.

Not that that makes it ok, because it doesn’t. Copyright is copyright and ignorance is no defense in a court of law.

What About The Big Social Media Sites?

However, what I didn’t know until I talked to an expert in these matters is that sites like Flickr, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest are not responsible for what people upload.

I think what is far more likely, is that they are responsible, but it’s a lot easier for the companies who own the images to issue these ‘fines’ than it is to take a behemoth like Facebook to court.

They may win, but it would take years, millions of dollars in legal fees and slow up their growing source of income that comes from bloggers and social media users who they can intimidate into paying them money.

Note: I was wrong. I just got an e-mail from Matthew (see link at end) telling me this:

The issue of why Flicker, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. aren’t responsible for uploads is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. 

If those services had to be responsible for each subscriber, there would be no upload feature because it would be too risky to allow ANYONE to upload anything to their websites.  Hence, Section 230 CDA was designed to ENCOURAGE growth and use of the Internet, not stifle it out of fear that service providers will get sued.

To me that is almost worse. Encourage people to share and then prosecute them for doing so as the large corporations wipe their hands of the matter.

I’ll let you decide if I’m being paranoid.

I am a stickler for NOT using unlicensed images. About half I pay for and about half I use from Flickr under the Creative Commons license.

But here’s the rub.

Anybody can upload any image to Flickr and call it CC when it isn’t.

Therefore, I could legitimately take an image, credit it and still get hit with a letter telling me I had no right to use it.

There are sites out there that guarantee their images are copyright free and I suggest you either pay for images, or use such a site.

Do not take anything off Pinterest (or any Social Media site) without the consent of the original owner.

Just because somebody has stamped their web URL on an image doesn’t mean they own it.

Copyright Law Is A Mess

This whole thing is a mess because there is no reason why Getty can’t turn their attention to people sharing images on Social Media with maybe smaller fines.

The irony is, I buy my images from iStock and I have spent waaaaay more than $900 with them over the years and was about to buy another $200 worth of credits as I’m getting low.

Guess who own iStock?

Yep, Getty Images.

So they just lost a regular customer worth more than the money they are trying to take from me and somebody who even linked to their site and has recommended them in the past.

Did I pay the fine?

Nope. I’m sitting tight and will let the legal process play out.

I’ll let you know what happens.

If you know any sites that offer guaranteed copyright free images, please let us know in the comments.

And if you yourself are having problems I suggest you talk to Matthew Chan

34 thoughts on “The Hidden Danger Of Blogging You Need To Avoid”

  1. Hey man,

    This sucks, but my guess is it’s a lot like the patent trolls who have tried to shut down podcasting starting with Adam Carolla.

    My guess is if you remove the images and send an aggressive letter on lawyer stationary (real or printed at Kinkos) they’ll leave you alone, based on my interactions with similar legal trolls.

    You’re right in that they’re trying to intimidate you and get any money they can.

    Hope it works out.


  2. We got hit by this last year. I’d wrongly assumed that when we were linking to news stories it would be considered “fair use” to use a thumbnail from the original article, but it turns out there’s no such thing as “fair use” when it comes to images. What I did was tell Getty I couldn’t afford the reduced rate, and offered them less instead. Fortunately they accepted the offer, although even that was more than we could really afford.

    I now use Fotolia for most of my stock image sourcing. iStock was great for a while, but then it seemed that they were bumping up the prices.

    • There absolutely is fair use when it comes to images according to the guy I spoke to. He did say that they say this to intimidate.

      That sucks. What a nice company eh that would do that to an organization like yours.

  3. Tim, sorry this happened to you. I’ve heard similar stories, to the extent that I’ve stopped using CC photos from Flickr altogether. Now I use and Death To The Stock Photo exclusively. They are royalty free, require no attribution, and are very high quality images. Best of luck!

  4. What is a reasonable amount of money to pay for a photo? I currently use Dollar Photo Club, and, as the name suggests, pay $1 per image. Is that too much?

    In any case, I’m sorry that happened to you, Tim. Very frustrating indeed.

    • Sorry Kate for some reason you were stuck in my pending folder.

      About $1.50 used to be reasonable.

      However, that’s most for 70dpi images.

      Macs for example can now deal with 140 dpi, so using 70dpi, especially for main images can look grainy. However, the next level up from 70dpi is 300dpi, and then the prices start to rise significantly.

      You can get away with 70dpi in blog posts for now, but if you want to future proof so to speak, you’re better using 300dpi if you can.

      There are images on ADA that cost up to $40!

  5. Hi Tim

    I tend to use for most of my images. One may also upload images for others to use.

    There’s a lot of really great copyright free.

    Must confess, I have a big concern about copyright laws.

    I wondered what would have happened to the internet if Tim Berners-Lee had decided to patent his ideas for a common communication language?

    Humans have always learned by copying. I sometimes wonder whether stone-age man or women for that matter tried to copyright the English language! Thus stopping it’s chance to propagate.

    This is of course all bound up around property rights. It’s almost as if we are going to live forever. People don’t of course but corporations can and they can get downright arrogant about it.



    • Thanks mate I shall check it out.

      And I agree, when a local chain of resturants can copyright ‘Happiness Here’ and McDonalds, ‘I’m lovin’ it” the world has gone nuts!

  6. Hi Tim – ouch.

    I’ve read about this but never actually seen it happen to someone I knew. I used to use Istock but moved over to Bigstock ‘cos it seemed more reasonably priced. I do share pins from pinterest on G+ and other places. Wonder what they say about that? Do they sue people on pinterest etc?

    Sounds as though you’re getting some good ideas for future images…not that it helps you in this. But keep us posted on what happens my friend.

    • I honestly don’t know if they have ever sued for people on SM, but there’s no reason why they couldn’t that I’m aware of.

      Caveat emptor!

  7. Sorry you had such a rude awakening, Tim! Hope all goes well for you. Perhaps the cost of litigation may be more than what Getty images may be prepared to spend in the end. There are those organisations that try and intimidate with threats to sue you, in the hope that you will cave in. If you don’t, well – they may well go away eventually.

    For someone like me, who would be a “Babe in the Woods” world of blogging, this is a timely warning. I have copied the odd image here and there, but only for private use and not anywhere public. As someone else commented, your blog also elicited some interesting alternative sites for images.

    Cheers, Michael

    • Thanks matey and I am sure I shall rebound.

      BYW, I don’t won’t to totally freak you out, but I had a dream bout you last night – nothing weird I hasten to add!

      Make of that what you will!

      • Dream about me? LOL!!
        In dream analysis it is held that dreaming about someone else doesn’t mean you are dreaming – in this case – really about me. The subsconcious mind uses symbols to express itself. In this (very funny) case, I could have been a symbol for another person in your life. The subconscious would also provide some key in the dream to help you decode this dream. So you would have to do some “digging” – what or who could MW represent in that dream? Boy, would I love to know the answer! Cheers!

        • Well last night I was kidnapped and escaped and then beat off some house invaders in a house I lived in 30 years ago with the help of the dobermans I have now. I kicked their asses!

          Let me know if that means I shouldn’t eat cheese before going to bed.

  8. Thank you for sharing this cautionary tale. I’m sad that there are so many vultures out there taking advantage of people. I hope it all works out for you. If you are photgraphically inclined you might want to take your own pics. Good luck.

    • Thanks Angela, I have a really good DSLR and was hugely into photography when they were only SLR’s, but I just forget!

      Is there an app for that? 😉

  9. Ughh. So sorry!
    I use Unsplash and Gratisography. Both copyright free sites. Gratisography has some great unique images but as it’s only one photographer, the selection is small.

    Hope it works out.

  10. Thank you Tim for writing about this. It’s so complex, and I know for myself when I’m time strapped I can’t be bothered reading all the rules. Which is amusing since I used to be a lawyer. Or perhaps that’s why!
    I love all the links on here for more great sites as well – and another great resource I use sometimes is The Morgue File at
    Most of all I love the collaborative and friendly spirit on this page. There needs to be a whole lot more of it in the wellness/coaching world. Thank you for leading the way.

  11. I am so sorry that you are having to go through this. I am also extremely grateful that you chose to share this story. I am in the process of creating my first blog, and I really did not know much about any of this. Thanks to you, I now have a much clearer understanding of the rules of the road. And through the discussion that has taken place, I have gained a bunch of resources that I can use without worry of mishap due to being “green”. I hope this is all resolved for you soon.

  12. Just an update for you guys involved in the comments.

    I called the company and said, I’m not paying it. I then spent over an hour calling in and tying their phone lines up with stupid questions.

    They got really annoyed with me and even threatened to report me.

    “For what” I said, ‘Calling you on my phone? Good luck with that”

    Since then I haven’t heard a thing.

    So it’s now over 3 months since I got the original demand and nothing since.

    Not saying they have forgotten about me, but it looks like they are going after people who just pay.

    If I hear anything I shall let you know.

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