What Is a Settlement Demand Letter?
If you received a settlement demand letter from Getty, take it seriously
A settlement demand letter is a formal offer from someone to enter into an agreement with them to settle a legal dispute.
The terms used in settlement demands usually ask an alleged wrongdoer to pay a certain amount of money with the agreement made that if they pay the amount "demanded" the individual or business will give up all other legal rights to take further legal action (including the right to sue you) for any claims they may have against you.
About Getty Settlement Demand Letters
If Getty Images has sent you a demand settlement letter asking for payment for using unlicensed image(s) on your website, you have probably been sent two separate legal demands:
- A cease and desist order (remove the images); and
- A settlement offer for you to pay them money and in return, Getty will not take further legal action against you.
The cease and desist part is easy to comply with: just remove all copies of the images from website and blog pages and the actual images files from your server. The sooner you do this, the more it will be to your legal advantage. If you are sued, a judge will look at whether or not you immediately complied with Getty's cease and desist order. If you did not comply or did not comply within a reasonable time frame, you may be held liable for more damages.
Be sure to tell Getty in writing (or get the name of the representative at Getty you speak with if you tell them by phone) as soon as you have removed the image(s).
The "demand" part is not as simple as the "settlement offer" may be inappropriately high, or you may believe you are innocent. It is important to consider a few things if you are deciding whether or not to ignore the demand:
- Even if you did not place the images on your website yourself (i.e., your web designer did, or the image(s) came with a template you purchased) you can still be held liable for copyright infringement. Ignorance is not a defense and it will not get you off the hook.
- The law does not require you to pay the amount in the demand letter, and Getty will likely negotiate a lower fee if you push back, however, if you do not respond you could find yourself in deeper legal troubles including being sent to a collection agency, subject to constant harassment, or even get sued.
- Getty Images has a license compliance department staffed by low-wage workers who are often law students and are not familiar with the nuances of copyright laws. For this reason, it is often very difficult to persuade Getty to stop pursuing you.
If you cannot pay the demand, are being pursued falsely, are outside of a statute of limitations, or Getty themselves has not provided proof that they even have the rights to the images they are asking damages for, you should consider hiring your own attorney.