LA Times: “Getty Images Will Bill You Thousands To Use a Photo That Belongs to the Public. Is That Legal?”
[Dorthea] Lange’s photographs of “migrant mother” Florence Owens Thompson and Washington farmer Chris Adolf, along with Walker Evans’ image of Alabama sharecropper Floyd Burroughs and thousands of other photos taken by other Depression-era photographers, can be downloaded by anyone as a digital file of pristine quality from the Library of Congress website, at no charge and without restriction.
But they also can be purchased from the commercial licensing firm Getty Images, for fees that can run to thousands of dollars, depending on how they’re to be used, how large they will be displayed, and how many people might see them. Getty’s library of public-domain images is vast, and its rates aren’t cheap.
This raises obvious questions. Why would anyone pay so much for something they can have for free? And is Getty acting legally?
These questions are at the heart of a lawsuit filed against Getty and others last week by Carol M. Highsmith, a photographer who donated her work to the Library of Congress, only to receive a nasty letter from a Getty subsidiary over her use of her pictures on a personal website. The letter warned Highsmith that she had infringed the license holder’s rights and demanded $120 in compensation. Her lawsuit asks for $1 billion in damages.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com. Gary is also the co-founder of infoDJ an innovation research consultancy supporting corporate product and business model teams with just-in-time fact and insight finding.