Getty charges blog $868 for Socially Awkward Penguin meme images, demands silence

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Sounds like Getty hasn’t heard how the Internet works. I predict a flood of Socially Awkward Penguin memes right…about…now.




I feel so bad for that poor little guy.


I know!!! I just want to kiss his widdle boo-boo!!!


Socially Awkward Penguin is a transformative use if I’ve ever heard of one. I dunno German copyright law that well, but don’t they have provisions for transformative use?

also, this image from the rooms of Getty’s copyright lawyers…


Sounds to me as if that is exactly what they want. It’s mighty nice to be able to fine people for behavior they do not know can cause a fine. Getty isn’t exactly asking loudly for people not to use the penguin, just quietly asking them to pay up after they do.

Not having RTFA, I have a few questions.

  • Was the blog earning money?
  • Did Getty consider seeking their damn rent and then allowing the image to stay?
  • Did anybody stop to consider how much corporate lawyering $868 will buy?
  • Did they then consider the go to hell gambit?



This is how Getty makes a great deal of their money – their massive and powerful legal team.

Here’s my Getty story: about 12 years ago (good lord!), I directed the design of a large, popular e-newsletter. The photos for our newsletter were licensed by the client and sent to us to use. We won lots of awards and stuff, so I put a small 200x200 image of the homepage on my portfolio blog and moved on with life.

Flash forward to just recently, when Getty informed me I owed them several thousand dollars for illegal use of a photo. Turned out the license on one of the images on the homepage thumbnail (about 30x30 pixels) expired back in 2010, and they could tell which photo it was and how much I owed them. I spoke to a copyright lawyer and he pretty much said, “Don’t fight Getty, just pay.” Their legal team and image-search tech is scary stuff and I am super paranoid about my use of stock photos now.


My long dead mother must be working for Getty, as i remember the legal argument of “Because I said so”



I don’t think you necessarily need to fight them, but if you’re willing to pay their fee anyway, why not make them work for it? Rather than just writing a cheque, assert that you don’t feel the fee is warranted, and ask that they get a judgement if they disagree. Since you have on record their assessment of the charges, they’ve more-or-less capped the amount they can seek. This forces their lawyers to actually work for those fees at which point they may decide that it’s not worth it for $868 (or whatever).

Getty’s shakedown only works if it’s cost-effective and they’ll only stop once it ceases to be so.


Plus Getty’s legal expenses (up to a point) and court costs if you lose.

Hmm…I would suggest that you ask what the price is without any gag and with a gag order that only covers the amount of the settlement. Because I DON’T think many federal judges are going to look too kindly to a plaintiff who wastes the courts time by REFUSING to take money the money so that they can continue to entrap victims…

Refer them to the reply given in the case of Arkell vs Pressdram.

Or the one from Browns general counsel James N. Bailey.

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Unfortunately, they threatened legal action.

EDIT: removed all details about said legal threat, due to being insanely paranoid about Getty, who literally know where I live.


I published a lavishly illustrated history a few years back. Getty had a number of great images that would have been perfect illustrations but the licensing fees were exorbitant. As I really didn’t expect to make back a lot in royalties due to all the other costs, I searched for and found suitable alternatives to license from other sources such as Bridgeman, the Library of Congress and archives all over the world.

Getty has a wealth of images, many of them unavailable elsewhere, but persistent searching can usually find more reasonably priced or free alternatives. Only once did I have no choice and licensed an image with Getty for a conference website. If we had hosted the website indefinitely, I would have kept paying through the nose so it’s gone now!

What’s maddening in this case is that no one expects a widely used meme to be a honeypot for Getty’s legal team. More power to these people for revealing what’s going on.


Wait – 30 x 30 pixels by what, 8 bits?
Do they think they own all possible combinations thereof?

Wasn’t there some creep who tried in the good old days to copyright all possible 8x8 black and white patterns and got it knocked down? A vague memory.

Seems to me there ought to be some defense that every possible 30x30x8 combination is going to be found somewhere in Internet space and prior claims can’t be made on stuff so simple.

Or am I just hoping too much for sense?

How short a phrase in music can they claim to own? Six or eight notes in a row?