How to Lose Control of Your Photos With Getty Images

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Last week photographer Remi Thornton penned a post about why he quit working with Getty Images. Remi alerted photographers to a new scheme by Getty Images whereby they were “loaning” photographer images (without pay) to Cafe Press for marketing purposes. The idea is that Cafe Press could use photographers’ images without paying, unless a sale was made, then a photographer might receive a royalty.

Allowing Cafe Press free use of photographers’ images for marketing did not sit right with Remi or other photographers, Remi felt that Cafe Press should have to pay a royalty for using the image at all and not get to use the images to market Cafe Press for free.

On March 25th, I submitted my own resignation to Getty Images. Shortly thereafter on March 27th I received acknowledgement from Getty along with the following:

“As per your recent request where you expressed your desire to terminate your outstanding contract with Getty Images, this is your official notice of termination of the Agreement between yourself and Getty Images, which had a Commencement Date of 3/11/2009.”

A few days later my images disappeared from Getty’s website for sale.

One would think that upon termination with Getty Images, the pilfering of images by Cafe Press would cease, but not so. Not only are my images still up for sale with Cafe Press (being marketed in a large font as “Thomas Hawk Gifts”), Cafe Press is additionally ADVERTISING them to me to buy on Facebook (again without pay — see image above).

Even though I no longer have a relationship with Getty and have NEVER had a relationship with Cafe Press, they want to sell me a dry erase board of a dog image of mine. I can also buy a wine charm thing or a beer coaster if I want.

I’m sure in the super fine print of my contract with Getty there is some loophole that is allowing this, but frankly it’s bad enough that Getty is allowing Cafe Press to market our images without pay. To further allow our images to be marketed in Facebook ads (again, without pay) seems a bit far fetched — especially when my relationship with Getty is supposed to be terminated. And why is Cafe Press specifically targeting me on Facebook trying to sell me my own images?

I have no idea how long my images must remain for sale at Cafe Press, but this just serves as an example of how a photographer can lose control over their images with Getty.

I wonder how much money Getty was paid to allow Cafe Press to use our images for free on Facebook?

I’d ask Getty what the deal is in the Contributor forum, but alas, I’ve been permanently banned from the Contributor forum for daring to criticize Getty’s paltry 20% payout. Maybe someone who is still a member there can ask them for me and relay back what their answer is?

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  1. jeff fedor says:

    Think all of Gettys contracts will need to be looked at by lawyers to see what is going on there.This seems like to me that people are being taken advantage of.

  2. Palash Karia says:

    Exactly why I didn’t accept the Getty invitation I got a few days ago. Thanks to you 😀
    But I wonder where to put my images to ensure fast sales. Getty was obviously interested, but I dunno if others will be!

  3. Dave Morrow says:

    I quit Getty too, their entire operating systems seems a bit off to me.

  4. Ron Clifford says:

    This is exactly why I pray companies like Stocksy United succeed and give the industry back some integrity.

  5. barak says:


    This is very likely via use of “retargeting” or “remarketing” cookie .. you looked at your images on getty and/or on cafe press … and they are following you around the web..

    Clear your cookies and you will likely stop seeing them..

    This company, for example, offers retargeted facebook ads:

  6. barak says:

    whoops .. i was quoting your question and then answering it .. but your question disappeared from the comment..

    it was:

    “And why is Cafe Press specifically targeting me on Facebook trying to sell me my own images?”

  7. JanN says:

    I didn’t trust Getty from the get go. I’ve never signed up with anyone and I won’t. Enough of my stuff has been ‘copied’ / stolen online that I don’t need to make it even easier for corporations to stick it to me.

    Stock photo agencies.. no thank you. I may be missing out but I don’t care. I don’t trust any of them that I know about.

  8. Thomas Hawk says:

    barak, interesting tech.

  9. CJ says:

    I assume there is some form of notice period in your contract which gives them time to withdraw your photos from sale from its various avenues, some like cafe press I assume it doesn’t have control over.

    They should make this clear however. Something along the lines of your contract has been terminated and your photos will be withdrawn from sale over the next [3 months] pursuant to the contact”.

    does the contract give them this flexibility?

  10. Melody Migas says:

    How can they sleep at night? That’s greedy of them to keep selling something of someones who no longer has a contract with them. I could never do that as a business owner. If someone wants to break ties, then we break ties. I don’t wouldn’t keep cashing in on them.

    Their contract is scary. No telling what’s buried in it that is letting them do this.

    A few years back, after the oil spill, they wanted one of my oil rig photos on Flickr. I got all excited at first. Then my husband and I started reading the contract and was totally turned off. The little bit of money was not worth it. Plus it mentioned not selling similar photos. I couldn’t quite understand that.

  11. mike says:

    I neglected to sign up with getty after reading their terms n conditions. Very shady sounding. I do however use They actually promote fair market trade. Best terms i’ve ever read

  12. That’s pretty despicable. I haven’t been accepted by Stocksy yet, and all my photo stock money comes from Getty. But I am really close to quitting them anyways. Stuff like this makes me really dislike the company.

  13. Dave! says:

    As someone noted in the comments over at Remi’s site, per the Getty agreement, they have 90 days to “inactivate” your images from their inventory, and they can continue to license the content during that “winding down” period.

    Although I think Getty is being *really* slimy here–Photographers *need* to *read* the contracts their are entering into and understand the terms.

  14. BillyT says:

    @Dave! – does it matter? The point is that they are taking advantage of amateurs. Even if the photographer understands the contract, they may not understand how and why they are being taken advantage of.

  15. Theresa says:

    I can’t believe they’d do this to YOU of all people, Thomas.
    And if they’d do it to you… they’d not discriminate and refrain from doing it to everyone else hosting with them.

    I used to think having a working relationship with the likes of Getty was not only an honor but a pleasure and mutually beneficial.

    Not any more.

    I’m sorry this happened to you but grateful that you’ve passed along your experience to those of us too naive to think that this could happen with such a big, formerly respectable company.

  16. Thomas, thanks for sharing my story and informing me of yours. The bright side to all of this is the great response from my fellow photographers, friends and strangers. Good luck!

  17. aaron tyree says:

    “Intellectual Property is the oil of the 21st century” – Mark Getty
    This simple statement should cause anyone to pause before doing business with Getty.

  18. Otter says:

    Why on earth are most of surprised? From the get go, Getty was a slime!
    He went to grandad, begged for $6-8 billion, and bought every large agency in the world. To him, images were a commodity, just like cigars and condoms. A few years later, after he went public, and his shares started to tank,he sold the agency for $2.5 billion, giving grandad a great tax write off! Either you had your head in the sand or I don’t know what.

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