Notorious copyright troll Getty Images has once again been caught making illegitimate claims of copyright infringement. Yet unlike most small businesses and individual users it usually targets with its big lawyers the target this time is famed hacker publication 2600.
Getty subsidiary Trunk Archive has claimed that 2600 was infringing one of its images, yet when the claim was analyzed it turns out Getty has made a claim of copyright infringement on a picture it stole from someone else.
Making the case more ridiculous is the fact the claim itself is invalid on several levels above and beyond Getty trying to claim infringement on something it doesn’t in fact own.
One reason the claim is illegitimate is that the statute of limitations on copyright in the United State is only three years. Trunk Archive filed its claim in August of 2015, which is too late to file a claim.
Furthermore, the images look nothing alike. Getty’s complaint concerns a small section of ink splotches in the corner of the “offending” image. Being such a small section of this picture, which contains other imagery, it is a textbook example of a transformative work. Such works, where an element is used and combined with other elements, are explicitly exempted from claims of infringement.
Making matters worse for Getty is the fact that Getty doesn’t even hold the copyright for the offending splotches. The artist responsible for creating the 2600 cover made a note that he was utilizing a splotch painting from a Finnish artist who is referred to by his username “Loadus” on Deviant Art. Any copyright belongs to Loadus and not the Getty photographer.
The case is ironic as Getty is blatantly trying to extort people into paying for images when they have no right to do so.
While this may seem like a minor mix up, it is important to call attention to such cases of abuse. Getty operates one of the world’s largest copyright extortion rackets, where its computers scour the internet and file automated claims of infringement based on dubious evidence.
The case is also important because if transformative artists continue to be threatened, it can bring art and creativity to a grinding halt, causing a severe disruption to creative expression.
Yet due to Getty’s massive size, political influence and poorly written laws it is able to get away with such industrial scale abuse.
In fact the laws are so poorly written that there is no punishment for abusing the law in such a manner and many people are forced to simply pay up in order to avoid the legal fees of defending themselves.
2600 has stated they intend to fight the claim and have posted a full response to the extortion threat here.