Getty is an excellent organisation. Copyright is a form of Intellectual Property which allows an owner of the work to sue for infringement of copyright (section 96, Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA)) where the work has been used without the owner’s/author’s consent.
Often Getty is not the owner of the work but an exclusive licensee. It has the same rights and remedies as any owner (section 101, CDPA) and it can bring a claim for copyright infringement when the licence expressly provides it can (section 101A, CDPA).
Getty has a legitimate interest in obtaining a legal solution to the alleged infringments and it is perfectly right for it to send a letter demanding payment for use of the images without a licence having being paid.
However before you can open any discussions as to how much you need to pay Getty you ought to demand to see the licence. If Getty is a non exclusive licensee then it ought to produce the licence.
How else can one advise a client to settle a threatened claim until such time as one sees the licence which confers on Getty the right to start an action.
1. Is the Getty letter genuine?
2. Is Getty allowed to send letters?
Yes. However if its a licensee then ideally it needs to produce the licence.
3. Why dont they produce the licence?
We can only speculate that it is for commercial reasons although Getty does say it will produce it at court.
4. Will they sue me?
Perhaps. Ask for the licence, do not ignore and get in touch with solicitors.
5. Should I panic?