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Images in Forums

Posted: Tue Apr 27, 2010 2:53 pm
by sully
I suppose most people know that libraries like Getty digitally sign images, and that their bots can detect them on websites.

Recently i have had a friend get a £4000 demand from getty because the pics used as background images on his website were apparently copyrighted ( not that he realised ) , Getty are chasing him in a very unpleasant and heavy handed manner.

This is my question:

I run a forum, in the UK, it has a lot of members and people upload photo's all the time, i realize about basic disclaimers but what do i need to protect myself from forum members accidentally uploading signed images? as the getty bots would find them.
Do forums just get warnings and told to remove the images as soon as possible ?

i am scared to let people post pics at the moment, help :(

Posted: Tue Apr 27, 2010 4:22 pm
by AndyJ
It is recognised that forum admins and site owners face a particular problem in policing this aspect of the copyright law. The High Court recently ruled that Article 14 of the EU eCommerce directive provides some protection from litigation where site admins have no knowledge that the material posted infringes copyright (
This is somewhat similar to the protection afforded in the USA by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), but in both instances, it is vital that you as a site admin act immediately you receive notification that one of your forums contains copyright material which has not been licensed. It then becomes a matter for the copyright owner whether they wish to take action directly against the alleged infringer. To do this they might request that you reveal any registration details you may have concerning the poster, depending on whether you operate a members only system. You have to be careful here not to break your obligations to the poster under the Data Protection Act, by revealing information about them to a third party. Generally I would recommend that you decline to hand over information to a copyright owner unless they get a court order (known as a Norwich Pharmacal) requiring you to do so. If it is Getty, then they have the resources to obtain court orders, so they shouldn't need telling about this.
If you do get threatened with action by a copyright owner in the first instance, you can point out that legally speaking they will need to prove that you knew that the item a. existed on your forum, and b. that it infringed copyright, before they can have a reasonable chance of a case against you. If they still want to pursue the matter, speak to a lawyer who specilies in IP law.

If you are not already familiar with them, you should read the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 for more details of your obligations as a provider of information services.


Posted: Tue Apr 27, 2010 4:47 pm
by sully
Thanks very much for the informmation there,

Another question is, would getty take a forum to court because there was one photo on it somewhere? most admins will remove anything which is reported as a problem.

And one more question, even though the forum is UK based , what if the server is in the USA, does that affect the law? is it better to have a server in the UK?


Posted: Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:13 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Sully.
Are you seriously asking me to get into the minds of Getty's lawyers? LOL. I have no idea what their policy is as regards chasing alleged infringers. There has been quite a good deal of criticism recently of a number of law firms concerning the methods they use to pursue individuals on behalf of the big music and film compnaies. However I have no first hand knowledge of how Getty operates in these circunstances. As I said previously I don't think you as an admin have too much to fear assuming that you act swiftly over any requests to take down disputed material.
Your second point is a good one. The fact that your servers are based in the USA means that US law (principally the Copyright Act 1976 and the Digital Millenium Copyright Act 1998) can be used by anyone alleging copyright infringement. Normally this would be in the form of a DMCA TakeDown notice But in reality copyright claims could be started in a number of different jurisdictions, depending on where the complainant is based. This is one advantage of greater harmonisation of copytight law within the EU, in that it means you don't have to be an expert on the law in all these countries. For the question which you have raised, UK and US law is largely the same in terms of your responsibilities and liabilities; the only difference lies in the DMCA Takedown format as opposed to the less formal approach in the UK.