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Visual Rights Group harassing me

Posted: Thu Nov 02, 2023 11:13 pm
by surfgatinho
Several years back I licensed an image via iStock, which is now part of Getty. Fast forward to a few weeks back and I receive a demand for nearly £400 from Visual Rights Group acting on behalf of Alamy.

Firstly I told them it was licensed and figured they would back off. They didn't so I told them it was licensed through iStock and forwarded an email from iStock support to back this up.

When the penny dropped they were acting on behalf of Alamy and not Getty I fired off a fairly blunt email suggesting what they could do with their threats given they don't even have exclusive rights over the image so how could they try and enforce that.

I thought this would be the end of it, but no. They are now claiming the image is exclusive, but acknowledge it may not have been in the past, so could I provide proof of license which I already have.

The thing is the image is still on iStock ( ... 1-11798054) so obviously isn't exclusive to Alamy. I feel like I'm being gaslit at this point.

Anyway, I guess if there is a question it would be. Can I just ignore these people, I have wasted enough time on them and frankly I don't see it's their business? Whilst I don't imagine they have a leg to stand on in the unlikely event it goes to court, I don't want to find myself out of pocket somehow.
Also, would anybody know of a body I could report / complain to about this?

Many thanks,

Re: Visual Rights Group harassing me

Posted: Fri Nov 03, 2023 8:36 am
by AndyJ
Hi Chris,

Provided that you are using the image in accordance with iStock's standard licence (which is pretty broad so I can't imagine that would be a problem) then yes you can safely ignore VRG now that you have told them that you have a valid licence. When I say ignore, I really mean monitor their correspondence since you need to be alert in case they lodge a claim with the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC). Clearly, should this happen, you would need to respond to the claim by filing a defence. However since this step would probably involve lawyers appointed by VRG, I would hope that they would stop the process long before any court action was contemplated.

As for who you can report things to, unfortunately there is no regulator for this specific sector. You could report them to Trading Standards but knowing how overloaded they are, I wouldn't expect much of a response from that quarter. There are a couple of trade bodies, such as the Digital Media Licensing Association but unfortunately VRG is not one of their members. However VRG are members of the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA)* and they have a code of practice their members are expected to follow, so that might be worth a try. But in both cases these trade bodies really aren't there to enforce a code of practice and regulate their members, and are principally lobbying bodies.

If you are feeling particularly vexed about this then I would also suggest reporting VRG to the Intellectual Propery Office (see below). They are ultimately responsible for policy in this sector and therefore any information about poor practice could be useful when framing the future legal landscape for these companies. You might wish to contact the IPO via your MP as this will ensure greater notice is taken of your complaint.

*Alamy and iStock are also members of BAPLA

IPO contact details:
Concept House
Cardiff Road
South Wales
NP10 8QQ
United Kingdom Email

Re: Visual Rights Group harassing me

Posted: Fri Nov 03, 2023 6:27 pm
by surfgatinho
Hi Andy,

Many thanks for taking the time to write such a comprehensive answer. I will investigate the options suggested.

In general I'm very much in favour of enforcing IP where it is warranted. But these companies seem quite predatory and in this case just plain wrong!