Photographer Donates Images to Library of Congress, Gets Getty Images’ Demand for Payment, Sues Back for $1 Billion

It’s a surreal situation. Documentary photographer Carol Highsmith had donated tens of thousands of documentary photos to the Library of Congress for use by the general public at no charge. Imagine her surprise when she received a copyright infringement letter from Getty Images for featuring one of her own photos on her website, and demanding payment of $120. It turns out that stock photo agencies Getty and Alamy had been sending similar threat letters to other users of her images. So, Highsmith decided to file her own $1 billion copyright infringement suit against both Alamy and Getty for “gross misuse of Ms. Highsmith’s photographs – more than 18,000 of them.”

This is apparently not the first time that a stock agency has misappropriated other photographers’ work. In 2013, Daniel Morel was awarded $1.2 million in a suit against Getty and Agence France-Presse for distributing Morel’s images of the 2010 Haiti earthquake without his permission.