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Getty Images Apologise For "Unacceptable" Advert

12 May 2001 - EPUK

Getty Images have apologised for a “insensitive, obscene and offensive” advertisement for PhotoDisc, a Getty company, which raised a storm of protest both among their own contributors and the industry at large.

The advert, which ran in the German magazine Visuell, featured a photograph of two women which had been, in Getty’s words, “altered”, although “defaced” would be the term preferred by many photographers. The text accompanying the picture declared “Do whatever you want to our images” and “Pay once, use forever, for whatever”.


Photodisc’s “Unacceptable” advert

E-mails to Buccina Studios, the originator of the image, for comment on its usage were not returned, but other photographers did not mince words upon seeing the advert, describing it as “crude, in bad taste, insensitive, obscene and offensive”.

Photographer Edmund Nagele commented: “It is a two-fingers-up gesture to the photographer who took the image and the same gesture to the persons depicted. It is a cocky way of saying ‘to hell with your copyright and all it stands for’ ”.

Getty, describing the advert as “unacceptable”, say that PhotoDisc’s claim that clients can use images any way they choose is inaccurate and does not reflect Getty philosophy. They go on to state that “we respect the imagery our artists create, their copyrights in those images, and the rights of the models who appear in them”.

Some Getty contributors were unimpressed by the apology, claiming that Getty’s insistence that clients are restricted in the use they can make of images is at variance to the company’s proposed new photographer’s contract. Since the new contract also makes photographers liable for legal action taken against Getty by any disgruntled subjects in a photographers work, the concern is that if the women featured here chose to sue over the use, it would be the photographer who would be liable, even though the alteration had been made by Getty.

Edmund Nagele again: “Photographers need to keep full control over the way their work is used to protect themselves. International copyright laws generally prohibit derogatory usage of ones work – photographers now have a moral right to object to having their photographs treated in a way which amounts to distortion or mutilation or is otherwise damaging to their ‘honour and reputation’ (Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, United Kingdom).

“You may think you covered yourself with a specific model release, but keep in mind that many countries outside the USA treat any obscene or immoral contracts – a model release is a contract – as null and void. When that time arrives the photographer is on his or her own. No friendly chats with library editors, no parties to launch another stock catalogue, suddenly the image with all of the associated problems belongs to the photographer again!”

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