If you’re thinking about selling unlicensed photos, you might want to reconsider. Several people have agreed to pay Getty Images a lot of money over the online theft of thousands of copyrighted images he sold to sports collectors and others.
According to Law360.com, the ongoing court case resulted in a New York man agreeing to pay $21.3 million for selling stolen login credentials used to download thousands of copyrighted images which were then sold on Facebook.
A consent judgment was filed against Larry Hebeler of New York last week under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Last February, the case’s original defendant, Walter Allan Kowalczuk of northern Ohio, agreed to pay $14 million over allegations leveled against him. Kowalczuk was alleged to have made posts through a private collecting group on Facebook, selling stolen images Getty either owned or licensed.
In November, Getty added 13 more defendants to the case including Hebeler. According to court documents, seven co-conspirators agreed to pay Getty Images $15,000 each. Another man, Larry Barnes, agreed to pay $25,000.
According to Law360, charges are still pending against two defendants including one who served as a page administrator and another who acted as a runner and was compensated for his efforts.
Kowalczuk was selling stolen Getty photographs and had downloaded over 3,400 in just two months using the stolen login information obtained by Hebeler, who sold that information to Kowalczuk through their connection on another online forum.
Co-conspirators in the group would buy the photographs through Facebook’s private messaging, referring to the stolen images by the code word “spaghetti”. Court documents also state they obtained images stolen from the Associated Press, which they called “apples”. The stolen image files were sent to a printing service which made them into 8x10s or simply sold as files.
Getty learned of the illegal activity in March of 2016 and members of its security team purchased multiple images through contact with Kowalczuk in private messages.
Federal court papers also indicate some of the copyrighted material was sold to sports memorabilia dealers.
Getty owns some of the photos in its massive archive but also offers distribution services for a huge number of photographers and other artists and content suppliers who own the copyrights to their work. Users typically pay a fee to reproduce the original works.
The federal court case is number 1:16-cv-01400 in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio.