Not happy at work because of “Unauthorized Use”

Oops! Road SignNormally I write about ways for you to be happy at work. That is what this blog is about. This month however something happened to me that made me less than happy at work.  I would like to share it with so you can avoid falling into the trap and stay happy at work!

For my blog and newsletter I usually use one or more pictures to illustrate my point in some way. For most of the articles and tip lists I have used the ones Microsoft provides under clip art in Word or online at their website. Recently they took down that part of the website. I often find the clip art on my computer a bit limiting so I started looking for pictures online.

Since I didn’t want to have to pay to use a picture I chose sites that said no royalty. There are lots of pictures for topics in Google too that you can download. I may have used some from there too. They are very inviting with no indication you need to pay to use them.

One day I went to my post office box and found a letter from the legal department of Getty Images in Seattle Washington. It was an “Unauthorized Use Notification”. The letter was 4 pages long (both sides!) explaining that the photo was theirs and I needed to show them the license I got prior to using the image.

The letter also included a screen shot of my blog and the picture in question. The date of the blog post was February so needless to say I didn’t remember where I found that picture.

I knew immediately I needed to take the picture down and I did. But here is the worst part: it said I must pay $380 as settlement for the use of the image! Yikes! That is very steep and not something I was very happy about to say the least.

I called a lawyer to see what it would cost me to question this charge but unfortunately she told me that Getty was well known for aggressively going after people who use their photos. The cost she said would be high and the result was very uncertain. Her advice-pay it and be careful in the future.

She did say if I could find the picture again on a site that said it was free I might have a better chance. I tried to find the site again but could not. In the meantime I read through the letter and learned something I did not know. If in fact I had got the image from a “royalty free” website that still would not have covered the licensing fee. Royalty free means no ongoing charge but there still may be a licensing fee!

As I said the letter was four pages long using both sides of the paper. Clearly I was not the only person they were after. The picture was definitely not worth $380. My thinking is that if their pictures don’t sell much they have another very good business going to add to their revenue stream.

If that is the case and you want to stay happy at work, please be careful when you choose to illustrate your blog, newsletter, website or any other online document.

Letting go is something that is not easy to do. At first I really felt upset and depressed about this. My inner voice was scolding me for being so dumb. (I do have a rather nasty inner voice.) Writing this is my way of letting go of the anger and making it into a positive. I hope I can help you to avoid this mistake.

Opportunity for Coaching

Would you like to let go of a mistake or a failure that still bothers you? I’ve had to do this a lot in my lifetime and it is always a challenge. It is important to learn from the mistake and then move on. If you would like some coaching to allow you to let go of that feeling of embarrassment over something, I can help you. Please call me at 781-598-0388 or email me at


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