Occasionally, and definitely much more recently, we receive frantic calls or emails from web hosting clients who live in the USA who are being threatened with lawsuits from Getty Images who claim that a person is unlawfully using copyrighted materials and they are looking for compensation at the rate of $800 or more per photo used on a website without express consent from Getty Images.
When this happens all of our stomachs feel sick and we usually break into a sweat and simply want to sit down and cry out "Why Me?". Getty Images is successfully bullying innocent website owners into paying these extortionist fees.
If you want to fight their claims and go to court we recommend reading the contents of this website.
and view this page from the website.
Also check out their online FORUM at http://www.extortionletterinfo.com/forum/read.php?2,287 for a very nice summary and recommended action plan.
Apparently the law is quite clear - everyone receiving such a letter will be liable even if you contracted a third party web designer or used a template provided by services like templatemonster.com because the law is clear - the person who displays the photos or artwork on their own website is the only one liable. You simply cannot deflect the claim by pointing to the template site or web developer - it won't help you at all to point ot others in this case.
You may feel innocent based on your own "ignorance" of copyright law but that doesn't get you off the hook. You can't ignore Getty Images claims - you have to deal with them - if you ignore them then they will take you to collections firms which will then affect your credit. These are all nasty people.
If you feel innocent then comply immediately by removing any such copyrighted material from your website to show your willingness to comply and to infer your innocence. If asked - did you have such an image on your website - admit it and proclaim your innocence to anyone who cares - quite frankly, most people you know will never know or care. If you are an individual with limited financial resources you may want to fight this with the advice given on the site I referred to shown above. If you have lots of money and simply don't want to deal with this again then pay Getty because paying them is much cheaper than paying your lawyer to stand up for your rights - I know that is an ugly reality and Getty is counting on it when they unfairly target you and 1000's of others.
Apparently Getty waits years before they come after you even though they knew you had their images within months of posting them on your website - they do this to be able to claim long term damages - by waiting they almost guarantee that they will collect handsomely on your innocently placed stock photos that were apparently owned by Getty Images. Apparently the success of Getty Images has spawned a whole industry of ambulance chasers who find this an even easier target to extort money out of innocent victims.
Note: I am not a lawyer and am only sharing this with you to help you come to terms with your grief. Pay Getty Images or take the advice of the website shown above or get your own lawyer and FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT.