Corporate Injustice - An Interview with Penny Gentieu by Brad Holland Case Commentary by Stephen Filler, Esq.

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In January 2000, photographer Penny Gentieu sued Getty Images for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary responsibility and copyright infringement. She alleged, among other things, that Getty had licensed her pictures beyond the scope of its authority, infringed her copyrights by art directing other photographers to copy her images and failed to honor their obligation as her agent to market her work properly. When Gentieu appealed the case to a higher court, Getty proved how a corporation can use the "brute force" of the courts to prevail. At Getty's request, the judge ordered Gentieu to immediately pay Getty's legal fees of $728,308.23. Unless she did, Getty demanded that Gentieu surrender to them her photographs, negatives and copyrights. Faced with financial ruin and the loss of her life's work, Penny Gentieu dropped her appeal.

Last year, photographer Penny Gentieu lost a 3 year legal battle with corporate giant Getty Images (Gentieu v.Tony Stone Images/Chicago Inc. et al, 255 F. Supp. 2d 838 N.D. Ill, 2003). The court decision that ended the case may haunt illustrators and photographers for decades.

"The strong-arm tactics, employed by U.S. District Court Judge Milton Shadur not only denied Gentieu a fair forum to fully litigate her dispute," writes copyright attorney Stephen Filler. "It will likely discourage other artists from protecting their rights against the entertainment media."

Getty's victory is all the more astonishing when one considers that Getty, as Gentieu's agent, refused to market Gentieu's photos on their website, instead servicing their clients with commissioned look alikes, and that Getty withheld $100,000 in unpaid licenses from Gentieu until years into the lawsuit.

Now Penny Gentieu tells the story behind this unsettling case in an extended discussion with Brad Holland. "Corporate Injustice, An Interview with Penny Gentieu," is available at the Illustrators' Partnership website:

To put the case in its legal context, you can also read: "Gentieu Litigation Shows Brute Force of the Courts" by attorney Stephen Filler, Esq. The article, written for the IPA, discusses the inexplicable behavior of the court in denying Gentieu a jury trial for her serious allegations of contract violation and copyright infringement:

For those who would like to discuss this case, please visit the IPA Town Hall forum. The IPA Town Hall is an open forum available to the visual arts community. If you wish to discuss this case or share opinions about other issues, you are cordially invited to join us at:


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