Stolen Getty Images Result in Huge Penalties

NY Man Agrees To Pay $21.3M Over Stolen Getty Pics Scheme
By Dorothy Atkins
Law360, San Francisco (July 28, 2017, 1:44 PM EDT) — A New York man has agreed to pay Getty Images Inc. $21.3 million to end allegations he sold stolen login database credentials to a co-conspirator who then downloaded thousands of copyrighted images and used them to run an illegitimate business on Facebook, according to court documents filed in Ohio federal court on Thursday.

Citing the settlement, U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. signed a consent judgment Thursday on two counts brought under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act against Larry Hebeler and tossed the rest of the claims against him without awarding attorneys’ fees.

The consent judgment is the latest development in a June 2016 lawsuit Getty Images originally launched against Walter A. Kowalczuk, alleging he ran an illegal business that sold stolen images owned or licensed by Getty Images through a private Facebook group named “Autographs 101.”

In November, Getty Images amended its complaint, naming 13 additional defendants, including Hebeler and Larry Barnes, who downloaded up to 127 of the stolen images.

Since then, seven co-conspirators have agreed to pay Getty Images $15,000 each, and in February, Kowalczuk agreed to pay $14 million to resolve allegations against him, according to the docket. On Thursday, Barnes also agreed to pay $25,000 to end allegations against him.

Getty Images has dropped claims against one of the named defendants, and claims are still pending against two of the remaining defendants: Jaysen Moslehi, who was the administrator of the Facebook group, and Jamie Blye, who acted as a runner for Kowalczuk and shared in the proceeds, according to the complaint.

Getty Images was tipped off about the illegal Facebook group in March 2016 and shortly after discovered that Kowalczuk was using the group to sell stolen Getty Images photographs of popular professional sports teams and athletes, the suit said.

Between March and April 2016, Kowalczuk allegedly committed “massive” copyright infringement, downloading more than 3,400 Getty Images photos from its database using stolen login credentials provided by Hebeler, the suit said.

Hebeler had sold Kowalczuk the login credentials using multiple aliases on the site, including “Norm,” “Jerseys4me,” “DaBills24” and “John Peters,” the suit claimed.

Meanwhile, co-conspirators in the Facebook group would select and purchase the stolen photos through Facebook’s private messaging service, referring to the stolen Getty Images photographs using the code word “spaghetti” in an effort to hide their illegal activities. They also shared stolen images from the Associated Press, which they referred to as “apples,” according to the complaint.

The suit notes that Getty Images owns some of its images, but it also serves as a distributor for more than 200,000 artists, photographers and other content suppliers, who retain the copyrights to their images. Getty Images restricts the number of reproductions users can make of an image and how much the reproductions cost, according to the suit.

Counsel and representatives for Getty Images didn’t immediately respond Friday to requests for comment. Hebeler also didn’t immediately respond Friday to requests for comment.

Getty Images is represented by Scott T. Wilsdon, Elizabeth Weinstein and Jeremy E. Roller of Yarmuth Wilsdon PLLC, and Robert E. Chudakoff and Paul R. Harris of Ulmer & Berne LLP.

Hebeler represented himself.

The case is Getty Images Inc. v. Kowalczuk et al., case number 1:16-cv-01400, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.