what i learned from being sued this christmas

What I Learned From Being Sued This Christmas

Sarah and I got to spend Christmas with my family this year.

It was the first time in 6 years for me and I had such a great time! As a huge bonus we got to see many good friends we had been sorely missing since moving to Ireland as well.

Oh yeah, and we were also sued for almost a fifth of our yearly income!

what i learned from being sued this christmas

One evening we visited our close friend Alex (who did the cover for my eBook) who happens to live at our old apartment, given how quickly we had up and left the country in September we weren’t too surprised to find he had some mail for us.

It was the usual junk, a couple of bank statements, a survey request, a letter from the tax man and a letter from Getty Images.

Getty Images. Hmm… I vaguely recognise the name but why were they writing to me?

I did what all people would do – instead of waiting to open the letter when I got home so I could enjoy the evening with our friends – I ripped it open and skimmed through it.

My heart sank.

I often use images to supplement my blog posts. To find these images I use royalty-free search engines to find photos that are free to use. However, it turns out I had ended up using two images which, unknown to me, belonged to Getty Images. These images were royalty-free but apparently for a few reasons they were still subject to copyright (honestly I have no idea how it all works!)

Long story short: These images had been on my website for roughly one year and Getty Images were demanding I pay £900 ($1450) each for having used them and remove them from the site immediately!

What was I to do?

I immediately grabbed my phone and started to research the topic. Despite the fact we were supposed to be enjoying a rare evening with some close friends.

I found out that this was a very common thing, there were literally thousands of people who had been sued by Getty Images. It wasn’t something I could ignore (people who did found themselves in court) but it did seem that most people seemed to be able to settle for less than the initial demand – usually around 50% less.

I ran over to Alex’s computer and deleted the images from the website. You might have noticed there are a lot of images missing from the website presently, that’s because I actually removed all the images on the website I didn’t personally make. I figured if I could make this mistake with Getty Images who is to say I hadn’t made the same mistake with another company.

Anyway, all this to say, as you can imagine it really put a dampener on my evening!

In fact I was perfectly miserable the whole night!

I had just done our tax return for the year and at my calculation even at 50% of what they were asking we were looking at around a tenth of our yearly income gone up in smoke over a simple mistake!

The next day I sent them a friendly email explaining 4 primary things:

  • I was sorry
  • I had been unaware of the copyright but understood that did not absolve me from breaching it
  • I had removed the images immediately upon receiving the letter
  • My wife and I simply could not afford what they are asking

I asked if they would be willing to renegotiate on the settlement cost considering the above.

It was then a waiting game to see what they would say.

Looking back on the experience there were a few key things which were really hammered home for me.

1. Be present in the moment

When Alex handed me the mail I didn’t need to open it.

In fact opening the mail ruined my night in many ways. There was nothing I could do about it till the morning. I gained nothing from doing it and lost a chunk of my precious evening, with good friends who I rarely get to see.

If I’m honest with myself – this is something I’m really guilty of.

How often do I “quickly” check my email only to find I have an “urgent” or unpleasant email. My one minute checking emails then causes me to check out of what I’m doing mentally for much longer!

Anyway – it was a good reminder to be present in the moment and not let little things distract me, because often they end up being a much bigger distraction than they initially seem.

2. You are never earning too little to save!

For many years I didn’t save money, “I’ll do that when I can afford to” was my mantra. Now I earn less than 20% of what I used to and I sure wish I’d saved! No matter what your income is, you should be saving if only to create a buffer between you and life.

If you haven’t come across Dave Ramsey I can only assume you live under a rock somewhere. He has written 3 New York Times Bestsellers which help people with their finances! He has a daily radio show listened to by millions where he gives advice on how to handle finances in a Biblical way.

Sarah and I read through his stuff the week after we got married and it’s changed our lives financially. Despite us having very little income, using Dave’s advise we had a small “emergency fund” (he recommends initially regardless of income saving $1000). Before I had any savings this unforeseen event would definitely had me reaching for a credit card and going into debt. Now I could pay for it using our emergency fund and continue on planning for the future rather than worrying about how to deal with past mistakes.

If you aren’t completely debt free, with 3-6 months expenses in savings and a robust retirement plan then I highly recommend you check out Dave’s book Total Money Makeover as he will help you work towards all of the above and more, regardless of your income!

3. Wallowing in self-pity is never helpful

I struggled with depression and negativity for a decade. I’ve learned to watch myself for the temptation to enter into old habits when bad things happen.

It’s OK to be upset or discouraged by negative things temporarily but what we choose to do next is extremely important.

We can choose to be positive about how things will turn out or we can stay negative and throw a little pity-party. This is when we head from sadness into depression. It’s where an event runs the risk of fuelling a lifestyle.

My wife knows me well and can spot when I’m not doing a good job maintaining good mindsets. As soon as she saw I was letting the situation get the better of me she walked over, sat next to me and said “Lets get excited to see how God turns this around for good”.

Honestly I wasn’t overly happy about that – I was already enjoying my trip down to Negativity Town and she clearly didn’t understand that this was the end of the world!

But on the other hand it gave me a wake up call.

I had to ask myself, was I going to let my emotions rule me? Or was I going to acknowledge those emotions as real and important and move on embracing the truth – of course God will turn this around for good!

Self-Pity is NEVER your friend.

4. Worry is putting your faith in something that most likely won’t even happen.

  • Hope is to confidently expect that something good will happen.
  • Worry is to confidently expect that something bad will happen.

People often say hope is just wishful thinking.

The truth is though that worry is the same… the only difference is that your wish sucks.

The problem we have is that we seem to have put a lot of effort into developing a habit of worrying.

We need to re-train our minds to confidently expect good to happen. Like Sarah said to me… we need to get excited to see how God turns things around for good.

5. Things are rarely as bad as they seem at first

While there are times things are as bad as they seem or even worse, truth be told, most of the time things are rarely as bad as they initially seem.

When I think back on the various things I get upset/worried/negative about in life very rarely are things remotely as bad as I had imagined them. In fact, most of the time (shock horror) God turns them around for good as He promises. Even when it doesn’t seem He’s done so, I’m sure in due course I will see His hand working things together.

This situation was a great reminder of this truth especially.

I finally got an email back 5 days later from Getty Images that made me very happy. They were willing to give me an 80% reduction on the settlement.

Anyway – those where 5 lessons I learned from a bad situation that happened to me this Christmas.

My question to you is – What is something that you’ve learned recently through a negative experience that has changed your life for the better?

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  1. Wow. This post shook me up a little. Now I’m a little nervous about using photos on my site (even after using searches with CC and giving proper photo credit. How should one go about making sure that I don’t infringe on any copyrights? I mainly grab from Flicker and then read the copyright fineprint about what they specify for usage on the net. If I follow that, am I not vulnerable from a suit as you were? Eek!

    Also, great advice you’ve learned out of this. Thanks for walking this out so well so that we could get your gold.


    • Hi Alison,

      It sounds to me like you should be fine especially as you read the fine print to check exactly what they require. This is probably where I made my error in not reading the fine print. I wouldn’t worry too much!

      Glad you enjoyed the things I learned :) Thanks for the message.

  2. One of the best books I’ve read is called “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work” by Shawn Achor .

    One of his seven principles is something called Counterpoint, and he gives this illustration. Suppose you are standing in line at a bank and a masked gunman breaks in a fires off one shot from a gun and hits you in the arm. The next day when you are recalling this story, do you consider it a lucky event or an unlucky event? Roughly 80% of his audience considered it unlucky and 20% lucky. Those that considered it unlucky said things like “I entered whole and left in pain on a stretcher with a hole in my arm.” Or “There were many more people in the bank more deserving of being shot than me.” Those that considered it lucky said things like, “It could have killed me! It’s lucky it only hit me in the arm.” Or “There were women and children in that bank that could have been hurt. It’s lucky that I got shot instead of them.”
    The thing that is common to both however is the counterpoint. A counterpoint is view of a situation that we compare our actual situation against. In the case of the unlucky viewpoint, the counterpoint was a view where they did not get shot. In the case of the lucky view, it was a perspective where far worse things could have happened. In both scenarios, however, the counterpoint is completely made up. It’s not real. It only exists within our imaginations. Since it is our imagination, we have complete control over the things we imagine. So if you train yourself to view things from the “lucky” counterpoint, you will be happier.

    Be blessed,

    • Hi Scott – Thanks so much for sharing that… that is so true and I’ve never thought of it that way.

      God help us have your perspective and understand just how much you are working in our lives and how “lucky” we are!

      Bless you bro!

  3. Thank you for those words. They were very helpful for my present situation and mindset. I didn’t realize you suffered from depression in the past. I’d like to hear more about that experience.

    • Hi Cheresa – Glad you found this helpful. I’m planning on doing a few different things about my past and my journey out of depression. Watch this space! :) In the mean time you might like my latest podcast phildrysdale.com/010

  4. For many reasons – thank you for sharing Phil. I am writing a book & knew I’d have to address this but your article caused me to start informing myself now. Egad! Some things I thought were “public domain” are not. Some of the ways infringement is defined or prosecuted are grey & not absolute. That led me to concern like Ali above. I gathered some info but there is SO MUCH it felt overwhelming & I see how everyday people violate copyrights on Facebook – or maybe they don’t – I’m uncertain. Egad! Do you know the “rules” for “sharing” on Facebook? Blogs? Citing quotes by people? I’m just gaining my “voice” & the fear wants to shut me up – therefore I am choosing to gather information. Can you help with info or a resource?

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