Is almost impossible to protect copyrighted work these days - it's just too easy for people to copy what you produced, and you don't have time to chase down everyone who violates your copyrights. Yes, we live in a world of imitators, content thieves, and copyright violators. It appears to be human nature, and no matter how hard we try we cannot overcome this, and we certainly can't do it online or in the digital age. Yes, those that have intellectual property are doing everything they can to lobby Congress to make new laws, but those who would violate such laws always seem to find a way around them.
Interestingly enough, despite all this content theft there was a very interesting article in the Wall Street Journal on August 16, 2012 titled; "Carlyle Group Sets Deal to Buy Getty Images," by Sheron Terlep and Ryan Dezember, which made me consider there will be future cyber laws coming down the pike. Based on this, and realizing the lobbying power of the Carlyle Group, I would assume that they have figured out a way to protect themselves from people stealing their content, thus I anticipate a future cyber law to be enacted soon.
Was this a good purchase and a wise choice? Well, it quite possibly could be if much of the Internet in the United States ends up in the cloud, and those with copyrights are able to demand that the cloud run search algorithms to find stolen intellectual property, and levy a fine, or a fee for the use of that property, or cut services for the individual or company violating the copyright. Meaning the company could lose all their data and be barred from access until they pay up. That is one possibility, I'm sure you can think of others.
When it comes to online digital pictures, often they are encoded much like a watermark with a specific code, anyone copying the picture also copies the code, and therefore they are automatically caught any time someone searches that code. This is good for digital photographers, artists, and for the owners of digital content. Remember that Getty Images has an inventory like no other, and in the new scheme of things in the next generation there may be quite a bit fewer copyright violations, and those who do violate the rules will have to pay up.
This will cause others to not violate such rules, meaning more people will have to purchase the images they use, and that would include everyone from the mainstream media on down to the lowly blogger. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.