Getty goes free, decriminalizes photo sharing with new image embed feature

by Felix Esser

posted Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 1:42 PM EST

Piracy is a big and oft-used word these days, especially when it comes to the internet. Another word often used in conjunction with 'piracy' is 'intellectual property.' If you're making a living from creative work such as photography, music, or similar art forms, then seeing your work being used without your consent, without proper attribution, or even without payment is understandably a nuisance.

In the past, Getty took the approach of trying to combat use of its copyrighted work, investing lots of resources into tracking down the so-called 'pirates' –  people using and spreading the creative work of others without their consent. But let's be honest, the idea of trying to prevent everyone on the web from using their work was pretty tiresome.

There is another way to approach the matter, though. Rather than fight users desire to share their content, many organizations have legitimized the practice using intuitive embed widgets for sharing across the web. See an Instagram shot you love? Notice a funny YouTube video? Copy the embed code and share it freely. Companies adopting the practice gain potential ad revenue and broad exposure, while saving on enforcement costs. 

This is exactly what Getty Images has decided to do. The stock agency's new strategy is to embrace the fact that its images are shared throughout the internet, and actively support and facilitate the practice, effectively decriminalizing the use of its stock photos. A broad swath of Getty Images' stock can now be shared via social media and embedded into blogs and websites using the new embedding function the agency is offering for each of its photographs. This has three positive effects at once.

  • First, it allows Getty Images to track the use of its images to exert a certain amount of control over how the images spread on the internet
  • Second, it theoretically offers the possibility to monetize its content by placing ads in the embedding containers.
  • Finally, it opens up the world of stock imagery to many non-commercial blogs and websites that don't have a budget for licensing images, which in return also means that the name 'Getty Images' gets spread even further, attracting potential new customers.
Getty Images' new embedding function for non-commercial use.

Now of course the question arises: what exactly does 'non-commercial use' mean to Getty Images? First and foremost, 'commercial' means that an image is used to generate profit by promoting a company, a product, or a service. So technically, non-commercial would be everything else. And in fact, Getty doesn't even consider the use on blogs and websites that generate profit through ads as commercial, as long as the images aren't used the way described above. So in theory, even major news outlets such as the New York Times could use Getty Images' embed code – legally.

However, if you want to use the agency's images on their own, without the embedding container that displays the name of the photographer and links back to Getty Images' website, then you'd still have to acquire a proper licence.

At the current time, it appears that the majority of the library is exempt from the program. We know for a fact that series like Reportage by Getty Images and Contour by Getty Images collections aren't included, nor is Agence France-Presse's content.

Limitated selection aside, this is a very clever move by Getty Images, because it not only saves the agency a lot of money and resource that it's not spending on fighting piracy, but because it helps spread the company's name, decriminalizes the use of its content, opens up its stock photographs to a vast number of users, and finally because Getty Images will stay in control of how its content is used and whether it generates extra profit for the agency by the use of ads in the embedding containers. 

(via The Verge and British Journal of Photography)

Now, just because we can, here are some photos of puppies. Thanks Getty!

And a sloth, just because.