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Getty Images, the world’s largest photo agency, has made 35 million of its images – including pictures of John F Kennedy, Barack Obama and David Beckham – available for free.
In an effort to combat piracy and prevent its images being shared across the internet illegally, the agency’s new embed feature allows blogs and Twitter accounts to embed its images completely free of charge. The photos, which won’t be watermarked, will be embedded using a code that links back to Getty’s website and credits the photographer.
For traditional media sources and big brands it’s a huge blow, and may well threaten their hegemony, but for blogs and Twitter accounts it offers a chance to access some of the world’s leading photography and use it for free – without worrying about getting sued.
Getty said that they chose to make its images free to use because thousands were being used illegally and without attribution on blogs and Twitter accounts like the hugely popular History in Pictures.
Louis Armstrong. Photo by Hervé Gloaguen, 1965. pic.twitter.com/G28FZEw4jt
— History In Pictures (@HistoryInPics) March 7, 2014
“Our content was everywhere already,” said Craig Peters, a business development executive at Getty.
“If you want to get a Getty image today, you can find it without a watermark very simply,” he added.
“The way you do that is you go to one of our customer sites and you right-click. Or you go to Google Image search or Bing Image Search and you get it there. And that’s what’s happening.”
Getty’s decision is redolent to the changes in the music industry over the last 10 years, as businesses such as Spotify and Soundcloud recognised that millions of tracks were being downloaded for free illegally and created a business model that allowed fans to stream music affordably, or for free.
Because the use of Getty’s free images depends on users embedding the code, as if you would a Youtube video or a tweet, the agency has significantly more control over the images. What’s more, in the future they may be able to monetise their images by planting adverts or collecting customer information.
Can commercial blogs use free Getty images?
It seems so, yes.
In the terms and conditions of the Getty Embed, the company says:
“You may only use embedded Getty Images Content for editorial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest). Embedded Getty Images Content may not be used: (a) for any commercial purpose (for example, in advertising, promotions or merchandising) or to suggest endorsement or sponsorship….”
So the images can only be used for “editorial purposes” and can’t be used to explicitly promote a product.
A statement emailed to Geekwire confirmed this:
“Embedded Getty Images content may be used only for editorial, non-commercial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest). If the use promotes a company, product or service, the users will need to purchase a license. If not, they can use the embedded content so long as they are happy to use it in the embed frame and functionality.
The presence of ads on a site doesn’t automatically make use of an embedded image on that site a commercial use. Think about sites like CNN.com or any online newspapers or magazines which support editorial content with site ads. The key attribute in classifying use as commercial is whether the image is used to promote a business, goods or services, or to advertise something.
If not, it is a non-commercial use. Likewise, corporate blogs would be treated as editorial/non-commercial unless the image is directly being used to sell or promote their products or services.”
It seems that, so long as your blog isn’t directly promoting a specific product or service, you can use the image. If you have a blog post masquerading as a sales pitch, you might find yourself contravening Getty’s terms and conditions. But if your blog is editorial and not explicitly selling your company, you’re safe.
Watch this space.