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Free Getty photos?! Well, kind of…

Free images from stock-photo giant Getty Images? Well, sort of…

Last week Getty unveiled a first-of-it-kind “Embedded Viewer” tool which will allow a huge portion of it’s library to be used for free on non-commercial websites (blogs, Tumblr pages, Twitter, etc.). Yes, for free. Wait, don’t get too excited. These images (now counted at 35 million) are only available for very specific uses – they cannot be used for advertising, can only be used online, and cannot be manipulated in any way (i.e. – cropped, resized, etc.). They will always be accompanied by a large Getty logo, photographer name, and a link to license the image (see our example above). Not great if you’re looking to incorporate into a slick new design.

Why would Getty do this? First, they are significantly increasing their footprint across the web – their logo will literally be everywhere. Second, they are trying to take back control of an internet that has become like the Napster of music before iTunes put everyone in line. For years, there have been increasing numbers of images ripped off the web using the (illegal) right-click-and-save method, particularly on social sharing sites. Once  those images are out there, Getty has no control over them, and their photographers receive no royalties. Through the Embedded Viewer tool, Getty will now retain control and have the ability to track these photos, and they hope, open a new revenue stream for their photographers by including a link to a broader license. They can also collect data related to these images and embed ads in them if they choose to.

Having worked with many professional photographers in a past life at a stock photo agency, I’ve seen how less than copyright-consious users take a very real chunk out of their livelihoods. Hopefully this bold new model will encourage those same users to act more responsibly. Photographers know that in the age of the internet, they need to adapt in order to stay relevant. Hopefully Getty has just changed the game.