Getty Images Decides It's Mostly Better To Compete Than Sue, Frees Up Millions Of Images
from the a-step-in-the-right-direction dept
Getty Images has something of a reputation as a copyright maximalist. The company’s representatives have testified before Congress and pushed for copyright expansion in the past. It’s also well known for filing copyright lawsuits on those it claims illegally used its images. Hell, just a few weeks ago, some were debating if Getty should be described as a copyright troll after filing a flurry of copyright infringement lawsuits.
So it’s fairly big news to find out that Getty is trying to get ahead of the curve by making millions of its photos free for sites to use via an embed code — a la YouTube, Twitter and lots of other sites. Basically, it looks like the company is admitting to reality and adapting (though, apparently freaking out photographers in the process…):
But according to Craig Peters, a business development exec at Getty Images, that ship sailed long ago. “Look, if you want to get a Getty image today, you can find it without a watermark very simply,” he says. “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… Our content was everywhere already.”
“Before there was iTunes, before there was Spotify, people were put in that situation where they were basically forced to do the wrong thing, sharing files,” Peters says. Now, if an aspiring producer wants to leak a song to the web but keep control of it, they can drop it on Soundcloud. Any blog can embed the player, and the artist can disable it whenever they want. And as Google has proved with YouTube, it’s easy to drop ads or “buy here” links into that embed. “We’ve seen what YouTube’s done with monetizing their embed capabilities,” Peters says. “I don’t know if that’s going to be appropriate for us or not.” But as long as the images are being taken as embeds rather than free-floating files, the company will have options.
That sounds positively forward looking for an organization with a history (both long term and recent) of being anything but forward thinking. There are some caveats. It is not all of Getty’s images, as the Verge article linked above implies. It appears that some of the key collections will still be fee-only. And, you can argue that Getty already has some experience in the free stock image game, seeing as it owns iStockphoto which offers up some free options. This is a little different on two fronts. First, most free stock image banks are… well, pretty crappy. The quality just isn’t there. Second, while free stock photo services often let you copy and use the photos, Getty requires this embed, which has some potential issues in that you really don’t know what they might do in the future with that embed — as the quotes above make clear. That may worry some.
There’s also the fact that the company claims that they’re only allowing this for “non-commercial” usage. Now, as we’ve discussed for years the line between commercial and non-commercial is painfully blurry — as it’s possible that almost anything people do can be twisted to argue it’s a commercial use. Thankfully, it appears that Getty is making it clear upfront that it’s taking an extremely (surprisingly) open view on what counts as “non-commercial” noting that any use for “editorial” will be considered non-commercial, even if done by a commercial enterprise, including the NY Times and Buzzfeed:
Blogs that draw revenues from Google Ads will still be able to use the Getty Images embed player at no cost. “We would not consider this commercial use,” says Peters. “The fact today that a website is generating revenue would not limit the use of the embed. What would limit that use is if they used our imagery to promote a service, a product or their business. They would need to get a license.” A spokeswoman for Getty Images confirms to BJP that editorial websites, from The New York Times to Buzzfeed, will also be able to use the embed feature as long as images are used in an editorial context.
At the same time, the company admits that it’s not dropping its lawsuit strategy, and will continue to sue those it feels go too far, which may make things a little dicey for some users. Hopefully, the company will be as explicit in its official terms that embedding for editorial purposes will always be deemed legit.
While we’re a little wary of Getty given some of its past actions, the company should be applauded for actually recognizing reality, and trying to adapt accordingly, recognizing how it might better serve people who otherwise would automatically go somewhere else.
Not too long ago, we had actually explored various stock photography offerings that were out there, even talking to Getty about its program (which was insanely expensive). Instead, we decided to focus on situations where Creative Commons images and/or fair use situations would work best. However, with this move, we may take another look at Getty for our own image needs.