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    Is It a “Free-for-All”? A Look at the Real Cost of Getty Images’ Recent Announcement

    Written by Anne Marsden on March 11, 2014
    Last week, Getty Images, the world leader in stock photography, made a surprising – and somewhat confusing – announcement. The company, who makes millions each year licensing photography rights to companies and media outlets, announced that it is making some 35 million images available to “non-commercial” users like bloggers and tweeters, free.

    Wow, sounds awesome. How nice of them! But wait – like most things that sound too good to be true, there is some really important fine print.

     

    Here are some key things to know before you rush off to use free Getty images on your blog:

    1. You need to be “non-commercial” to use the database of free images. That means your blog, or website, or Twitter feed, can’t be selling anything. According to Getty Senior Vice President of Business Development, Craig Peters, embedded images will not be allowed in contexts that promote products or businesses.

    2. Free images cannot be used on Facebook or Pinterest.

    3. It’s not a downloadable image file – but an embedded file (and a free link for Getty to your site). It’s easy enough. Search the Getty database for the image you want, select the embed icon, grab the embed code and load it into the HTML on your blog or site.

    4. The image remains hosted on Getty’s site, and with that Getty gains three interesting advantages:
         -Getty gets their branding on your site or post.
         -Getty retains the right to advertise in the space around the image (they get free ad space on your site!)
          -Getty gets to glean valuable usage data by having their site linked to yours. Data that can be mined and sold.

    5. The “free” images have a few key limitations as well:
         -Images cannot be resized
          -Images cannot be edited
         -Images are low resolution (0.17 megapixels)
         -Images cannot be used in a gallery

    So, when the dust settles, it’s clear that Getty is not opening its image coffers in a gesture of Internet goodwill. Rather they are looking for new ways to make money off all the unauthorized uses of their images. For years, us marketing folks have been well acquainted with Getty’s license police and few of us who work with websites and blogs have escaped the dreaded “Getty Letter” insisting that we’ve violated our license and must pay up or face stiff fines and legal action. And while legitimate marketers aren’t seeking to cheat Getty – or its photographers – from fees they deserve, there are countless bloggers and websites that have either knowingly or unwittingly used a rights protected image they found online without paying for it. It is clear that Getty has learned that they cannot win the image rights battle one legal letter at a time. Better to offer “free” images, get great publicity, and find new ways to extend their reach and earn new revenue streams.

    A point of clarification – we asked our Getty account manager if the “non-commercial” restriction excluded blogs like this one from using the free service. She said that we could – as long as we understood the rules and limitations. So we decided to use the service for this post. But we’ll think long and hard before using them in other posts – or recommending them for our clients.

    What do you think – will you embed Getty images in your site or blog – knowing the real costs?

     

    Join the conversation and get even more expert insight and analysis on all things digital marketing by signing up for our blog.


    Topics: B2B Marketing

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