Getty Images, one of the largest sources of stock photos out there, has decided to distribute 35 million of its photos on the web absolutely free. Why? Because the photos were all out there anyway so it just gave up.
What does that mean for us? Well, check out this Beyonce photo I can now use!
As you can see, Getty Images offers its photos as an embed, which gives it more control over its content than it would have if someone just took the photo from somewhere else and posted it. Getty has tried to prevent this in the past by watermarking the images featured on its site, but that didn't stop people from just downloading the photos from somewhere else.
As Getty's senior vice president of business development Craig Peters told The Verge: "Look, if you want to get a Getty image today, you can find it without a watermark very simply ... 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."
Rather than continuing its practice of filing copyright infringement lawsuits or sending out settlement demand letters (often to people like bloggers that didn't have money to give Getty in the first place), Getty Images is giving options to use its photos legally (for non-commercial purposes) and making sure both it and the photographer get proper credit for their work.
This also means that Getty will be able make money from its property in other ways, possibly by placing ads on its embedded images. As Peters told CNET: "Over time there are other monetization options we can look at ... That could be data options, advertising options. If you look at what YouTube has done with their embed capabilities, they are serving ads in conjunction with those videos that are served around the internet."
You might not be paying for the photos, but you aren't making any money from them, either. Professional outlets might balk at the lack of control and possibility of strange ads appearing on their sites and continue to pay for Getty's photos (and the embed comes with its own limitations, as Nieman Lab's Joshua Benton points out), but it's a good deal for bloggers and small sites that don't have the budget for photo rights.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.