Getty Images makes 35 million images free to use

Nieman Journalism Lab report:

Getty has, remarkably, decided to allow 35 million of its images to be used for free for noncommercial purposes

Superb.

In the past few years, found that its content was “incredibly used” in this manner online, says Peters. “And it’s not used with a watermark; instead it’s typically found on one of our valid licensing customers’ websites or through an image search. What we’re finding is that the vast majority of infringement in this space happen with self publishers who typically don’t know anything about copyright and licensing, and who simply don’t have any budget to support their content needs.”

To solve this problem, Getty Images has chosen an unconventional strategy. “We’re launching the ability to embed our images freely for non-commercial use online,” Peters explains. In essence, anyone will be able to visit Getty Images’ library of content, select an image and copy an embed HTML code to use that image on their own websites. Getty Images will serve the image in a embedded player – very much like YouTube currently does with its videos — which will include the full copyright information and a link back to the image’s dedicated licensing page on the Getty Images website.

So why would they do this?

Getty’s not doing this out of the good of its heart. It recognizes that images on the Internet are treated as de facto public domain by many people on social networks, blogs, and the scummier parts of the content web. It knows it’s highly unlikely to ever get significant money out of any of those people. Even you and I, upstanding Internet citizens, are unlikely to license a photo to tweet it to our followers.

So if it can (a) get some people to use an embed instead of stealing while (b) making the experience just clunky enough that paying customers won’t want to use it, Getty could eke out a net win. (More on that second point below.)

What does Getty get from the embed? Better branding, for one — the Getty name all over the web. Better sharing, for another — if you click the Twitter or Tumblr buttons under the photos, the link goes to Getty, not to the publisher’s site. But there are two other things Getty gets, according to the terms:

Getty Images (or third parties acting on its behalf) may collect data related to use of the Embedded Viewer and embedded Getty Images Content, and reserves the right to place advertisements in the Embedded Viewer or otherwise monetize its use without any compensation to you.

Basically they are developing a new business model around how the Internet works. That’s what smart businesses do.

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