You Will Be Very Successful…Embed!

You couldn’t help but notice Getty Images* all over the news last week. Well, maybe you could, but I couldn’t. News outlets large and small reported on what could be the biggest story of the year in the stock photography and digital media business. For the first time in history, industry leader Getty Images has said it is OK to use its images for free – under certain conditions.

This is huge! Essentially acknowledging that it’s very difficult to control content such as imagery once it gets online, and that folks are going to use images illegally (knowingly and unknowingly), Getty has devised a compromise of sorts. If all you want to do is drop a cool photo into your blog or non-commercial website, for example, you can now choose from a (huge) subset of Getty’s collection of images. You can’t just run off with it, though. The rule is, you have to use a special “embed” code that Getty provides. But I think that’s a small price to pay when the alternative is to either pay for the image or risk getting busted for copyright infringement.

“Innovation and disruption are the foundation of Getty Images, and we are excited to open up our vast and growing image collection for easy, legal sharing in a new way that benefits our content contributors and partners, and advances our core mission to enable a more visually-rich world,” said Getty Images CEO and co-founder Jonathan Klein in a press statement.

Here’s how it works. When you find an image you like on the website, click on it to bring up a new window with the full image details. Then look under the image for the embed icon (</>). It if has one, you can steal, er, I mean use this image!

Follow these simple steps:

  1. Click an image’s embed icon(</>) from the search results or image detail page.
  2. In the embed window, copy the embed code.
  3. Paste the HTML code you copied into the source code of a website or blog where you want this image to appear.

Here’s one of my images with the embed icon below it (to the right of the Twitter and Tumblr icons).

Example of Getty Images Embed Feature

Example of Getty Images Embed Feature

If you were to post this embed code in a blog or website, here’s what it would look like, complete with the Getty logo, photo credit, and Getty collection name:

Note that it does not include a watermark – the credit is below the image.

Reaction, as always with complex issues such as these, is mixed. Trolling through the contributor forums I see some people are concerned that this condones or enables copyright infringement, or that photographers will lose sales as a result.

To the first point, I think a lot of infringers are honestly unaware of the details of copyright law. Having studied the subject myself, I can attest to the fact that it is quite complicated. And the stock photography industry itself doesn’t help, either. What are people supposed to think when they see that an image is “royalty free”. (Hint: it’s not free.) I’m hoping that, if anything, the embed feature will help to highlight the fact that you can’t legally just grab and use any image you find out there without permission.

But for those who know better and still think that anything online is fair game, it’s really no different from emptying a malfunctioning vending machine of its contents, as some of my fellow students would occasionally do in grade school. They’re going to do whatever they can get away with, and that’s why Getty will always have to have an Unauthorized Use team ready to track them down. And trust me, you don’t want to mess with these people!

To the second point, as a photographer and contributor to Getty Images, I really don’t think I’m going to lose any sales over this. “Bob’s Really Cool Blog” is not going to shell out any cash just to decorate his blog with my images. It’s just not going to happen. I know who buys my images, and they’re real end-user companies that you would recognize and real ad agencies representing these sorts of companies. There are no John Doe license buyers in the list.

So what about these traditional image buyers? Will they stop buying licenses and instead use the embed feature? Absolutely not. For one thing, it won’t work with print or other offline media. As for online media, the last thing they want is for users to click through to another website (Getty Images, in this case) when their readers interact with the image. And they certainly won’t want the photo credit and perhaps ads that come with the deal. So no, I’m not concerned about losing sales.

To read what the media has to say about this new feature, check out these links:

So if you have your own website or blog and need the occasional awesome image to help illustrate a point, try the new Getty Images embed feature.

Like it says in the fortune cookie: “You will be very successful…embed!”.

* Full disclosure: I am both and employee of and a contributor of images to Getty Images.

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