Sunday, March 16, 2014

Getty Images Free Photos With A Catch!

Sea monster tentacles reach out of a computer monitor attempting to snare a businessman seated at his computer.
Getty Images' new embed program offers free photos but with a catch!

Getty Images “Embed” Program
I have had a number of requests to comment on Getty’s “Embed Program”, and while I am no expert, I will at least share a few thoughts. The gist of the program is that people are now free to use most of the photos handled by Getty Images for non-commercial use by using provided embed code. The photos remain on the Getty servers (an important aspect as we shall see).

Getty, ShutterStock And Perceived Value
Who knows what all is behind this decision, but I think a big part of it may be motivated by Getty’s need to increase it’s perceived value to investors. The Carlyle Group paid over 3 billion dollars for Getty just to see Getty’s market share continually loose ground to ShutterStock. From what I hear, the only way for the Carlyle group to get their money back (let alone make a profit) is to take Getty public, and for that to happen Getty has to look good to investors. This program takes Getty beyond just selling stock and into the realms of advertising media, target advertising and data mining.

Getty, Data Mining, And Targeted Advertising
Getty, through this program, will have the ability to track the images putting them into the “Data Mining” business. They can also push out advertising into the images an ability that puts them into the business of selling advertising…specifically targeted advertising. Obviously this business model looks a lot more promising to investors than just selling stock photos does. It is  also important to realize that with the push of a button Getty Images can delete all those images from where ever they have been embedded, or even switch the photos!

Logos, Credit Lines And Image Theft
Some of the problems I am hearing about the program seem pretty legitimate. The pictures cannot be resized and come with a pretty large Getty logo and credit lines. It seems to me that bloggers and others who are used to stealing images will just keep on doing that. It is still easier to do a right click and steal the image…and by stealing the photos instead of using the embed code, the infringer has the ability to resize the images, avoid being tracked by Getty, and avoid having to display Getty logos and credit lines. There is also the unpleasant possibility that Getty could eliminate the photos showing up that would then leave broken links on the user’s site…not pretty! In fact, I had planned to use the Getty imbed code on one of my own images for this blog, but I realized that using a photo that way would not be as good for my own blog traffic as using an image that I in fact host. Kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

Non-Commercial Use Licenses
I personally would much rather that Getty offer “Non Commercial Use” licenses for small fees in the neighborhood of a dollar or so, and only for RF images, something like what apple has done for music. That would reinforce the idea that images are meant to be paid for and to add at least some revenue to photographer’s pockets!

Revenue Sharing
Yes, if Getty manages to get revenue through pushing ads out onto embedded content we photographers get to share in that, and from what I can understand it will be at the same royalty rates indicated in our contracts (disclaimer…I am not a lawyer and that is just my opinion). However, I really can’t see that amount being significant for individual photographers. Then there is the question of whether photographers would share in the revenue made by Getty if they sell the results of their data mining.

Impact On Photographers
In fact, I can’t really see how this development has much impact at all on photographers. Everyone is already stealing our images like crazy with little or no consequences, and I can’t see why anyone would use the Getty embed program.  My biggest takeaway is that it is one more step in the perception of photography being free for anyone to steal and use as they wish.

Links To More Information:

Sean Locke has a very in depth analysis.

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