Getty Images, one of the big players in image licensing, recently announced that it allows free embedding of about 35 million pictures in its database. “Free” in the sense that you do not need to pay a licence-fee to Getty to use the images. But, really free? No. There are a few catches. But first, how does embedding a picture work?
How does it work?
It is really simple. You can search Getty’s database and click on the embed-button (“</>”) when you find a picture that you would like to use. You are then presented with a small piece of HTML-code that you can copy and paste into your website’s code. Below you find an example of an embedded picture. A nice pic of an early morning in the Italian Alps, made by Giorgio Fochesato, clearly sponsored by “gettyimages”:
In an article in the British Journal of Photography, Getty’s policy change towards free non-commercial use is explained by Craig Peters, senior vice president of business development:
“We’re really starting to see the extent of online infringement. […] In essence, everybody today is a publisher thanks to social media and self-publishing platforms. And it’s incredibly easy to find content online and simply right-click to utilise it.”
Getty’s solution is an embed-tool that enables to freely embed Getty images for non-commercial purposes. That of course seems like great news for bloggers and others that want to spice up their websites with nice pictures. Honestly, this blog looks a lot better with pictures on it, doesn’t it?
The conditions for use
The conditions for use of Getty’s images can be found in Getty’s terms. Images may only be used “for editorial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest).”
Images may not be used “(a) for any commercial purpose (for example, in advertising, promotions or merchandising) or to suggest endorsement or sponsorship; (b) in violation of any stated restriction; (c) in a defamatory, pornographic or otherwise unlawful manner; or (d) outside of the context of the Embedded Viewer.”
What is commercial use?
Commercial use seems the be most important bar to use of Getty’s images. The difficulty is of course: how does one define commercial use in this context? Is use on a blog that generates some revenue through advertising commercial use? And what about a big news website? According to Getty Images, both parties would be allowed to freely embed pictures:
“Blogs that draw revenues from Google Ads will still be able to use the Getty Images embed player at no cost. “We would not consider this commercial use,” says Peters. “The fact today that a website is generating revenue would not limit the use of the embed. What would limit that use is if they used our imagery to promote a service, a product or their business. They would need to get a license.” A spokeswoman for Getty Images confirms to BJP that editorial websites, from The New York Times to Buzzfeed, will also be able to use the embed feature as long as images are used in an editorial context.”
Getty thus seems to allow everyone who writes in an “editorial context” to use the Getty images. That is quite revolutionary!
Where is the catch?
Well, there are a few catches. When you embed a picture, you literately import a webpage stored at Getty’s servers into your own webpage. In essence, this means that Getty stays in control over its content. If Getty changes anything to these picture-pages, your webpage automatically changes too. For instance, in its terms, Getty reserves the right to “in its sole discretion to remove Getty Images Content from the Embedded Viewer.” Getty may thus remove pictures from your webpage without you even noticing it.
Getty does not only stay in control of its own content, it also gains control over the content on your webpage. From Getty’s 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.”
By embedding Getty’s pictures, you allow Getty to display advertisements on the embedded part in your webpage. And worse, Getty may “monetize” use of the embed-tool, which of course predicts little about what Getty will actualy put on your site. While, as of now there may be no advertisements on top or around embedded pictures, there may be in the near future:
“Getty Images will also look to draw additional revenues from its player through advertising. “We reserve the right to monetise that footprint,” Peters explains. “YouTube implemented a very similar capability, which allows people to embed videos on a website, with the company generating revenue by serving advertising on that video.” And while Getty Images has yet to determine how these ads will appear, Peters is confident that this capability will be introduced in the near future.”