In an effort to battle online piracy, Getty Images, which is the world’s largest photo agency, has decided to allow free access for over 35 million images in their collection. This would include all sorts of images such as celebrity shots, stock photographs, nature images, and pictures of sporting events. What is not covered in this free collection is recent photojournalism, which will still require a subscription payment from media companies. This move has the potential of changing the way high quality images are shared on the internet.
Just like Flickr did before, Getty is releasing these pictures with a digital embed feature tool. This would be an easy and convenient way to distribute such photographs for non commercial use. Using this tool would also be free of cost. Fickr already has a partnership with Getty to sell stock photography. Getty’s new move has its fair share of detractors and supporters. With so much of its licensed content already being shared illegally, some have viewed this move as one of resignation. Already millions of users across the world have access to many non watermarked Getty photographs. They are easy to find with a Google or Bing Image search and the original photographers not only fail to get any compensation, nor any accreditation.
With the embed tool all of these issues are seamlessly solved. Each free photograph carries a Getty Image logo and the name of the photographer appears to the bottom of the logo more prominently than the copyrighted images, which are not free. In addition, these pictures can be shared on various social media sites like Tumblr and Twitter. All such images carry a link back to the licensing page, for those publishers who need such services. In many respects the embed tool works a lot like Youtube where users copy and paste code.
There are some important caveats with this new model. Users will not be able to resize these images and downloads are not permissable. In addition, photographers whose images have been selected for this free distribution system have no way of opting out. Understandably this new move by the company has irked many professional photographers whose work may never be sold commercially and likewise they may have to relinquish any prospective future earnings for these photographs .
However, if thousands of commissioned photographers from Getty Images do not earn any money, it goes without saying that the company will also lose revenues. With the blatant amount of piracy already taking place, there has been a serious loss of revenue for both the agency and for its photographers. In this regard this new system might not cause any more financial harm than the loss of revenues already taking place. Rather by giving anyone, from the publisher of a small blog to a major online publisher that earns ad revenue free access to so many images, the company might have a solid plan for the future. The 35 million or so free pictures from Getty Images are not essentially a giveaway because they give the company a chance to collect data on users in ways that it couldn’t before and like Youtube, the embed tool may soon start displaying advertisements. This was a source of revenue that was previously unavailable to Getty Images and with a revenue sharing system it could benefit the many photographers that work with this agency.
By Unni K. Nair