Getty Images has been diligent in retaining the rights to the photos in their online library. The company has spent a decade protecting its watermarked images from being lifted and used on the Internet. While the company has always charged for the use of their photos, the images have been used anyway, usually either taken from customers websites or through Google images. Taking the images was as simple as a right-click of the mouse and saving it to use it somewhere else.
Though they have been persistent in sending out letters of violation and have been to court a handful of times to protect the copyright of their images, they now realize that they are fighting a losing battle. Craig Peters, a business development executive at Getty Images, said that the copyrighted images were being used without permission. It has gotten to the point, however, that they cannot go after the huge number of people who violate their terms. They cannot sue everyone and their images are all over the Internet. Instead of continuing the battle, Getty Images has decided to change their business model.
Getty Images is now offering free photos. Consumers can go to their website and use an embedding feature to legally share the photos. This will reportedly create a new stream of income for the company, kick some money back to the photographers and make it easier for consumers to the share the images.
The 35 million images in Getty’s catalog are now free for commercial use. They are for use on social media sites, websites and blogs. All users have to do is click on the embed icon to get the code and copy it into the coding section of their website for the photo to be displayed. There are some exceptions, however. Not all images are free to embed and they are still not intended for use in advertisements or promotional materials.
The embedding feature works similar to YouTube’s sharing feature. “We’ve seen what YouTube’s done with monetizing their embed capabilities,” Peters said. Getty Images hopes to replicate that and make the best out of the situation. The company is able to use embed to place ads and collect data from users in the future, while providing a way to track who is using their photos and for what.
The problem with embeds, as many have found with YouTube videos, is that the content can be deleted without notice, leaving a broken link, or in the case of a photo, a gaping hole.
Thanks to digital licensing, Getty Images has remained profitable, claiming a $100 million increase in profit between 2007 and 2011. They entered an agreement with Pinterest in October, which is also drawing in revenue. The hardest hit has been to the photographers. Payments have decreased, becoming attractive mostly to freelancers and starving artists.
After having photos stolen for close to a decade, Getty Images will now use an embed feature that allows consumers to use the photos for free, gives photographers credit for their work and provides a link back to the Getty website. The new strategy will help avoid copyright litigation and make image usage easier for consumers.
By Tracy Rose