Getty trying a different tact


Caption: The image above is embeddable. You can also tweet the image or post it to Tumblr.

Caption: The image above is embeddable. You can also tweet the image or post it to Tumblr.

oon yeohBy Oon Yeoh

Getty Images, the largest stock photo company in the world, has long fought Internet piracy. Like other digital content companies, it had pursued the legal route to combatting the unauthorised usage of its images.

And like other digital content companies, which include music and video publishers, it has found out the hard way just how hard it is to win that battle.

Instead of pursuing a failed strategy it is now changing its tactics.

In early March it announced a new policy that earned it plenty of headlines in the tech press. In a surprise move, Getty began allowing many of its images – some 35 million of them – to be embedded on websites and blogs for free provided they are for editorial and non-commercial use.

The embedded images do not even contain watermarks. What they do feature, though, are photographer attribution and a link back to the Getty Images site, where those images can be licensed for commercial use.

It’s worth mentioning that this policy is not applicable to all of the images in Getty’s massive archive, which contains more than 150 million images. Nevertheless, there are still plenty to choose from.

To find out if the image you are interested in happens to be embeddable, look for the embed code underneath the image.

If an image is not embeddable, it will have no embed icons. For such images, the only legal way to use them is to pay the licensing fee.

The image above has no embed code so you’re out of luck if you wish to use this image for free.

The image above has no embed code so you’re out of luck if you wish to use this image for free.

What made Getty do this? Obviously the company realised that a new way of combatting piracy had to be found. By providing people with a free option – albeit with certain conditions – it is removing the incentive for people to violate copyright. Why do so when you can use the image for free right?

Craig Peters, senior vice president of business development, product and content at Getty, views the situation photography is in right now as being similar to that faced by the music industry before iTunes came along and gave people a legal way to download music.

It’s obvious that people are going to continue to post images they like on social media and blogs. That behaviour is not going to change and if anything, it will increase as the Internet penetration rates increases around the world. Getty has decided to give them a legal means to do so.

“What we’re trying to do is take a behaviour that already exists and enable it legally, then try to get some benefits back to the photographer primarily through attribution and linkage,” Peters told CNET.

Besides the attribution and linkage, there are two other potential benefits for the company. For one thing, Getty has the option to display advertising through the embed player much like how YouTube plays ad clips. For another, Getty also gets an insight into how its photos are being used by people and also how they are being viewed. This is business intelligence that is invaluable.

Getty is not the first digital content company to offer netizens the right to embed its content.

YouTube has been doing that for years. So, it’s hardly a new innovation. But it is a practical move that encourages users to do the right thing, which is to embed the pictures (complete with attribution and link-backs) than to simply download and use them illegally. It is a smart way to deal with the havoc that the Internet has wreaked on the digital content industry.


Oon Yeoh is a new media consultant.


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