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Easing up on Litigation, Getty Images Goes Free for Non-Commercial Use

by Allison Meier on March 6, 2014

The new Getty image embed feature (courtesy Getty Images)

The new Getty image embed feature (courtesy Getty Images)

Getty Images made a remarkable shift this week from blanketing the internet with ominous copyright infringement letters to offering some 35 million of their images for free non-commercial use. The photo service — the largest in the world — released a new embed images feature that aims to adapt to the changing landscape of image sharing.

It’s not hard to already find free Getty Images — just do a Google Image search and right-click. However, this initiative, which offers image embedding that keeps photographer credit, is an effort to go with the flow of that free use. As senior vice president of business development, product, and content Craig Peters told CNET Australia: “What we’re trying to do is take a behavior that already exists and enable it legally, then try to get some benefits back to the photographer primarily through attribution and linkage.”

Not all of the photographs on Getty Images are free to embed, and those for current news will most likely still need a license fee (that is their source of revenue, after all). But if you now want to share many of their photographs on social media or non-commercial sites, you’re able to click a little social media icon or embed code to do so. Here’s what it looks like when on a site:

It’s much more elegant than the old watermark system and gives some nice clarity of citation. And importantly, has buttons included for further sharing, in theory keeping the loop of dialogue attached with the original source. It will be interesting as this goes forward to see how the photographers themselves react. It will also remain to be seen if the rampant rapid-fire image sharing will be at all a little more credited, especially in a media landscape of “history” picture Twitter accounts that often promote misinformation. Nevertheless, what’s most encouraging is Getty Images backing off with the threats of lawsuits and working more with social media to share in visual culture.

Find all the freely embeddable Getty Images on their site

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