Getty's New Free Stock Photos Come With a Price

Ginny Mineo
Ginny Mineo



It's not fun fighting off lawyers when you thought you were using an image under a fair use clause. Where do you find images if you think you're going to get sued, anyway? Well, now Getty's attempted to make it a little easier to find high-grade stock photos that are legal for most people to use.

As of yesterday, almost all images on Getty will be able to be embedded, for free, on non-commercial sites. They aren't free, however, if you download an image and upload it to your website -- you've got to embed it.

To find images you're allowed to embed, click here and then enter your search terms. Find an image you like, then click on it. The image will pop up in a separate window. If the image can be embedded (not all can), you will see a little button with brackets underneath the photo:


Then a popup comes up with the embed code and a preview of how the image will look on your blog or website:


Copy the code onto your site, and you should be good to go.

(Note: The image will not be responsive. You will have to add custom styling to get it to appear the right size across devices.)

On the surface, this seems like an awesome new development by Getty. In their press release, Jonathan Klein, co-founder and CEO of Getty Images says, "innovation and disruption are the foundation of Getty Images, and we are excited to open up our vast and growing image collection for easy, legal sharing in a new way that benefits our content contributors and partners, and advances our core mission to enable a more visually-rich world."

But is this release really about making the internet a better place?

The Implications of Getty's Embed Tool

From a company that has been ruthless about suing for property rights in the past, it seems like a really sudden and unnatural move. I dove a little deeper into the product release and found two alarming takeaways.

1) You probably won't be able to use it.

If you're running a blog for your company, you most likely fall under a "commercial" property. Think about your typical business blog. While you don't sell things directly on your blog, it does indirectly contribute to your bottom line. If you're an ecommerce site with a blog, the line between legal and illegal becomes even grayer. Because there's a direct monetization path, ecommerce sites might fall into the commercial category.

According to Getty, "the key attribute in classifying use as commercial is whether the image is used to promote a business, goods or services, or to advertise something. If not, it is a non-commercial use." This means that if you're doing inbound marketing of any sort for your company, it may make sense for you to leave these images alone or purchase a full license. No one wants a legal run-in over copyright issues. 

2) If you do use these images, you will be Getty's product.

Getty hasn't come out to say exactly how they're going to monetize ... but however they do it, they'll be selling you. In an article on The Verge, Craig Peters, a business development executive at Getty Images, affirmed, "We've certainly thought about [monetization], whether it's data or it's advertising," though they're not making money with this quite yet. 

The reason they can make money through this is because the code is an iframe. An iframe is a type of code that takes a piece of content that lives on another website and puts it on your site, and the site that hosts the code has complete control over what displays on your site. An example of an iframe embed would be a YouTube video -- you can't control the ads that pop up or related videos after because it's all controlled by YouTube. Because Getty controls the iframe code, they can pretty much do whatever they want with it to track your data outside of accessing your servers or website host.

Brian Krogsgard, Editor of Post Status and Junior Partner at Range, Inc., wrote about the implications of having an iframe in a separate post, and explained the iframe debacle to me over email:

"Any iframe is a completely new and separate document within the web page. If a third party (like Getty Images) controls the URL that is being framed in, then they can change what exists at that URL to include or track the same things that a regular website owner could, within the width and height boundaries defined by the iframe. Since they can embed Javascript within the iframe, they can track just about anything that you already know tools like Google Analytics can track. It’s not any different than iframes for videos or sharing buttons, and they aren’t always bad. But in this instance, people should know what they are allowing if they are going to use it, because you are inserting far more than just an image into your web page."

So these two points don't necessarily mean that you shouldn't use Getty's new embed service -- you just need to know exactly what you're getting into before you copy the code.

If you decide that you're steering clear of Getty's embedded photos, they do have a paid option (we've actually used it for site photos). Or, HubSpot has hundreds of stock photos you can use any time, any place, with no attribution or iframes needed. Just download them, and use them however you like.

What do you think of Getty's "free" stock photos? Would you use them on your site?

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Topics: Images

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