You can use Getty Images for free, sort of

The Wall Street Journal | The Verge | BBC | Nieman Lab

The “sort of” is you’re using Twitter, Tumblr or “non-commercial WordPress blogs,” Georgia Wells reported in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday after Getty Images announced they’d make a whole lot of images available for free.

On Wednesday, the company unveiled the embed tool, which will allow users to include images on websites, such as non-commercial WordPress blogs. The eligible images also come with buttons for Tumblr and Twitter, where a link to the image can be shared. (The image itself doesn’t appear on Twitter, however.)

Poynter is a nonprofit, and we do use WordPress. But we do sell ads against our content. So I think it’s OK that I pulled this shot this morning, because, well, look at that guy.



Russell Brandom reported on the whys of the announcement Wednesday for The Verge, and, he wrote, Getty’s not giving something for nothing.

The new embeds strike directly at that kind of social sharing, with native code for sharing in Twitter and Tumblr alongside the traditional WordPress-friendly embed code. (Craig) Peters’ (of Getty Images) bet is that if web publishers have a legal, free path to use the images, they’ll take it, opening up a new revenue stream for Getty and photographers.

The new money comes because, once the images are embedded, Getty has much more control over the images. The new embeds are built on the same iframe code that lets you embed a tweet or a YouTube video, which means the company can use embeds to plant ads or collect user information.

And there are exceptions, the BBC reported Thursday, “primarily editorial photos of events such as the 11 September terrorist attacks on America or the protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.”

So can news sites use these? They already embed tweets, Storifys and YouTube videos. Most organizations can make use of the images for Twitter and their Tumblr sites, which are certainly key ways they distribute their content. Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton wrote Wednesday that, editorially, the images are limited. And there’s some murky space around “non-commercial.”

In order to get to that kind of scale, Getty allows “noncommercial” use. But the Internet has never been able to decide what “noncommercial” really means. If you’re selling a photo for profit, sure, that’s commercial. If you’re using it in an ad for your product, sure, that’s commercial. But what if you’re using it on a website that has ads — is that enough? Or how about if you’re a freelancer and you’re using it on a site meant to promote your career — is that commercial?

Benton also includes part of Getty’s terms of service.

Embedded Viewer
Where enabled, you may embed Getty Images Content on a website, blog or social media platform using the embedded viewer (the “Embedded Viewer”). Not all Getty Images Content will be available for embedded use, and availability may change without notice. Getty Images reserves the right in its sole discretion to remove Getty Images Content from the Embedded Viewer. Upon request, you agree to take prompt action to stop using the Embedded Viewer and/or Getty Images Content. You may only use embedded Getty Images Content for editorial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest). Embedded Getty Images Content may not be used: (a) for any commercial purpose (for example, in advertising, promotions or merchandising) or to suggest endorsement or sponsorship; (b) in violation of any stated restriction; (c) in a defamatory, pornographic or otherwise unlawful manner; or (d) outside of the context of the Embedded Viewer.

Getty Images (or third parties acting on its behalf) may collect data related to use of the Embedded Viewer and embedded Getty Images Content, and reserves the right to place advertisements in the Embedded Viewer or otherwise monetize its use without any compensation to you.

So, yes, journalists can use these images, sort of.

The BBC spoke with two photographers, one who wasn’t so happy about the move, and one who was cool with it.

One photographer who does support the plan is Rolling Stone’s Kevin Mazur, a co-founder of WireImage, whose catalogue is handled by Getty.

“You have to adapt to survive,” he said. “Evolving to embrace technology that encourages responsible image sharing is the way forward for the industry.”

Here’s the view of Poynter’s Kenny Irby:

 

Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously described Kenny Irby’s view as “less optimistic.” He said his comment was meant as “a reality check for a large segment of independent photographers.”

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.