Oh Snap! Getty Images Makes Photos Free for Noncommerical Use

Unable to effectively stop people from using its images without paying licensing fees, the stock photo agency has decided to introduce a free embed feature.

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By Laura Entis

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For years, it's been easy to use pictures from Getty Images for free –all you had to do was find a photo online from one of Getty's valid licensing customers, right click and you had access. Unfortunately, while it was easy, it was also illegal.

Not anymore. "Getty Images is leading the way in creating a more visual world. Our new embed feature makes it easy, legal, and free for anybody to share our images on websites, blogs, and social media platforms," the stock photo sharing agency said on its website. As of today, you can go to the Getty image library, copy and paste a line of embed code (a basic feature on YouTube and Twitter), and display any one of 35 million available images on your WordPress and Tumblr, as well as share as a Twitter card for free. Legally.

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The embed feature is only meant for noncommercial uses, however, which means using Getty photos in advertising, promotions or merchandising still requires a licensing fee. But blogs that draw revenues from Google Ads will still be able to use Getty Images at no cost. "We would not consider this commercial use," Craig Peters, senior vice president of business development, content and marketing at Getty told The British Journal of Photography. "The fact today that a website is generating revenue would not limit the use of the embed. What would limit that use is if they used our imagery to promote a service, a product or their business." This differentiation means that news websites, ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Buzzfeed, will be allowed to embed Getty Images for free as long as the images are being used in a purely editorial context (no ads).

As Businessweek notes, however, the terms could get complicated when, say, someone's personal brand or blog becomes a full-fledged business.

Getty seems to hope that this move could lead to advertising dollars for the company. Under 'Terms of Use' for the new embed feature, the agency states: "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."

Although how these embedded advertisements will appear, Peters said, has yet to be determined.

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Laura Entis
Laura Entis is a reporter for Fortune.com's Venture section.

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