There's been lots of discussion in blogs and on Twitter about Getty's offer to make images available supposedly for 'free'. The only problem is that they're not free, as Karen Blakeman points out in her blog post on the subject. While on the surface of it, it seems to be a lovely kind gesture, I would caution anyone who is thinking of using the service to consider it very carefully.
On their website Getty says "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." Now, you'll notice that this does NOT include taking copies of the images and cutting and pasting them into a PowerPoint presentation for example. The images have to be embedded into the post. Let me show you what this looks like:
Now, you'll notice the stuff under the image - that's the payoff for Getty Images. You're giving a link directly back to them - which is fine, nothing wrong with links of course - but it's what they can then do. Let's look closely at the terms and conditions: "“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 this is rather more than a link - they're reserving the right to place any adverts that they wish into the embedded viewer. Now, they're not doing this yet, but there's no reason to believe that they're not going to do so in the future, given that they have reserved the right for themselves. This could be a small video before you get to see the image, a banner, or adverts that relate to the content on your site - like Google's advertising program, but the difference is that Google pays you - Getty won't.
The second issue that's a concern is their statement "Note: Embedded images may not be used for commercial purposes." Now, I really don't know exactly what this means. I know that it means that I can't sell their image, and I presume that I can't use it in an item that I'm selling - all of which is fine. However, if I have monetised my blog with Google adverts, does that mean that I'm using an image that supports a blog post that supports me making money? Apparently not, according to an article in the British Journal of Photography, but it's still an uncomfortable area. Since I can't use the images in a PowerPoint presentation the question doesn't arise, but what if I did? Now, I use my presentations commercially, in that people pay to come on the courses that I run, but the presentations themselves are free for anyone to use, since I make them available on Slideshare.
My third concern is that they say “You may only use embedded Getty Images Content for editorial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest)." Now, what does *that* mean? Something that is newsworthy today certainly won't be in a few years time or even a few weeks. Does that mean that I'll have to remove the images? You may say that I'm being ultra cautious and pedantic, and you're right - I am, and with good reason. Getty is well known for going after people who use their images, and their tactics can be somewhat heavy handed. I'd really rather not be in a position where I get on the wrong side of them, because they have access to lots of highly paid lawyers, and I don't. So this is another question mark.
Another concern is to wonder if the Getty infrastructure is going to be able to cope with this extra load - they're not a technology company like Google; do they have any idea how much extra traffic they are going to get, and have they planned for it? They may have, I don't know, and more to the point, neither do you. This is going to take time to discover and unfortunately you may discover it when the image(s) that you want to use don't show up.
Looking at this from the viewpoint of the photographer it's a disaster. If you have licensed Getty to use your images, this isn't something that you can opt out from. Unless you choose to pull your images. There are plenty of photographers who are not going to be keen on their material being shared left right and centre with no ability to say no. Consequently, I can easily see images that you have embedded disappearing as they get pulled, which isn't going to look very impressive.
All told, I'm not keen on this idea at all - there are far too many strings attached for my liking, and the idea that all of these images are now 'free' is very far from the truth. A final irony of course is the fact that Getty does not own all of the images that it's making available. There are plenty of public domain images (especially historical ones) that you can find elsewhere and use - really for free! To say nothing of the Creative Commons material that photographers are choosing to let other people use. This is really nothing more than a Getty trojan horse, designed to allow them to take control of content on your website without your permission. I'd be inclined to steer clear, and the only time I'm going to avail myself of the service is in the image above, which I'm using in an editorial manner to discuss the issue.