Design News

Getty Images are offering 35+ million images royalty-free

This is interesting and is generating a fair amount of discussion… Getty Images are offering 35+ million images royalty-free and causing uproar in the photographic community. It’s not quite as negative as the ‘giving your work away’ stance that seems to be the default position, as reading the Getty T&C’s implies that any user needs to buy an initial photo licence (based on image size) to use a picture, although the ongoing re-use of that image becomes royalty-free (RF), which would seem to dilute the creator’s sources of income.

First impressions here are that many many website creators and bloggers ‘steal’ imagery by right-clicking existing online sources, so pay absolutely nothing to photographers and other creative… and they do this to avoid the costs and/or commercial overhead of betting into formal contractual arrangements with the likes of Getty. And the truth here is that, as with the music industry, the photo library companies have been charging too much for services and putting a strangehold on the ability for creators and users to share content at acceptable rates.

Unfortunately, rather than come up with a commercial model that increases the volume of images shared through cheaper licencing, the industry as a whole is choosing to go down this RF route that protects the profit margin for the photo libraries, but puts the income streams of smaller creative at risk. This approach probably won’t change, but I predict that it will be the beginning of the end for the likes of Getty, and other more co-operative ways of sharing content will rapidly evolve. So, if you’re a creative, you may experience a short-term hiccup in your income, but I’m confident that the pain will be worth it, so hang in there.

The bigger risk here, in the longer-term, is for users who take advantage of the new Getty RF model without fully understanding the implications, and there are several:

1 – If you embed image-sharing code, as required by the Getty RF model, they retain the options to remove or change that imagery without notifying you.

2 – It has yet to be proven, but it’s likely that these bits of embedded code will allow the likes of Getty to serve adverts direct to your website or blog.

3 – The impact on these embedded links, especially changes in the contracts over time, may leave hyperlinks at dead-ends, which will have serious impacts on your hard-earned SEO capital.

I would strongly urge anyone, whether it’s a small company or a serious blog, to think long & hard before committing to adding any Getty-like RF images to their web pages.

At Mombee, we source all of our own creative material – in most cases we shoot the video, take the photographs or take pen to paper, then we adapt that for the web. If we source the content from anywhere else, then that gets fully accredited to the original creator. In pure technical terms, it is now very easy to capture content that is suitable for most web applications on smartphones and low cost point-and-shoot cameras – you don’t need the overhead of professional camcorders and digital SLR camera set-ups. The problem that many users might find however is that their core creative skills are lacking – if that’s the case, rather than defaulting back to the photo libraries, it would be great if they would invest some time into learning how to capture relevant content.

Learning doesn’t necessarily involve cost or have to be difficult to arrange. If you’re running a small business, or a blog, taking some time out with a camera to capture some of the story behind your company or passion should be quite rewarding – it’s often the candid pictures, that you snap while no-one’s watching you, that show the essence of that story, rather than the structured pictures of a store-front or product.

If you really think that capturing content is beyond you, I would encourage you to think about using any one of the many local graphic designers, photographers or video producers local to you to help out. They’re in the same boat as you, albeit rowing on the other side, so they should be ready to work with you on a new commercial model that saves you some money (compared to the old Getty model), but protects a future income for themselves (a larger number of smaller payments, rather than one-off stipends).
So, while the Getty industry continues to lumber on, I’d encourage us all to think locally… the model is changing and it will benefit small users and creative… just hang in there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *