Getty opens their libraries, but you should know the details
Getty Images recently announced that millions of their photos are now up for grabs by bloggers and media alike, completely royalty free, at no cost to the user. They offer an embed code that can be copied and pasted, and voila, you have a professional photo on your site or blog.
But there’s a problem that has been wildly overlooked, and that is in Getty’s Terms of Service, which only allows photos to be used for non-commercial purposes, and while their description appears quite relaxed, there are other Terms that could stand in the way of use on your site.
The challenges range from availability to advertisements and even modifications.
Challenge one: disappearing photos with no notice
In the Terms of Service, there is a sticky little phrase that caught our attention: “availability may change without notice.”
That means that you may use a Getty image on your blog today, and you may open that page up in a month or a year or a decade, and it may no longer be there. For some sites (like ours) with thousands upon thousands of stories written every year, there is no notification system in place, and unless you manually check in to every single post using a Getty image, you will have no idea that a site visitor is seeing a broken image. Ouch.
Challenge two: advertisements
Further, the Terms note, “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.”
Let’s dissect this. First, it’s not just Getty that can collect data, third parties may do so as well, and there is no notice as to who those third parties are, so you’re giving away data about your site – traffic, demographics, and so forth. There’s a tremendous legal disadvantage here for sites that use Getty Images that don’t include the third party data collection notice in their Terms of Service. Users these days are smart, and they know that web privacy is important. This could threaten that and put site owners in a perilous position.
Further, Getty can slap on an ad and call it a day. You don’t get a cut of that, and it’s not a program to generously give you famous images, it’s an ad program that will eventually roll out. You get what you pay for, we suppose.
Challenge three: reuse and search
Can you make an image bigger? Can you crop it? Can you use only part of the image? The Terms of Service says the user may modify images, but the embedded viewer required to use the images does not allow for modification.
Another challenge is the search function which does not offer an option to search only embeddable images, which users are already tweeting is confusing, noting that discerning embeddable images from non-royalty-free photos is difficult, and you should make sure you’re not using the inappropriate photo which could end up in your being fined.
If you can understand that the images may not always be on your site after you embed the code, that ads will likely become part of the image, and that data is being collected about your site and users, then use the generously sized library of images, by all means, just do so with eyes open.