Skip to main content

Getty Images Offers Its Stock Photos Free for Web Use

Here’s a bit of good — if somewhat shocking — news from Getty Images.

The world’s largest stock service just made part of its library of 80 million images and illustrations free for use across the Internet.

If you’ve ever used a stock image service, you know how it usually works. Low-quality watermarked images are available to download as comps to use in mockups. If you decide you like the image, you need to pony up and purchase rights to a clean, high-quality, un-watermarked version for your final design.

A new open-embed program

In an unprecedented move, Getty Images has stripped most of their images of all watermarks and is making them available for use on websites and blogs at no cost — but there is a catch. Customers must use the embed function, which attaches the Getty Images logo, credit, and link back to the licensing page as footer underneath the image.

The process is easy enough: when you find the Getty image you want, click the embed button below the photo. A dialog box opens with a preview of the image and footer along with the code you need to copy and paste into your web page.

Great for tight budgets — risky for Getty

The embed program spells good news for small websites or blogs that don’t have much in the way of a stock photo budget. But it’s a gamble for Getty, because un-watermarked images make it easy for people to take a screenshot and “steal” the image with no link or credit back.

“Our content was everywhere already.”

But Craig Peters, a business development exec at Getty Images, says people have been stealing from Getty for years, and their unlicensed stock images are easy to find the Internet — much like the illegal industry of free music downloads. “Before there was iTunes, before there was Spotify, people were put in that situation where they were basically forced to do the wrong thing, sharing files,” said Peters. The embedding program offers a safe, legal option for stock images that Getty is betting publishers will be happy to take, and ultimately gives Getty much more control over their images.

A murky future

One downside to embedding is that if the image changes or expires on Getty it could result in an empty hole on your website. Additionally, Getty is staying open to the possibility of using the embed program as a revenue stream by using the code to drop in ads or collect user information, which raises questions about its viability.

But those issues are still far down the road, and for now, the embed program is a good tool for small web publishers.

Do you think you would use an embedding program for stock images on your website? Let me know in the comments below.

Leave a Reply

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