The Seattle based company has grown from its 1995 birth to become one of the world’s largest stock photography companies. In the past the company has been known to be strict in the unlicensed use of its photography, suing users such as churches and charities, so the decision to roll out the free use of its library is an unusual change of direction.
Getty’s CEO, Jonathan Klein, said: “We are excited to open up our image collection for legal sharing. This will benefit our users, contributors and partners, and advances our core mission to enable a more visually rich world.”
The plans will mean that users can embed images on social media sites without fear of being sued. From its launch the scheme will support Twitter and WordPress, but Getty has plans to expand to others over the coming months.
While this may seem like a generous leap forward, many photographers, who ultimately provide the core of the company’s supply, have complained about Getty’s plans, citing them as unfair to photographer as inclusion in the scheme is mandatory.
Jeff Moore, Chairman of the British Photographers Association, says: “The biggest victims will be small independent agencies and photographers who rely on Internet sales.”
Benji Lanyado, founder of image agency Picfair, echoed his concerns. “Getty used to be one of the big agencies that was helping the creative industry. It is massively cynical for Getty to make this move in the opposite direction.”
“The little guy – the photographer – has been forgotten about,” he adds. Photos should be affordable, but they should not be free of charge. Photographers should be able to control the prices.”
The plans could have a downside, and not just for photographers. Users may have a surprise if they do not read Getty’s terms and conditions before embedding. The company “reserves the right in its sole discretion to remove Getty Images content from the embedded viewer.” So, an image adorning your website might suddenly disappear, or be replaced by an advert. Maybe there is really no such thing as a free lunch.