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Getty Images Now Offers Access To 35+ Million Free Images

pasion-hobby-camera-56261-lGetty Images, one of the world’s largest and most prominent stock photo websites, is now offering a large portion of their image collection for free. While some of their images remain paid, the Seattle-based agency is offering roughly 35 million images free for non-commercial purposes. If you’re looking for images to use on your website or blog but don’t want to pay the ‘premium’ price charged by other stock photo websites, you’ll want to check out Getty Images

Getty Images announced earlier this month that it would allow free use of 35+ million images through embedding. This is a stark contrast to their previous business model where a typical image – albeit professional quality – would cost anywhere between $25 to $500. Users are still given the opportunity to purchase images for commercial use, but the company has changed their business model to embrace the age of digital freedom.

Why Are They Offering Free Images?

You might be wondering why such a large and popular stock photo agency would give away their photos. After all, doesn’t that take money out of their pockets?

The company announced their decision to offer free images was based largely in part to the mass amounts of pirated images floating around. If you peruse around their site, you’ll notice that all of their images are watermarked to discourage piracy. However, people can still illegally copy and use images from Getty Images that others have paid for. Scanning through Google Images reveals a countless number of stock photo images, some of which are from Getty Images.

In the past, Getty Images would typically send publishers using their copyrighted images legal letters threatening to sue if they didn’t pay X amount of dollars. This controversial tactic became so widespread that several websites were created for the sole purpose of drawing attention to it (extortionletterinfo.com is one example).

Rather than playing a game of legal whack-a-mole, it looks like Getty Images has changed their stance to embrace the free use of its images. They may not receive monetary compensation when users embed their images, but at least they receive a backlink pointing to the actual page where people can buy the image for commercial use. Changing their business model to free is certainly a gamble, but it’s certain to be more effective than their previous model.

This will provide people with a simple and legal way to utilize content that respects creators’ rights, including the opportunity to generate licensing revenue,” said Getty Images in a statement following their decision. “This decision opens one of the largest, deepest and most comprehensive image collections in the world for easy sharing, thereby making the world an even more visual place”

How To Use a Free Getty Images’ Photo:

  1. Search the Getty Images’ database for creative stock images using the desired keyword.
  2. After location an image you wish to use, hover over it with your cursor and click the < / > button.
  3. Highlight the HTML code displayed in the “Embed this image” dialog box.
  4. Right click and copy the code to your clipboard.
  5. Paste the code in your blog or website’s HTML to display the embedded image.

The HTML code is the same type of iFrame that’s commonly used when embedded YouTube videos and Flickr photos.

What About the ‘Non-Commercial’ Part of The Terms?

If you read Getty Images’ terms and conditions, you’ll notice that its free embedded images are only allowed for non-commercial use.

“…Embedded Getty Images Content may not be used: (a) for any commercial purpose (for example, in advertising, promotions or merchandising) or to suggest endorsement or sponsorship;”

If you asked ten different people what “commercial use” means, you would probably get ten different answers. Based on this brief phrase from their terms and conditions, it would appear as if the free-to-use embedded images are okay to use on blogs but not okay to use on business websites. Of course, some people may question whether banners and other types of advertisements fall under the category of “commercial use.”

This definition is open to interpretation, however, so I would use caution when embedding images on any website that earns revenue.

The Bottom Line

The massive collection of 35+ million professional-quality images may seem enticing to webmasters and bloggers, but the lack of commercial use really limits its use among business owners. If you’re looking for stock photos to legally use on your official business website, then you’ll probably want to search elsewhere.

There are plenty of sources of free-to-use images for commercial use, including Flickr Creative Commons, sxc.hu, RGBStock.com, and MorgueFile.com. And if you’re willing to pay, you can always take the route of purchasing a premium stock photo from one of the many stock photo agencies out there.