Getty Makes Fans, Loses Fans With Image Sharing
Announcements about new ways to widely distribute creative works simultaneously thrill us and worry us. Those who work with writers and other artists tend to favor access to information and the broad exposure such moves create. But we worry about the further surrender of individual control.
This is true for written works, but the focus in the past week was on the library of photographs owned by Getty Images. Getty announced its images could be shared and used on noncommercial websites.
The Getty Images website says:
Getty Images is leading the way in creating a more visual world. Our new embed feature makes it easy, legal, and free for anybody to share our images on websites, blogs, and social media platforms.
The move is at least partly a surrender to reality: Getty-owned images are everywhere, purchased by responsible site owners, and it’s not difficult to copy images without attribution to the source. Getty’s move means it will get an automatic credit at the bottom of the images. This also serves as free advertising, and it could mean more sales from Getty’s vast storehouse.
A story in the Guardian newspaper says photographers are “up in arms” and quotes the chairman of the British Photographers Association:
Getty was one of the big agencies that was helping the creative industry in trying to make the internet work, making it pay, and they decided to go into the opposite direction. This is a massively cynical move from Getty.
Professional photographers might see a bit less revenue if someone who would pay for an image can use it for free. And they might see less demand if a nonprofit decides to use a free image rather than hire a photographer. On the other hand, exposure on a nonprofit site could prompt someone to purchase the image for commercial use.