Getty Images makes 35 million images free for web use

In a controversial move Getty Images has made 35 million photos free to use for non-commercial purposes. Getty claims it is to help in the fight against copyright infringement but the decision has stirred the photographic community and triggered numerous arguments against it.

Websites, blogs and social media users can now embed images from Getty Images’ library of content by selecting a photo and copying a HTML code to their own website. Getty Images will serve the image in an embedded player – as YouTube does – which will include the full copyright information and a link back to the image’s dedicated licensing page on its website.

Getty’s CEO, Jonathan Klein, says that “We are excited to open up our vast and growing image collection for easy, legal sharing in a new way that benefits our content contributors and partners, and advances our core mission to enable a more visually-rich world.”

The new policy is mandatory for all contributors unless they contribute to elite Reportage by Getty or Contour by Getty. The move is a turnaround from the company’s past which included suing churches, charities and small businesses for infringement.

This new ‘deal’ between Getty and people using the photos has been accused of being focused purely around monetisation. It opens the door for widespread advertising opportunities for Getty in the future such as clickable links however no such plans have yet been announced.

Many believe that the decision could put some photographers out of work. Jeff Moore, chairman of the British Press Photographers’ Association, told trade magazine BJP. “It’s going to put people out of work, without the shadow of a doubt. The first ones to fall will be small and independent freelancers and smaller agencies that are relying on small Internet sales.”

Strong repercussions are expected in the move and the possibility of other stock photography websites following suit increases.