Just a couple of days ago Getty Images decided to allow non-commercial websites the use of most of their images without paying license fees by using Getty Images embedded viewer. What might look like a generous move at first glance is in fact the attempt to handle the problems of unauthorised use of their pictures on blogs and social media. Rather than keeping up a never ending fight and suing bloggers and social media users, Getty Images tries to find ways in monetizing on them using their online real estate.

There are some major reasons – besides the disadvantages of using the embedded viewer for images – to not use the Getty Images embedded viewer, and they can be found when having a closer look at the Getty Images Site Terms Of Use (as of 18th of March 2014).

Getty Images Embedded Viewer TOS

Not all Getty Images Content will be available for embedded use, and availability may change without notice. Getty Images reserves the right in its sole discretion to remove Getty Images Content from the Embedded Viewer.

What this actually means is that pictures which are allowed to use today might not be available for embedded use tomorrow. While one might still have an eye on the posts from yesterday or even the last week, think about older posts where such pictures might be added. Do you think you will be able keep up with all the possible changes and not be left behind with some white space of the original image’s size? And what would make it even worse is having a possible ‘404 error’ or an advertisement filling up this space somewhen in near future.

Upon request, you agree to take prompt action to stop using the Embedded Viewer and/or Getty Images Content.

The first thing that comes to one’s mind is what does ‘prompt action’ mean? The way it is stated in the TOS it is a very vague definition which leaves room for too much interpretation. It would be much more clear for everyone if defined as a precise timespan, e.g. one week. The next thing which is not defined at all is when their timer starts counting. Will it start running down once Getty Images submits the request in whatever form, or in the moment the user gets aware of it? The time difference can be quite significant and have an impact on whether the embedded images are still used legally or illegally.

Another question that comes up is how Getty Images is going to request the stop of using the Embedded Viewer. There is no registration necessary to use the Getty Images embedded viewer, hence they won’t have contact data of its users. A blog might still have an ‘About me’ or ‘Contact us’ page to find out who is its owner or publisher. But what about those images that are being used on one of the many available Web 2.0 accounts?

But well, maybe the request will be announced by changing the TOS. At least they ask to review their terms every time when visiting one of their sites.

Any changes will be effective immediately upon posting on the Site. Your continued use of the Site following the posting of changes will constitute your acceptance of such changes. We encourage you to review the Site Terms whenever you visit one of our websites.

So, be prepared to check these TOS regularly in order to be notified early enough about any future changes.

You may only use embedded Getty Images Content for editorial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest). 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; (b) in violation of any stated restriction; (c) in a defamatory, pornographic or otherwise unlawful manner; or (d) outside of the context of the Embedded Viewer.

How does Getty Images define ‘commercial purpose’? Craig Peters, a representative of Getty Images says in an interview with The British Journal of Photography that blogs that draw revenues from Google Ads will still be able to use the Getty Images embed player at no cost. “We would not consider this commercial use.”

If so, wouldn’t it be better to say so in their TOS and confirm officially to be on the legal side when using the Getty Images embedded viewer on a blog or any other site that hosts Google Ads? And what about those blogs having a couple of affiliate ads? One could make a living from a whole bunch of ‘Made for Adsense’ websites and use the Getty Images embedded player legally while another one with a small blog about his hobby and a few links to related products on the Amazon marketplace would be considered being of commercial purpose?

Getty Images (or third parties acting on its behalf) may collect data related to use of the Embedded Viewer and embedded Getty Images Content, and reserves the right to place advertisements in the Embedded Viewer or otherwise monetize its use without any compensation to you.

This is the part where Getty Images real intention behind the Getty Images embedded viewer is finally revealed. The Getty Images embedded viewer is a line of HTML code which inserts an iframe into a post. This iframe defines an area within the post to show some specified external document, in this case the embedded image. However, Getty Images is the only one having complete control over this external document and they are able to change its content at any given time, including code to be used for data mining or placing advertisement.

Bloggers and publishers will give away control over the content of a part of their own online real estate to the discretion of Getty Images. A quite big part, as you can see in the screenshot below, which afterwards competes with the bloggers’ own advertisement strategy.

Getty Images Embedded Viewer

If you still plan to use Getty Images embedded viewer, you can see here how to embed Getty Images into a blog post.

As for me, there are too many questions related to the use of the Getty Images embedded viewer that are either not answered or just answered in a very vague way. To be on the safe side I will continue either paying small license fees to any of the other image agencies, use own photos or screenshots, or use one of the many sources for royalty free images.

What is your opinion on the Getty Images embedded viewer? Let me know in the comments section below and if you liked this post consider sharing it with your friends.


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