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Getty Images vs Creative Commons and Privacy: What Bloggers Need to Know

This is a guest post written by Simon Schmid of iubenda.

Getty Images recently announced a new image embed feature that allows bloggers (and others) to access and use their vast library of images for non-commercial purposes. This rather remarkable change in policy by Getty Images shows that it’s ready to work with content creators and adapt to the times we live in.

Even WordPress also published an announcement post in which they share the details of Getty’s new offering and how easy it is to embed an image into your blog. There’s now a “</>” below every image in the catalogue that lets you effortlessly publish that particular image into your post (to be completely accurate and to quote from the terms for the first time, “Not all Getty Images Content will be available for embedded use, and availability may change without notice”).

How easy is it really over all though? And is it entirely without complications? Let’s review some of the most important clauses in theterms of the embed feature and we’ll do this by comparing this with another very popular image source (images under a Creative Commons license) for bloggers.

What can you use Getty’s embed for?

At first you must to be very clear about the fact that Getty’s model is the licensing of images. Therefore you will have to play by their rules and expect to do something for them in return. I’ve read comments on the WordPress announcement that communicated their leave from using the system as soon as ads start appearing. What I’m saying is, that this is something that might be in the works and something that you’ll have to be willing to give back in exchange.

“You may only use embedded Getty Images Content for editorial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest).”

Using the “Embedded Viewer” you consent to use the images for editorial purposes only. Editorial purposes are in a very wide sense non-commercial purposes. This becomes more clear when you read the rest of the terms regarding the “Embedded Viewer”. It outlines that you may not use the images in any of the following ways:

  • (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

Therefore the most important question that needs to be answered is the notion of “commercial”. What kind of use constitutes commercial use, and therefore exceeds the limits of what is allowed with the viewer? Is Here’s an official statement by Craig Peters that goes into detail and helps us at understanding non-commercial use:

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,” says Peters. “The fact today that a website is generating revenue would not limit the use of the embed. What would limit that use is if they used our imagery to promote a service, a product or their business. They would need to get a license.” A spokeswoman for Getty Images confirms to BJP that editorial websites, from The New York Times to Buzzfeed, will also be able to use the embed feature as long as images are used in an editorial context.

Compare these facts above to going with Creative Commons content instead:

Creative Commons: Creative Commons-licensed images can be used for any purpose, by anyone, anywhere. That’s as long as you follow the terms of that specific license. None of the CC licences outlines that a piece of licensed content may only be used for a specific purpose–editorial or otherwise.

Creative Commons II: NonCommercial in CC’s Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 means “not primarily intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation” which naturally is a much friendlier definition.

Creative Commons III: the restriction of not displaying outside of the Embedded Viewer does not apply to CC-licensed content, in fact it expressly states that you are allowed to exercise the licensed rights in “all media and formats whether now known or hereafter created, and to make technical modifications necessary to do so”. This can be a deal breaker for things like image carousels or videos or the like.

One more very interesting fact is that Getty can revoke the access to the embedded imagery at any time: “Upon request, you agree to take prompt action to stop using the Embedded Viewer and/or Getty Images Content”. Creative Commons on the other hand declares their licensing to be irrevocable. This ensures that you don’t have to go back and make changes anytime down the road.

Let’s take a look at both solutions side by side:

What a Creative Commons embed looks like…
…links to author plus the right license.

vincentsl / CC BY 2.0

What a Getty embed looks like, yaaay well done…
…shows the viewer with the branding, some picture credits and the sharing buttons.

Apart from the very obvious branding that the embed gives you, we may have another issue that you should at least know about and isn’t immediately obvious. Embedding services like Youtube and others (like the embedding of your image) and even a like button open up another legal field: data privacy.

Looking at a page with Getty embed in Chrome’s cookie window.

What you can see in this window (Chrome’s developer tools, right click and then “Inspect Element”) are the cookies that this page sets with just the embedded image. There are two main elements. The first being the tracking by Getty’s embedding window, the other one caused by the social sharing buttons by Twitter and Tumblr, both also part of the Embedded Viewer.

So why is this so problematic? Essentially, an iframe like this allows their owner (Google, Facebook, Getty…) to make a connection. That connection is between the embedding site, their reader and the third-party host. Or how EFF puts it:

The third-party host can possibly get and log your IP address and the exact time of the request; information about the web browser you’re using, your browser’s version, your operating system, processor information, language settings, and other data; the URL of the website you’re coming from; and sometimes tracking cookies.

The way this affects you as a site owner is that the least you can do is to minimize legal implications and include a description of this data collection in your privacy policy. Above all in Europe there’s a stance by regulators that assumes that cookies may only be placed without user consent if services wouldn’t work without them. That’s not the case for social sharing buttons (mostly). The vague privacy policy posted on Getty’s site is cause for doubting the future use on a site that’s compliant with privacy laws around the world and most of all, in Europe.

Takeaway I: Getty is taking the right steps by making their images easy to use for editorial purposes, however there are still a couple of issues concerning their acceptable use policy (alleged first comments surfaced claiming that Getty Germany denied a blogger/freelancer the free embedding because of his blog being on the same domain as his freelancer page).

If you aren’t ready to accept some of the drawbacks described above, Creative Commons is more than an interesting alternative.

Takeaway II: the knowledge about Getty’s future data collection is murky at best. At least European bloggers should consider including statements about Getty’s iframe and the Twitter/Tumblr sharing buttons included in the iframe. There are a couple of resources out there that help you with crafting a privacy policy. We at iubenda make it really easy for bloggers to generate their legal document with a couple of clicks by simply adding the Twitter/Tumblr and Getty services to their privacy policy.

Addendum:

How to choose Getty Images for your posts

It’s really as simple as clicking on the “</>” provided below the images and then using the embedding code.

How to choose Creative Commons licensed images for your posts

It isn’t that hard to find CC-licensed pictures either, use one of the following methods below:

Resources used:

IIIIIIIV

Simon Schmid blogs at thegodfounder.com and works on iubenda.

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Comments

  1. Debarpan says:

    Thanks for sharing the news,didn’t know about this.This is a great help from you.

  2. Angie Dixon says:

    Thanks, Simon.

    I wasn’t going to use GettyImages anyway. I don’t like the branding and I REALLY don’t like takesies-backsies. I also don’t like the commercial language. It’s clearly up to them to decide if it’s commercial use or not.

    Creative Commons rocks. I’m a photographer and I use a lot of my own images when I can, but when I can’t, I love Creative Commons. There’s nothing ambiguous about it It doesn’t put its own branding on my site. And there are no takesies-backsies, which is great. I hate takesies-backsies.

  3. Jayashree says:

    This is a great move by GettyImages to introduce the embed feature. Bloggers can really now look for quality images and embed it. Personally I will stay away from it since their terms and conditions states that any embed image available now can later be pulled out which would break the pages where it was embedded earlier.

  4. I’ve always thought a blog that earns from advertising (such as AdSense, etc) is considered as commercial, which was one of the reasons why I haven’t tried out Getty images. Glad that they think differently!

  5. Sarah Arrow says:

    This is a really useful post, thanks Simon.

    I can imagine Getty Images are a great opportunity if you blog on a topical issue, for example paying tribute to Peaches Geldof (recently deceased) and being able to use images of her without infringing copyright would be a good thing. However, I have requested its not used on any of my sites, as I don’t like the cookie issue that you’ve highlighted.

  6. Alicia Rades says:

    Thanks for all this info! It’s super helpful. Before I couldn’t find any information on what “commercial purposes” meant in this context.

  7. Now i understand why people seriously used creative commons..!! Quality really matters even in terms of images..!!

  8. Asif Ahmed says:

    I knew most of this but never cared to learn more. You have done a great job putting it all together so it becomes easy to understand. Thanks for sharing this info.

    I am really not a fan of embedding images like this. I have found an easy solution of creating images on my own. I having been doing that since last few months.

  9. Faly says:

    Thanks sharing your information it is useful as a newcomer called me acquainted with the blog, will be too many things to get more from your share as

  10. Roshan says:

    Obviously, Getty has the best quality images for using on articles. However, embedding their images this way just make the article look cheap. I’d rather stick with creative commons and public domain pics, rather than showing Getty brand all over my blog.

  11. Jason says:

    Thanks for the article, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Well structured and written with tons of information!

  12. Sachin Karpe says:

    Basically I don’t use Getty images but I use shutterstock where I find all kind of awesome images there. Getty images are not that great comparatively to shutterstock.

  13. Kent Chen says:

    Thumbs up for sharing this with us! It really clears things up for me. Will be more cautious on what we use for our blogs.

  14. I. C. Daniel says:

    I’m very happy when I see people credits photo authors.

  15. At first, I was very happy at this new feature introduced by Getty Images. But it is after reading this post that I came to know of its technical aspects and some limitations.

    Limitations and restrictions like ban on use of embed feature for commercial purposes is okay with me. And it is good to see that AdSense is not considered ‘commercial’ use by them. Because, for me, as of now, AdSense is the key source of revenue from my blogs.

    And regarding that cookie issue, it certainly has raised some privacy concerns!

    I found link to this article on Kingged, where I’ll king it! Thanks for sharing this valuable information.

    Arun

  16. adang says:

    I’ve never tried them because I always use the standard menu for images on wordpress.

  17. Wendy says:

    Thanks for sharing the article. My experience with Getty Images has not been pleasant to say the least!

    That said, this statement “Getty can revoke the access to the embedded imagery at any time: “Upon request, you agree to take prompt action to stop using the Embedded Viewer and/or Getty Images Content”. should be enough to raise the red flag. Heaven help you if you don’t receive the request to remove the image. I dare say you can likely count on a note from Getty or their legal team demanding a large sum of money!

    A couple of years ago, as a new blogger, I took a class to learn how to manage my blog. I was instructed to use Google free images for my blog images. The image that I selected from Google free images provided no indication that I needed to pay for the image. Much to my surprise, several months later I received a letter advising me that I broke copy write law along with a note that I owed them $1065.00. I’m not a fan of the folks at Getty Images!

  18. Sharon says:

    I’ve never used Getty images, I prefer to create my own images which is a huge time consuming task but the positives are your images are 100% yours and no-one can stop you from using your own content.

  19. David S. says:

    Thanks for this article! These are some of the reasons I don’t use Getty Images; personally I also think it’s unprofessional to use labeled photos with photographer’s names on personal blogs. Google Images isn’t a solution due to copyright complaints. Therefore I prefer to use a quality stock photo agency like yayimages.com especially because of their streaming service at reasonable price. I truly recommend it.

  20. I think writers, especially new ones, need to value their skills and pitch to clients who are willing to pay decent rates, instead of trying to get work from the penny pinching cheap clients!