Getty to Let Bloggers and Others Use Photos Free

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In a move that promises to increase the use of photography across the Internet, the Getty Images photo agency announced that it would allow noncommercial websites and social media users to publish the agency’s images at no cost using an “embedding” tool.

The move, which is already in effect and will be introduced at the South by Southwest festival that begins on Sunday, is an attempt by Getty Images to regain some control over how its photographs appear on the Internet, where unauthorized copying runs rampant.

Craig Peters, Getty Image’s senior vice president for business development, said the agency would continue to pursue businesses that use its content without a license. The new program, he said, “is about an entirely new universe, and entirely new opportunity” for “individuals with a desire to share their views, share their passions.”

The embedding tool that the agency announced will give websites and social media users access to roughly 40 million images — out of a digital collection of 60 million — via a small snippet of computer code that is easily copied. It can be included to illustrate a blog post, for example, or a post to Twitter. (In the case of the images not included, Getty lacks the appropriate permissions, Mr. Peters said.)

But, crucially, these users will not be making a copy of those images. Instead, the images will be stored on the agency’s computers; each embedded image will include a credit and a link back to the Getty Images website, where higher-quality versions will be available to license.

Mr. Peters said the agency would be taking a liberal approach to the term “noncommercial,” including websites that carry ads, and even large commercial news sites that use the images to illustrate editorial content.

By retaining control, Getty Images could in the future take down those images down, or somehow incorporate advertising. YouTube, Google’s highly profitable video service, is a model, Mr. Peters said, in that its material is widely available via an embedding tool, and even the embedded videos can carry advertisements.

“The first benefit is the branding and the attribution – that is a value on the outset,” he said, adding that Google’s acquisition of YouTube was initially a puzzlement to many experts on digital business.

“Everybody was wondering how they made money, but people are not wondering about that for the last three years or so,” he said.

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