On March 5 of last week, Getty Images, the 800lb gorilla of the stock photography world, announced a new program where they opened up over 35 million images (mostly photos) for free use on blogs and social media.
Boo-ya! Free stock photography, right?
The images are delivered to your web page via an “embedded viewer,” an iframe that includes the Getty Images logo, plus the name of the photographer. Clicking on the image takes you to the image’s page on Getty’s website. Their goal is to generate revenue through the exposure of their images (leading potentially to the paid licensing of more images) or through advertising shown in the image banner.
Here’s an example of the embedded viewer in action from Getty Images website:
The catch? Well, there are a few.
This is a grey area for a business blog. While your blog post or article might be reporting on a news event, the overall goal of an inbound-oriented website is to generate leads or sales. I’d rather err on the safe side and call that “commercial use.”
Even if you disagree with me, there is another good reason to avoid using Getty’s “free” images via their embedded viewer. As I mentioned earlier, the embedded viewer is an iframe that pulls content directly from Getty’s server. Getty can choose to change or delete the content they provide to that iframe. In their own words (again, from their Terms page):
Getty Images reserves the right in its sole discretion to remove Getty Images Content from the Embedded Viewer.
reserves the right to place advertisements in the Embedded Viewer
This means two things:
- Link rot. That image could disappear if Getty decides to discontinue their embedded program or they pull the image you are using from embedded sharing.
- Tacky ads in your content. Getty might embed ads in the viewer and then you’ll simply look like a cheapskate who couldn’t be bothered to fork over a buck or two for a stock image.
Plus, you lose the ability to use your images as part of your SEO strategy. No keyword-rich filenames, description text, etc.
If you want to use Getty’s free images on your non-commercial personal blog and social media, go ahead. But keep them away from your business website.