Getty Images recently announced an Embedded Viewer feature that gives bloggers — and anyone who runs a site for “editorial, noncommercial uses” — legal access to publish millions of its images, free of charge. Since the announcement some sites have widely (and incorrectly) reported j how the feature can be legally used, and by whom. Admittedly, with good reason: The delineation between commercial and non commercial use can be quite muddy.
Clearly, Getty’s embed feature is off limits for “commercial use,” which Getty defines as “intended to sell a product, raise money, or promote or endorse something.” Though it’s obvious that plastering your packaging with an embedded Getty image would be a clear violation of the rules, what about the gray areas, like posts you make to your small businesses Facebook page but that are intended to connect and engage with customers-but don’t inherently promote your business or product? (Though then again, they kind of do, seeing as how you’re in the business of trying to make a buck)?
The image is only approved if you use the “embed” feature. Though Getty’s move may feel like a random act of kindness amid the confusion that can surround image rights usage laws there’s still room for error (and costly fines) if you don’t understand how the embed feature works–and what you’re agreeing to when you use it.
For starters, not all Getty images have the embed feature; those that do have an icon that looks like this </> under the image. (If you don’t see that symbol, you can’t use the image without paying for it). For the images with the icon indicating they are “embeddable,” simply click on the embed icon (</>) in the image detail, and copy and paste the HTML code that appears into your site’s source code.
You can’t use the images for any purpose you wish. Though embedded Getty Images can be used on your website, blog or social media posts, Getty strictly defines the usage rights as limited to content that is “newsworthy, or of public interest.” The trouble with that statement? It’s quite subjective, particularly if you’re a small business owner who likes to share information online with those who share your interests (but may also be your customers). Though Getty clearly states that you cannot use the free embedded images for “any commercial purpose” which includes “advertising, promotions or merchandising,” or to “suggest endorsement or sponsorship,” what you consider a “newsworthy” announcement shared on your businesses’ Facebook page with an accompanying Getty embedded image could be perceived by Getty as a marketing promotion.
Per a live online chat i had with Andy, a Getty rep on March 7th, you ARE allowed to use the embed feature if for example, you are simply sharing information (like a scientific study) with an audience (even if that audience is your customer)–but not doing so to sell or promote something.
But again, those are muddy waters. Take this example as a case in point. I own a prenatal yoga business called Om for Mom. If I share a scientific study about the benefits of say, meditation, on Om for Mom’s Facebook page, and I support it with Getty’s embedded image feature, am I promoting for commercial gain, or am I not?
Technically, I don’t teach meditation, so I’m certainly not selling it. But in the same idea, that post is giving my customers a reason to believe the benefits of a yogic lifestyle–and my business does sell prenatal yoga classes. I’m not a lawyer, but I’d imagine that’s a courtroom argument that could be costly.
Should you find yourself in the same situation, you could have a legal battle with Getty images on your hands, all for communication that you thought qualified for legal use of a free embedded image.
Your site could become host to Getty advertising. When you embed an image using Getty’s new feature, the image automatically includes full copyright information, and a link back to the image’s dedicated licensing page on the Getty site. Just as you cannot fail to credit Getty for the image use, you cannot link the images back to your own site. With this feature, Getty also knows who uses its images, where, and for what purpose, at any given time.