Getty’s Craig Peters on Why Free Images Are Good for Photographers, And for the Photo Industry

Following the announcement by Getty Images that the agency would be allowing non-commercial uses of its images free of charge, we interviewed Craig Peters, Senior Vice President of Business Development, Marketing at Content Images at Getty, to try and find out what the agency hopes to gain from this extraordinary decision.

As we reported today on PDNOnline,  Getty has released a new embed tool to make it easy for non-commercial users to share images from Getty on websites, blogs and social media channels. The new tool enables Getty to collect data on those users and and push ads through the embed viewer. We asked Peters how ad revenue will be shared, what this new business model means for the perceived value of images, and whether Getty is changing its position on enforcing copyrights on images.

(We used the image above for free, using Getty’s Embed tool)

PDN: Getty has various collections, from different sources. What images are excluded from this free usage initiative?
Craig Peters: It’s hard to give you a specific answer. The vast majority of images are in, [unless] we have restrictions from the photographer or copyright owner.

PDN: Are news and celebrity images available as soon as Getty uploads them?
CP: They’re made available as soon as they’re uploaded.

PDN: Why is Getty giving up on the idea of charging everyone–even small non-commercial users– for use of images?
CP: I don’t think we’re giving up on charging. I don’t think we’ve ever focused in on charging everyone. The vast majority of these individuals have never been customers of Getty Images [or] our industry. What we’re trying to do is broaden the industry. You have to find business models that address the needs of the individuals that you’re trying to get to use your content.

PDN: How does this grow your business? I know the press release says you’re using the embed tool to drive people to Getty for commercial licenses. But is advertising revenue a bigger part of this?
CP: I think it’s too early to speculate about how we’re going to monetize it, until we get a better understanding of the various uses, the types of content, etc. Certainly we reserve those rights [to push ads to viewers through the Embed display tool], but at this stage, we’re starting with: How do we provide a solution that consumers can take up, and utilize this content in a valid legal way, and a simple, easy way for the benefit of photographers.

PDN: How does this help photographers if the images they produce are available at no cost? How does this really help photographers?
CP: It helps photographers by re-attaching meta-data to images that are already being circulated. I’d say it provides awareness that content that’s used for commercial use does require a license. And ultimately, there are a lot of downstream opportunities associated with this, but it’s a bit early to [say what they are].
The trend is self-publishing, the trend is online sharing. You can either you can sit back and let the world pass you by, or you try to innovate and create the opportunity to increase benefit back to content providers.

PDN: How were Getty’s contributors informed, and what was their reaction?
CP: We’ve informed Getty contributors through a number of channels. I haven’t seen every reaction, but those I’ve talked with, or who have e-mailed me, have been incredibly positive.

PDN: If you generate ad revenues from this initiative, will you share that revenue with contributors?
CP: The answer is yes. This is their content, and if we generate any revenue from that content, we not only have the obligation, but we have every intent to share that revenue.

PDN: How might that be divvied up with contributors?
CP: We have contractual obligations back to our contributors that require us to pay certain royalty amounts to our contributors.

PDN: I want to press the question on copyright. The music industry has made strides in educating the public about the need to pay for music. Photographers and their trade groups have been working likewise to educate the public about paying for images. Does this initiative undermine those efforts? And if not, why not?
CP: I don’t think so at all. I think Getty Images is one of the largest factors of financial support of internet education that is ongoing within our industry around photos, and that’s not going to stop. In terms of undermining [copyright eduction]? No. I think as people start using Embed, versus right-click, it builds an awareness that that photo was in fact taken by somebody that is trying to earn a living from it. If you want to use it for commercial uses, or you want to use it outside the Embed player, you need a license. I think we’ll probably get more awareness and education through this Embed tool than many other efforts. So I don’t think they’re [copyright awareness and this initiative] in conflict at all.

PDN: This sends the message that images are free. Doesn’t that undermine peoples’ perception of the value of images?
CP: No. I don’t think it does at all. If that’s a position you take then I think we just disagree on it. I think I’ve just answered the question about why it doesn’t undermine the value of imagery. I think this is a completely new use of imagery, for a completely new set of customers that ultimately expands the business for us proactively, and that’s our view.

PDN: Let’s talk about how you’ve dealt with people in the past who have used images for these small uses. You were chasing them down for copyright infringement, weren’t you?
CP: When we found corporate customers using images for commercial uses, we pursued them, and we will continue to pursue them. But this is not that case. This is individuals using images for non-commercial reasons. And so, no, we haven’t pursued individuals in the past.

PDN: Did you send them letters? Did you just ignore them?
CP: We did not go after individuals for non-commercial use of our content.

PDN: You didn’t even send them letters?
CP: No, we didn’t.

PDN: What information do you have, if any, about the people typically using Getty images without payment, by right clicking and copying? And what percentage of those users do you think could be converted to paying customers at some point?
CP:  [Right-click theft] is happening on a wide-spread basis. What we know about this individual today is actually quite limited, because we aren’t actually serving the images, so we learn very little. But under Embed, we learn that [through data mining].
With respect to how many people are going to take this up? I don’t know. When you give people the opportunity to do something, in an easy, legal way, the vast majority of people [take advantage of it]. I’m not in a situation where I can make any predictions about what this is going to be. We certainly hope it can be big, and beneficial.

PDN: Big in terms of revenue generated?
CP: It starts with getting that footprint getting established, with people getting the attribution, getting the link back. So when I say big, I’m not necessarily talking about revenue.

PDN: You’re collecting data on Embed tool users. What kind of information, and are you using it to police the commercial uses?
CP: What data we’re collecting, I’m not in the position to go through that in exact detail.

PDN: So just to summarize, it sounds like you don’t know what will happen in terms of how successful this initiative will be in generating revenue.
CP: I think you’re putting words in my mouth. I think what you asked was specifically about and advertising model, what it would be, and how big would that be. What I said is, we think this is a big opportunity for Getty Images and our photographers to move into a new market. And we think we’re going to derive significant benefits from that, just starting with branding, attribution, and link back.
We think more people sharing and using imagery is a great thing, and we’re pretty content that for sharing images and imagery, we can find ways that can generate both benefit and revenue back to photographers.

Getty’s Free Image Program: New Revenue Model or a Surrender to Copyright Infringement?

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24 Responses to “Getty’s Craig Peters on Why Free Images Are Good for Photographers, And for the Photo Industry”

  1. Aimee Says:

    To the PDN journalist who interviewed Craig Peters much appreciate you trying to get to the crux of what Getty’s decision is about and it’s effects to the creators and users.

    Good luck to us photographers. Content sharing vs. Photographers has taken another blow :(

  2. Ed Says:

    Hmmm….lots of unknowns and sensing a bit of defensiveness in the answers for such a profound change. I also found the comment that Getty not targeting bloggers as customers a bit deceptive…I mean, isn’t that what iStock and Thinkstock are for? As an editorial photographer, and supplier of images to the secondary editorial market, I can’t support this one bit – Getty is cutting into my revenue and I don’t even supply them.

  3. Eric Says:

    No matter how you cut this, it is just not good news for photographers in the long run. For photographers what matters in the end, if they want to survive in the business, is revenue in their pockets. Until Getty can answer how this policy change is going to put that revenue in a photographer’s pocket, and now, it will be hard to see the justification for this from an individual financial perspective. The answer I see here in this transcript was an evasive one, and that is never a good thing.

  4. Irfan Says:

    Thank you for pressing hard on copyright and money issue. We need more journalist doing objective work rather than bullying or being cozy with their subjects.

  5. Todd Klassy Says:

    Is anyone buying this load of crap from Getty? Seriously. If you have photos with Getty in any way shape or form I pity you.

  6. Michelle Says:

    Here are some follow-up questions I would like answered: 1) How will Getty share revenue with photographers that is not generated from royalties? If Getty is going to collect and sell data, using the images as sticky flypaper to collect the data, will they share any of that revenue stream with photographers? 2) How much revenue was Getty generating from the editorial market that it just lost? Can now use our images for editorial use for free? 3) Is Getty giving away our images for free a violation of our contract? Can photographers still sue users who don’t pay?

  7. Michelle Says:

    Ah, I see, I think they are hanging their hat on the term in our contract that allows them to use our images to promote Getty. I think this is a legal stretch as editorial use has always been compensated in the past: “There will be no charge for non-commercial use of an embedded image because it allows us to promote the imagery, contributors and our brand in the important and growing new-media segment.”

  8. Rebecca Says:

    Kind of sounds like Getty wants to sink the competition, and they’ll resurface with a new frame work and start charging again once the competition goes under.

  9. Michael Clark Says:

    As a Getty Contributor, this is very frightening. The answer to why Getty Images is now giving away free images for non-commercial use is right there in the third question:

    The statement, “Certainly we reserve those rights [to push ads to viewers through the Embed display tool]” says it all. The stock world has taken a huge hit in the last several years (since 2008) and while Getty has done better than all other stock agencies combined they still look for ways to make more money, as usual with any company. They have watched YouTube, Facebook and all of the other social media sites monetize free content and now they want to get into the game.

    Look for ads to start popping up on these “free” images very soon. And how contributors will get a piece of that pie is a huge mystery. Contributors will have more of those $0.01 sales coming in the future. In no way is this good for the photographers. This move on Getty’s part also undermines the efforts of ASMP, APA and many other photography organizations to oppose the Orphan Works legislation that has been in congress now for almost a decade.

  10. Tony Bonanno Says:

    Michael Clark’s comments says it all. Another nail in the stock business.

  11. John McD. Says:

    Has it ever been more clear that Getty is not a worthy custodian of the images of any serious photographer? An agent is someone who acts in your best interest and the photographers’ interest is far from the main concern of this company. What do you expect from an entity that thinks it’s entitled to retain 70% of the revenue earned from the licensing of images which cost them nothing?

  12. DL Says:

    PDN that interview was embarrassing.

    The content is as genuine and substantial as the picture of the fake rainbow super-imposed on the sea used to accompany the interview.

    These days I am sincerely embarrassed to call myself a part of the professional photography industry.

    But then I am just a photographer – and I guess we don’t really figure any more.

  13. Chicago Photographer Says:

    This is really no surprise since lets all remember that Getty started selling images for cheap years ago and this is just an extension of their business model. For them to fight the illegal use of their images and go after websites that use them for free, costs THEM (Getty) money. For them to just give the content away cost US (Photographers) money, and saves Getty from paying legal fees to go after illegal use.

  14. Jasmine DeFoore Says:

    Craig Peters says This is individuals using images for non-commercial reasons” but then they lump all blogs into that non commercial definition. This isn’t just moms with blogs using images without licensing. This allows major organizations, who are fine with the embed as long as it saves them a big chunk of change every year, to generate significant ad revenue off content they didn’t pay for.

  15. MarkyMarc Says:

    So this Blog, which is part of a for profit company with ads right on the page generating income, is allowed to use the images for free????

  16. Ken Tannenbaum Says:

    That’s one of the loveliest, prettiest loads of dung I’ve not actually seen but can imagine. Getty clearly knows and consents to the great divide between contributors and Getty. ALL THE GIVE A DAMN ABOUT is luring more customers and that they will. So sad. I’ve suffered for it, but years ago I actually quit Getty due to their egregious all-or-nothing contract. It’s only gotten worse.

  17. Jonas Jungblut Says:

    This is not true:
    “PDN: Did you send them letters? Did you just ignore them?
    CP: We did not go after individuals for non-commercial use of our content.

    PDN: You didn’t even send them letters?
    CP: No, we didn’t.”

    I received a letter, an invoice actually, for around $2000 for using one of my own images on my website!!! The image had a different credit line with Getty and they found it through PicScout and thought I was using it without license.

    So obviously he is not telling the truth… big surprise…

  18. Sean Locke Says:

    Thanks for pushing him on several fronts to get answers, as corporate-speak-lying-fake-illogical as they were.

    For example, as Jonas says, we all know they went after random individuals and small businesses, hard, sending letters and legal threats. To say they didn’t indicates he either doesn’t have the knowledge he needs to do his job, or he is straight out lying.

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  22. Mark Stout Says:

    He says Getty contributors are incredibly positive about this “opportunity” yet I don’t see one positive post about this here, nor have I on any forum discussing it.

    This is a serious blow to copyright and the value of our images whether we have work on Getty or not.

    The logic is the equivalent of saying “shoplifting is out of control, so we will allow people to take what they want as long as they carry it out in a bag with the store logo on it so we get advertising and branding.”

    This whole concept of giving work away free to lead to sales is the most flawed and damaging “marketing” concepts to ever be conceived. I would love it if Ford would GIVE me a new Mustang for the exposure they get when I drive their logo around town… but the won’t for some odd reason. Yet yet that is DEMANDED of creators in every category.

    It doesn’t work. People won’t pay for what they can get free. And offering it free (or at microstock prices) devalues it across the entire industry.

    Thank you Getty for doing your part to take it one more HUGE step in the wrong direction.

  23. Rick Says:

    Gee, sounds familiar. We saw this happen in the music industry, then with television shows offered for free at network websites where writers, artists and performers forgo any compensation due to exhibitors’ “promotion” use definition applied to free viewing and giveaway of content. Even though platforms are labeled “promotion,” ads can still be sold and other branding value may be ascribed to the display of the visual content. The point then becomes how the suppliers (photographers) are compensated from ad revenue and the support of distributors’ corporate brand building.

    It’s particularly sad if rights to INDEPENDENTY FINANCED production such as stock photography are abused through contractual over-reach and images are given away for free under the guise of “promotion.” Consider a better model: HBO. They don’t give anything away for free, so all parties involved in their ecosystem are likely to be compensated for their work. Quality remains very high because management has enough confidence and integrity to maintain business standards and not give anything away for free at the cost of the image producers.

    If images or content are given away for free for “market expansion” or brand building, a fair market WHOLESALE VALUE should be agreed upon by all parties involved and then paid immediately upon use.

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