Copyright on the Internet is a mess. Thanks to the social web, photographs and images fly across Tumblr and Imgur with startling velocity, putting quite a bit of distance between the original content creator and where you might actually see the image.
For photo-distribution platforms like Getty Images, which licenses photographs to news organizations and websites for commercial use, this lack of attribution presents a sizable headache. It's why, starting today, Getty Images is unrolling a new set of social sharing features that, if all goes according to plan, will help curb some of the rampant copyright abuse.
The new tool isn't so different from Connect, which Getty Images initially announced in 2012. Only this time around, it allows anyone—not just its clientele—to embed Getty Images' entire catalog of photographs for non-commercial use on their blog, website, or social media accounts. For free.
It's a pretty telling move, too, considering the company's reputation for (rightfully) issuing DMCA takedown notices. "This is a more visual world," Craig Peters, Getty Images VP of Business Development, Content, and Marketing, tells Fast Company. "Everybody is a publisher today." The thinking goes that everyone already uses Getty's content without permission; this just gives them a legal means to do so.
How does it work, exactly? "Think of YouTube and their embeds," says Peters. Users can go directly through the Getty Images webpage and grab the necessary HTML code from there. It looks something like this:
Getty says it reserves the right to monetize the feature—perhaps with ads—but says it won't do so right away. And the million-dollar question, of course, is will people actually use it? Getty bets they will; at least it makes the free service as frictionless as possible. And hey: Giving users the option to embed content seems to have worked out okay for Twitter and Instagram, right? "The benefit of that is we get attribution to the content creator and owner," adds Peters. "This is the opportunity to give individuals and platforms a legal way to really share."