Getty Images Makes Its 35 Million Photos Free to Use

March 6, 2014 | Andy Cush

Getty Images, the world’s largest photography service, is now making its photos free to use. Previously, Getty required customers pay a fee to license their works, but now, you’ll be able to embed them wherever you want. Considering the company’s library — 35 million photos, dating back at least a century — this is a big deal for online publishing.

The catch: in order to legally use a Getty photo, you’ll have to do it using their embed code, which places a footer with a Getty logo, link, and sharing buttons below the image.

Getty’s motives aren’t purely altruistic. It’s relatively easy to find their photos unwatermarked and use them without a license, and the practice is widespread enough that it would impossible for the company to track down and sue every single infringer. With their new system, they’re hoping that someone who would otherwise out-and-out steal a photo will do it the sanctioned way instead.

“We’re really starting to see the extent of online infringement,” Craig Peters, Getty’s senior vice president of business development, told the British Journal of Photography. “In essence, everybody today is a publisher thanks to social media and self-publishing platforms. And it’s incredibly easy to find content online and simply right-click to utilize it.”

“What we’re finding is that the vast majority of infringement in this space happen with self publishers who typically don’t know anything about copyright and licensing, and who simply don’t have any budget to support their content needs,” he added.

The feature is available starting today. To celebrate, here’s Bill Murray.

(Top photo: @shoot film not bullets)