photography

Getty Images allows free embed of 35 million photographs

Timothy Vollmer, March 7th, 2014


Kristina Alexanderson / CC BY-NC-SA

Getty Images recently announced that it will allow free noncommercial embedding of 35 million of the images in its stock photography database. This is a good step toward better supporting a variety of users. Getty is clearly seeing its images appear across the web anyway, so it’s decided to go down the embed road, similar to how other content providers like YouTube handle the media they host. By requiring embedding, Getty will be able to track where its photos are being used online, and reserves the right to display advertisements. The announcement demonstrates a general understanding that Getty needs to meet users halfway in providing content in ways that is affordable, useable, and aligned with how people wish to share online today. At the same time, users may run into roadblocks in using Getty content, and openly-licensed resources could provide a straightforward alternative.

The Getty Images terms of use say that users can “only use embedded Getty Images Content for editorial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest)”. Creative Commons-licensed images can be used for any purpose, by anyone, anywhere around the world, as long as the user follows the terms of the license. But no CC license dictates that a piece of licensed content may only be used for a specific purpose–editorial or otherwise.

The Getty terms also state that images “may not be used … for any commercial purpose (for example, in advertising, promotions or merchandising) or to suggest endorsement or sponsorship…”. The British Journal of Photography, in an interview with Getty Images representative Craig Peters, clarifies Getty’s interpretation of the boundaries of noncommercial use.

Blogs that draw revenues from Google Ads will still be able to use the Getty Images embed player at no cost. “We would not consider this commercial use,” says Peters.

Creative Commons has maintained a static definition of noncommercial use in its licenses over the years (which has earned its share of criticism). In license version 4.0 “NonCommercial means not primarily intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation.”

Another difference between the Getty Images embed service and Creative Commons-licensed images is that Getty would reserve the right to revoke its embedded photographs at any time. Its terms of use state that the “availability may change without notice. Getty Images reserves the right in its sole discretion to remove Getty Images Content from the Embedded Viewer. Upon request, you agree to take prompt action to stop using the Embedded Viewer and/or Getty Images Content.” So unlike even the most restrictive Creative Commons license (which permits verbatim noncommercial copying with attribution), Getty Images requires an HTML embed which it solely controls. When images are licensed under Creative Commons licenses, downstream users are granted more permissive rights. As stated in our Frequently Asked Questions:

The CC licenses are irrevocable. This means that once you receive material under a CC license, you will always have the right to use it under those license terms, even if the licensor changes his or her mind and stops distributing under the CC license terms.

Finally, the Getty terms prohibit uses “outside of the context of the Embedded Viewer”, which means that you can’t use the Getty images in remixes, videos, or really anywhere that doesn’t use embeds. On the other hand, CC-licensed images permit reuse in any medium. The licenses grant users authorization to exercise their rights under the license “in all media and formats … and to make technical modifications necessary to do so.”

It’s good that Getty Images is providing free online access to millions of images. But the advantages of CC-licensed photos is clear: users can’t have the content pulled out from underneath them, the images can be used for any reason in any format, and in many cases images are licensed for broad reuse and modification. And remember, there’s a huge trove of Creative Commons-licensed images out there too (not to mention millions of photographs in the public domain for use without any restrictions whatsoever!). Flickr now contains over 300 million CC-licensed photos. Wikimedia Commons hosts over 20 million multimedia files (a large proportion which are openly-licensed photographs being used on Wikipedia). Or even check out Google Images or Bing to easily discover CC-licensed images.

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500px Announces Creative Commons Licensing Options

Elliot Harmon, November 16th, 2012

Read the full press release. (PDF)

This morning, photo-sharing platform 500px announced that it now offers Creative Commons licensing options. 500px has become a hub for talented photographers in recent years, and it’s great to see it join the ranks of CC-enabled platforms.

From the press release:

“While our platform still defaults to full copyright protection as it always has, we want to give our photographers as much flexibility as possible to spread their work and build their profiles and businesses,” says Oleg Gutsol, CEO, 500px. “Our move to offer Creative Commons licensing is another way we’re providing additional services and value to meet the needs of our growing community.”

With tens of millions of high quality professional photos potentially now available through Creative Commons, 500px is planning for the increased traffic from bloggers, publishers and media outlets that have been clamoring to get at the content for several years.

“We’ve built content searching by keywords and applicable license right into the functionality,” says Gutsol. “Our hope is that this targeted searching makes it seamless for people to find the content they’re looking for.”

With this rollout, 500px joins the ranks of other prominent rich media communities such as Vimeo, SoundCloud and YouTube who already have Creative Commons in place.

“500px is a great addition to the family of CC-compatible media platforms,” Creative Commons CEO Cathy Casserly said. “500px caters to a talented and intelligent community of photographers, just the sort of users we’re always excited to see licensing their work under CC. I’ll be curious to see how creative people everywhere reuse and remix the work of 500px photographers.”

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Wired.com now releasing photos under CC Attribution-Noncommercial

Jane Park, November 7th, 2011

We are thrilled to relay Wired.com’s announcement that from now on all Wired.com staff-produced photos will be released under a CC Attribution-Noncommercial license (CC BY-NC)! Wired.com’s Editor in Chief Evan Hansen says,

“Creative Commons turns ten years old next year, and the simple idea of releasing content with “some rights reserved” has revolutionized online sharing and fueled a thriving remix culture. At Wired.com, we’ve benefited from CC-licensed photos for years — thank you sharers! Now we’re going to start sharing ourselves.”

We want to return the thanks to Wired.com for recognizing the power of open! Wired.com is a leader in covering the world of technology and a pioneer in commercial online publishing. We hope that others will recognize the value of both borrowing from, and contributing to, the richness of our shared commons.

To immediately sweeten the pot, Wired.com is celebrating their new licensing policy by releasing a CC-licensed gallery of 50 iconic photos from past stories including portraits of Steve Jobs, Woz, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Ballmer, Trent Reznor, JJ Abrams, and others. Check out Wired’s Flickr stream for high resolution formats of the photos.


Trent Reznor / Jon Snyder/Wired.com / CC BY-NC

We believe that there are incredible opportunities for publishers and news organizations in open licensing. With this commitment, Wired joins other prestigious news and content organizations who are sharing interesting and important resources with the world under CC, incluing Al Jazeera, Propublica, and GOOD. Thanks Wired.com!

CC license use in journalism and other domains, in addition to numerous other activities, are made possible thanks to donations from people like you. We are a nonprofit organization; please consider contributing to our annual campaign going on now! Thank you.

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CC licensed photos and the International Olympic Committee

Mike Linksvayer, October 12th, 2009


Weezie’s Birthday Ballooning by Richard Giles / CC BY-SA

Richard Giles, a social media specialist in Australia who frequently posts and CC licenses photos on Flickr, received a threatening letter from the International Olympic Committee last week, mentioning a set of photos he had taken at the 2008 games in Beijing.

Giles posted a rundown of the story so far on his blog. It is not clear the situation is resolved yet, and initially there was confusion about which photos or licenses are at issue, but there are many worthwhile posts about it to check out, including these:

Regarding Ross’ post, of course the UK merchant that used the photo in an advertisement that eventually attracted the IOC’s notice may have discovered the photo directly on Flickr as well. In either case, the value of moving to a more liberal license if you want your works to spread is highlighted — Giles’ Usain Bolt photo is under CC Attribution-ShareAlike, while his other Beijing photos are under CC Attribution-NonCommercial.

cc-shepard-fairey-logo-mediumWhatever the resolution of this particular dispute, there’s no question that the IOC’s attempt to control how photographers use their own photos is symptomatic of the permission culture and tragedy of the anticommons we are facing. Creative Commons can’t directly influence the IOC’s policies, but we’re creating an alternative to ensure a non-gridlocked future of creativity and innovation, an alternative that offers benefits to those who participate in the commons now, and whose successes will change minds. Please support us — we’re in the midst of our 2009 campaign to raise $500,000 to fund this work.

The photo at the top of this post by Richard Giles is not of the Olympics, but does look fun. Note that even such an innocuous photo could be under threat as we move in the direction of a permission economy — building owners attempt to control public photography, why not balloon owners or designers? Give now.

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The Reality of Professional Photography on Wikipedia

Fred Benenson, July 23rd, 2009

Noam Cohen’s piece in the New York Times over the weekend highlighted some of the issues surrounding photography on Wikipedia:

At a time when celebrities typically employ a team of professionals to control their images, Wikipedia is a place where chaos rules. Few high-quality photographs, particularly of celebrities, make it onto this site. This is because the site runs only pictures with the most permissive Creative Commons license, which allows anyone to use an image, for commercial purposes or not, as long as the photographer is credited.

But what Cohen somehow misses is the staggering amount of high quality professional photography (of celebrities and otherwise) that does make it on to Wikipedia. Take for example, the Davos World Economic Forum’s choice to release its entire Flickr stream, over 2,600 professional shot photos, under our Attribution-ShareAlike license. The result is a professional, high quality, and informative entry on the conference and organization filled with photos of celebrities that was entirely curated by volunteers. WEF didn’t even have to upload the photos themselves, they just made them available under the right license:

World Economic Forum - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Obviously, the WEF is in the business of running a meeting and not licensing celebrity photos, but there is no doubt about the value in the works they’ve contributed to the commons; value that could have been, but wasn’t, exploited using standard all-rights-reserved copyright licenses and stock photo agencies.

In other words, the WEF realized the obvious advantages of being the provider of a certain set of free photos that would otherwise be difficult to capture professionally. As Wikipedia continues its ascent toward being a cultural necessity (if not the nth wonder of the world), these advantages will only accumulate, thus further cementing the argument for free culture.

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