Getty Images has recently launched a new tool that allows anyone to embed the professional photos in their catalogue on non-commercial websites free of charge. When hovering over images in Getty’s massive catalogue, you’ll now see a button to embed a chosen image. Copying the given html embed code will allow you to easily insert this image on your site, with proper attribution included (like the one you see here below, which is one that I have licensed with Getty):
As a Getty contributor, I have mixed feelings about this newest move. I realize that photos are used all the time without respect to copyright (I get many hits each day on my photostream from Pinterest, for example, even though I’ve never shared anything there), and can see this as a move to at least start acknowledging others’ work. But I wonder how much incentive is left both for clients to purchase my images, which are now freely available in the public domain, and for photographers like myself to continue to contribute them.
I love the idea of sharing and collaboration, but I worry at the same time about a future where people expect everything for free. While this post pertains to photography, I see similar discussions happening around all sorts of other creative industries from music to graphic design. I love getting things for free too, but I certainly don’t like working for free. Fortunately for me, photography is a passion and a hobby and not a source of income that I rely upon, but I worry about anyone who is trying to make a living off their creative talents. Aside from ‘credit’, what is their incentive to create new work?
As a mostly amateur, but sometimes pro photographer, I struggle with finding the perfect balance between being able to share my work and also protect it from being misused. I’ve blogged about people stealing my photos before, and I’m certainly not alone in having this happen (this guy’s story is particularly unbelievable). But as I begin to sell more of my work online, I’m finding it increasingly frustrating. Half the time when I find my work ripped off, I would have gladly let the person use my photo had they simply asked permission and then acknowledged me as the creator of the work.
The latest case of this blatent sort of copyright infringement that I’ve discovered is a site called weheartit that is copying and indexing millions of photos, many of which have been clearly marked as copyright, and even worse, many of which are copied off of sites offering them for sale. This isn’t the first site to do this, as Tumblr has already been driving many a photographer crazy for years, and there are plenty of others out there, but this site is particularly malicious in that it doesn’t seem to have any other purpose aside from ripping off people’s work.
The agency that I have some photos licensed with, Getty Images, will go to bat for photographers and have their legal team contact these sites to remove photos that they represent. Unfortunately, beyond this, it’s up to individual photographers to use reverse photo search engines like TinEye and to keep a close eye on referring site statistics to try to catch their work being misused. The internet is kind of big though, so it’s impossible to catch everything.
As educators then, I feel it’s incredibly important that we instill a strong sense of ethical behaviour in our students when it comes to using work that they’ve found online. There are fantastic sources like Creative Commons that students have available to them to legally access and use creative works, and we as teachers need to be making the use of these sorts of tools a standard requirement. Whether it is written, sung aloud, painted, danced, or in a photo, work created by someone else must be acknowledged and ethically reproduced. The medium does not matter, and any other sort of behaviour is plagiarism.