The photo below has two things about it I never thought I’d see. (1)  Matthew McConaughey holding an Oscar for outstanding actor in a leading role; and (2) Getty Images allowing this photo to appear without charging a licensing fee.

According to, the giant photo licensing company has given up on the possibility of suing the millions of people who use their photos on blogs and social media. Rather, they have decided to follow the model of YouTube and other sites that allow their content to be embedded, under certain conditions.

We can hear you say, “What are those certain conditions?”

You’ll find those in Getty Images’ updated Terms of Use. Here are some of the highlights of the terms, which, if you follow along, will explain how you can use the photos and how Getty will make money giving away something for free.

Embedded Getty Images Content may not be used: (a) for any commercial purpose (for example, in advertising, promotions or merchandising) or to suggest endorsement or sponsorship.

While one could argue that any website that carries advertising or promotes a specific business (your’s, for example) is commercial in nature, Getty isn’t likely to interpret posting a photo of Matthew McConaughey on a company blog or news story to be a violation of the terms of use. However, they are clearly forbidding a business to embed the image on a “1/2 Price Matthew McConaughey’s Birthday Sale” promotion.

You may embed Getty Images Content on a website, blog or social media platform.

By specifically listing “website” as a permissible use for an embedded image, if seems clear Getty is not going to spend much effort policing the web in search of websites to sue for displaying their photos. Indeed, it is likely Getty will be encouraging media companies to post their photos everywhere, just like YouTube doesn’t mind giant websites embedding videos posted there.

You may only use embedded Getty Images Content for editorial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest).

This is yet another way to say, don’t embed these images in an ad or something that’s clearly a promotional campaign.

Getty Images reserves the right in its sole discretion to remove Getty Images Content from the Embedded Viewer.

This is so much easier for Getty to handle than going through all of the hassle with take-down notices and lawsuits.

Getty Images Content…reserves the right to place advertisements in the Embedded Viewer or otherwise monetize its use without any compensation to you.

In the words of Navin R. Johson in the classic film for which Steve Martin did NOT receive an Oscar, “Ahh. It’s a profit deal.” By having their photos embedded on millions of pages of the web, Getty can enjoy a business model just like Google’s. As Google shares their advertising revenue with content creators, so with Getty with the photographers or other rights owners.

Helpful link:

A special search engine that displays only photos that can be embedded.

Note: Our terms of use states that readers should never construe anything they read on as legal advice, even when it is correct.

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