When Getty and Google Team Up, You Lose.

When Getty and Google Team Up, You Lose.

Stock photography has always seemed to go one of two ways. Either you make a great living, or you memorize McDonald's value menu; however, no matter if stock income is your main source, or a small residual you need to know about Getty's current partnership with Google. On December 6th of 2012 Google Drive (a free service) announced on their blog that “5,000 new photos of nature, weather, animals, sports, food, education, technology, music and 8 other categories are now available for your use in Docs, Sheets, and Slides” yet they failed to clue anyone in as to where the images came from, or what the license terms were.

Google Docs allows you to search a internal stock library of free images for insertion into any document you are creating, but there is no credit to the photographer whatsoever. In fact, according to one iStocker's post on January 10th even the EXIF data has been stripped out. Clicking the link about copyright within Google Docs says this: "When using the Google Image Search feature in Google Docs, your results will be filtered to include images labeled with a license that allows you to copy the image for commercial purposes and modify it in ways specified in the license." Basically saying that anyone on their platform can use these images for commercial purposes. What are the photographers getting paid?

Every source I've encountered says the same thing, a whopping one-time fee of $12!

One Getty Contributor had this to say: "Just checked this out and found loads of my images, all sold on my recent statement as Premium access time limited, yet I can download all for free."

On January 11th, after 27 pages of conversation between members and what appear to be several iStock, Getty and Google employees a post went up by "Mr_Erin" with this to say:

“Google licensed these images for use by Google users through the Google Drive platform; Users of this platform are granted rights to place this imagery in content created using Google Docs, Google Sites, and Google Presentations, which end uses can be for commercial purposes.”

Mr_Erin also confirms that this is a license deal between Google and Getty, but goes on to say the more images may be added into the pool at a later date.

Further investigation points to a Getty owned stock agency ThinkStock as the licensing entity Google has partnered with, and they have been crowd-sourcing content. Users are given the opportunity to nominate 10 images from ThinkStock's archive to the GoogleDocs pool. Getty has been in the media time and time again for shady business practices from "bait and sue" strategies against consumers to massive insults like this one. When you think about how many times people already say "oh, I just got the image off of google" an agreement like this hits a dangerous point. Rob Haggert of APhotoEditor.com says it best: "I’m positive that Getty and Google will figure out a way to lower the bar even further at some point, but this is the lowest I’ve seen it. Gmail has 425 million active users worldwide according to Wikipedia. That’s some serious fractions of a penny for a license."

What are your thoughts on this? Is $12 enough for you to potentially never see another dime from an image?

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43 Comments

As the cost of producing picture went down the overall price of the picture is proportionally lower. Now taking all the supply of the stock images into consideration, the price is as it is...
It is only sad that photographers don't see value in their own images.

Mike Kelley's picture

Just seems par for the course lately, sad as it may be

Surely Getty can only do this because the photographer agreed to this in the contract?

Laura Sweeney's picture

No they did not.  Rules changed in the middle of the game so to speak.

They weren't even informed that they had images included in this ... they found out by accident when someone found one of their images in Google Docs.

Just another example of a measured, purposeful, and on going attack on all levels against working people by giant corporations controlled by the elite. Work, art, and humanity are devalued on all levels and if you don't like it well, you don't have submit your pictures or some other dismissal. You're lucky you get paid anything for your "hobby" anyone can go out an take a picture of a tree. This is what happens when we devalue work and just focus on money.

today, virtually everyone is a photographer.... anyone having a P&S or even a mobile considers him/herself a photographer.... this $12 deal is for those people who would never try to make a living out of photography.... they would probably be happy if someone offers them a certain dollar for every damn image they give away, not thinking about quality... this new trend just gives an idea how easy it is to make money from photography and how hard it is to make a living out of it!

 It's important to note, that while everyone can take photographs, not everyone can contribute to places such as Getty.  From what I have heard/experienced, you must submit photos before you may contribute and they must follow certain rules and be of high quality.  Maybe things have changed since I last looked into it but I'm pretty sure that this is affecting experienced photographers rather than just your average Joe trying to make a few pennies with their P&S.  =)

well, thats a very good point you've raised about quality.... when I first chose to submit my Flickr photos to Getty, I had high expectations... but after receiving $15 for the sale of two of my best images, I had enough... my question is, what kind of quality could you expect if you are thinking of paying that amount... either Getty needs to lower their quality requirement significantly, or photographers need to bring their level of acceptance way below the acceptable limit.... such payment terms are more likely to invite the average Joe (with a high-res P&S) than anyone else, thus making it ever harder for professionals to survive in the stock photo market...

We're talking about AMAZING images being given away by Getty and these people, up until recently, were making a fair living off stock photography. Some of these images are from IStockPhotos VETTA collection.
This picture isn;t necesarily one of the ones in Google Docs but an example of VETTA collection quality:
http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-6182374-young-man-smoking.php?st=...

I guess we're not the only ones talking about this... a D-Day (Deactivation Day) is being planned on February 2 by some stock photographers.... take a look:
http://blogs.photopreneur.com/microstock-photographers-plan-d-day-boycot...

I have a certain ambivalence (veering into the black) about my status as a Getty contributor. I have hard drives full of images that were taken from the perspective of my own interest (mainly portraiture) with no view to sales. Since becoming a Getty contributor I have seen my images sell for as little as 5 bucks to as much as 500 bucks. I manage to get 30% of the sale cost for every image sold. none of these images would ever have made a cent for me without Getty. (and I am aware that is a residual effect of them gaining 70% income from my labour simply as a well known mediator between supply and demand)
Getty contributors are horrified and appalled at the latest Google/Getty tie up, people are beginning to step out of the contributors arena figuring that good healthy revenue streams from images are going to dwindle fast to the point where our images are totally devalued on commercial markets.

More of this exploitation to come.

 I'd like to hear from a representative of Getty.

I think articles like this are quick to judge and for all we know this could be the work of about 10 photographers who all agreed this to happen and were paid reasonable because of it. It does not state who's images are being used.

I don't think we should judge so quick and hate on Getty just yet, let them speak up and then we can make formal opinions.

If you're truly interested you can read through pages and pages of comments from angry Getty contributors on the links below.  It was not the work of "about 10 photographers who all agreed" but rather about 490 contributers with what seems to be a large number very angry about having their images included.  Not only were they not asked to participate, there is no way to opt out of this or future deals short of no longer offering images for sale. 

Many Getty contributors have been busy disabling their images.  One aspect of great concern are model-released images.  The Google TOS seem near impossible to find, there does not seem to be any limitation on how the images are used.  iStock licensing prohibits sensitive or pornographic use but the free Google download does not seem to bind the user to any such restrictions. 

Furthermore, it seems that Google is making deals that allow for further file-sharing and uploads of the docs created in Google Drive, further diluting any control of use that was part of the original licensing that Getty/iStock contributers agreed to in their contract.

Users were not paid a reasonable amount, they received either $12 or $6 per image - a one-time payment for what amounts to a multi-seat license that includes anyone with internet access.  And some of those images that got a $12 payment had been selling for much more than that on a regular basis.

Contributors would also love for Getty to speak up and explain themselves.  They have been asking for details for over 2 weeks now and have had minimal response.

http://www.istockphoto.com/forum_messages.php?threadid=350439&page=1

http://www.istockphoto.com/forum_messages.php?threadid=350491&page=1

http://www.istockphoto.com/forum_messages.php?threadid=350613&page=1

 Thank you, just from reading this article it was not clear how the images were chosen.

Getty are absolutely opening themselves up to financial liability here. Put more bluntly, someone *will* sue them. It's not a matter of if in this case, but when.

I'm just curious whether there are any high quality alternatives that are more supportive of photographers. If there was a viable alternative that supported it's contributors better, I feel as though Getty would face serious problems. 

To me all this sounds like artists who complains about the small % they get per CD or download on itunes.

If you're not happy, leave. Metric (canadian band) decided to do this years ago and they self promote and distribute. They are still going and strong!

They is always a MASS of photogs that hate that their rights are being violated, but I don't here anyone of them trying to change the game (open a new kind of stock photograpy site more "compliant" to the laws) etc...

Be the change you want to see right?

IStock used to be that until it was bought by Getty. People just need to get up and leave them behind.

difference here is, that it is the biggest company that are doing it. And they changed the game without telling the photographer. But if the biggest company start giving pictures away for free, they are changing the game.

The problem is that several of these pictures has model release on. Untill Getty started to give away pictures, the risk of seeing them going viral was alot less. To let a bigger company pay 3-500 for one picture is something totaly different, than suddenlty putting the pictures online for free. A company that pays several hundred for the pictures has normaly a more respectful use of the picture. Bob is not making any thoughts about infarmatory use of the picture.... Untill now, a note to the blog would be enough to get a picture offline. Now, they have the right to do it, becouse Getty gave them the right.

Well, the TOS of Getty the seem to allow what they did. It's just another good example that people should check what they agree too and not just sign with a dollar sign in their mind. 

This is stock photography. Period. Not happy? Quit. 

Sure, and wedding photogs can close up shop and let relatives shoot the happy day with their new P&S, news photogs can leave reporting news to anyone with a smart phone, why not just give up on a career in photography.

Dear KarenS222: stock photography = photographers signing a contract with stock agencies giving them the right to license images. That's what Getty did: licensed images from photographers who signed a contract with them. Is the agreement with Google outrageous? Of course it is -- but that's just how stock photography works. Sometimes outrageous, sometimes wonderful (for photographers). For stock agencies? Always just business.

Yes it is business but quitting isn't the only option.  You'll always be a doormat if you turn and run whenever you don't like something and for those supporting their families with their income from stock it's hardly a good option to quit.  The other option is to voice objection and call for fair treatment. Winning against giants like Google and Getty is, shall we say, unlikely, but based on forum feedback there are discussions going on between them that may at least result in some improvements to the current situation.

 Believe me, photographers who make a living from stock photography are right now photographing, not complaining. They know their business, they know how stock agencies work, and... they read what they sign!

It would be different if the photographers were asked (or even informed!) before this decision was made regarding THEIR intellectual property. The contract signed by the photographers did not include a provision for this type of redistribution.

That's all very simplistic and cavalier. I understand the concept of a
"free market" and I support it under most conditions, however when a
company breaks the terms of use they piss people off.

Directing anger and hatred toward a company provides disgust that alienates buyers
and sellers. I shoot video for other competing agencies so I am not
directly affected but my friends are and I intend to smear the
reputation of ghetty and istock at every relevant personal encounter.

See, I am part of the free market too as a buyer. If companies don't like a
bad reputation they shouldn't piss people off . In your words "Its just
business."

So stop acting like the "free market" is a one way street.

Come on, you know your smearing won't hurt them in absolutely any way. They're way way bigger than your smearing -- unfortunately. But if it will make you feel better, go on. At the end of the day, it's a matter of belief.

Speak for yourself.
I know a lot more people than you realize.

Secondly I am not the only person who feels this way, I am expressing a concept that other people are unable to articulate. Its obviously not "me against the world here" as you insinuate.

I have personally caused a huge amount of profit loss to another multinational corporation because they failed to deliver a product to me.  Not a lawsuit, but I was in the right place at the right time.

The number of people you may know or the profit loss you caused to the multinational corporation really didn't make me change my opinion that this is a lost battle.

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