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Getty's Free Images: Can Your Business Use Them?

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. | Last updated on

Now that Getty Images has made 35 million of its pictures free for non-commercial use online, some entrepreneurs may be able to take advantage of the offer -- but with limitations.

One caveat to embedding the free Getty images on a website or blog is that a footer crediting Getty and a link to the company's licensing page will appear below the image, Forbes reports.

But since businesses are "commercial" by nature, can you even use the free images without violating Getty's policy?

Getty's Embedded Viewer Policy

Getty Images' Terms of Use provides guidelines for how anyone, including businesses, may or may not use its free images.

Here's what the embedded viewer policy says:

  • "You may only use embedded Getty Images content for editorial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest)." So for example, if you have a personal blog, unrelated to your business, that discusses topics like fashion or current events, Getty's free images can be embedded there. Even blogs that make a little money via Google Ads are OK under the policy, Forbes reports.
  • "Embedded Getty Images Content may not be used ... for any commercial purpose (for example, in advertising, promotions or merchandising) or to suggest endorsement or sponsorship." This means if your business is having a shoe sale, you can't embed a free Getty Image of shoes on your commercial website or in a Facebook post promoting your sale.

Getty's free images also can't be used in a manner that's defamatory, unlawful, or pornographic. And the images can't be used outside the context of Getty's embedded viewer -- meaning you can't just copy-and-paste any Getty-owned image that you want.

Some Practical Considerations

Though Getty's terms state free images cannot be used "for any commercial purpose," there are some scenarios that can arguably land a business owner in a legal "gray area."

For example, can you embed a free Getty image on your business' official blog, or on a part of your business' website that's solely "informative"? While you may argue that it's for an "editorial" purpose, it can also potentially be argued that a business blog or website serves an inherently commercial purpose. If you find yourself in this situation, it may be best to consult an intellectual property attorney in your area for more guidance.

You'll probably also want to call a lawyer if you receive a takedown notice from Getty, accusing you of violating its Terms of Use -- which is how companies typically handle cases of alleged online infringement before filing a lawsuit.

One final note: Getty Images isn't making its entire database free, so users will still have to pay to use the vast majority of Getty's photo collection, Forbes reports.

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