Big Big Data News: Free Getty Images

March 7, 2014

Open dataBig Data Just Wants to Be Free

A digital image is data – it is “a dot matrix data structure representing a generally rectangular grid of pixels, or points of color, viewable via a monitor, paper, or other display medium.” (Wikipedia)  Digital image data–free and unfettered from the strictures of digital lockdown–will procreate and proliferate, gaining value and generating revenues in the process.

Amidst the Big Data and Chief Data Officer press zenith of recent weeks and months comes a major announcement by Getty Images–a company whose primary assets are Big Data if ever there was one. The announcement:  Getty images are FREE! You merely need to provide attribution and embed a readily-provided link. This is Big Big Data news. As also recognized by Richi Jennings in Forbes, the Big Data upside to the Getty policy change could be substantial.

Getty Images’ main asset – its images – data — are now essentially free for the taking – for noncommercial use, seemingly giving away its main revenue source. Getty Images’ move recognizes that locking down image assets was futile if not impossible. When licensed users post unlocked/unwatermarked versions, the image is freely copied with merely a right-click. This use was an infringement, and one that had essentially no monetary upside for Getty. Not having to police infringers – wasting valuable corporate time and money – will be large net gain for Getty.

Getty Images’ global free use policy will result in goodwill, free advertising for its images, and more paid customers. Paid customers – why? Because the embedded image allows Getty to pull the kill switch on a freely-used image at any time. Consumers such as newspapers and other digital media sites will pay to have the image content remain static and avoid leaving the decayed, expired photos analogous to link rot to the nonpaying blogs.

Big Data wants to procreate and proliferate

Big Data begets more Big Data, if leveraged properly. In addition to the digital image data, Getty Images’ other data assets lie in an expansive,  highly complex relational database of licensing terms and conditions.

The free-availability of the Getty images will not mitigate, but enhance, the value of both its image data and its licensing database assets. This is asset-leveraging at its finest. With the embedding of a link in each photo used, Getty now has the ability to track an image’s use over its life time,  enabling construction of a vast storehouse of data assets that will exponentially expand the primary digital image data assets. This embedded link will also enable Getty to ultimate push paid advertisements through the link to any or all of the  sites in which the image has been used.

How this important to you

Companies will need to assess their data assets and their potential in renewed light, in view of the Getty announcement. Free availability of primary digital assets is not a new concept, with “information just wants to be free” origins in the infancy of the Internet. However its commercial leveraging has had a checkered history of popularity, with many industries enamored with maximizing  instant gratification still stuck in the virtual stone ages.

Release of the Getty Image database is a big Big Data step in global recognition that our personal and behaviorial data, and that of those with whom we interact online , can be more valuable than the original data asset itself. The Internet is already rejoicing over recognition by Getty that our relationship online must finally be quid pro quo. It is inevitable that other companies – maybe yours? — will follow suit.