Getty Waves The White Flag, Infringers Win

March 14, 2014

broken copyright symbolYou win, freeloaders.

That seems to be what Getty Images was saying last week when it announced that vast portions of its library of images would be free to users.

One business development executive actually said, “Our content was everywhere already. If you want to get a Getty image today, you can find it without a watermark very simply.”

Some Getty images will still cost money, but overall, it seems like Getty was tired of battling the army of bloggers, Tweeters and Instagrammers who simply disregarded copyright, right-clicked and used Getty work as they wished, because why would you ever pay creative professionals for their work?

Getty is the latest to take an “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach to Internet piracy. It seems like increasingly, media companies have wearied of fighting online piracy and have switched to milking whatever trickle of revenue they can get out of online methods of consuming content.

  • The major television networks let you watch hits like “Modern Family” and “New Girl” on Hulu. They’d prefer you pay $7.99 for Hulu Plus, but whatever you do, please don’t jeopardize the effectiveness of advertising with them by TiVo’ing their shows and skipping over the commercials.
  • The YouTube account Vevo airs music videos from popular artists like Katy Perry, Rihanna and Beyonce. There’s no cost to the viewer, other than sitting through the abundant product placements and marketing messages about upcoming tours and albums. For those with musical tastes that extend beyond the Top 40, streaming “freemium” services like Pandora and Spotify make it free to listen to an almost unimaginably wide selection of music.
  • The New York Times has tried tactic after tactic to get people to pay for its very expensive in-depth reporting, including keeping some content behind a paywall and having companies “sponsor” given sections. As far as I know, none of the methods it’s come up with so far have remedied the problem of news readers expecting their content to be free online, but still, no major newspaper is yanking its content off the web, either.

It’s interesting to see how these companies are reacting to changed consumption patterns. For awhile, they fell back in intellectual property protections (knock it off, Napster!), but now, it looks like that white flag is waving.