For the past decade or so, the best defense Getty Images could find against the right-click button on your mouse—home of the “copy” and “save” functions—has been a team of scary lawyers. By copying one of its images and using it on your blog, you’re entering a random drawing where the prize is a terrifying letter offering a tutorial in copyright litigation.
But this week the photography company is embarking on a different strategy: Anyone can now visit its website, grab some embed code, and display an image on blogs and social media pages without paying a licensing fee. As a technological feat, of course, embeddable media is unremarkable. It’s a basic feature on YouTube and Twitter and many other major websites. Yet it marks an unlikely pivot for Getty, which makes its money selling permission to use photos from its vast library of work from more than 150,000 individuals, stock photo agencies, and media organizations. Creating an embedding tool is a tacit acknowledgment that Getty simply can’t police the use of its images to the four corners of the Internet.