photographerIt looks like Getty Images might finally be catching on to social media and the fundamental changes that have taken place related to digital image publishing and sharing. This week, Getty Images announced a new embed feature for non-commercial use which will make it easier for people to share some of the images from the Getty Images catalog on blogs and social media sites. You can visit the Getty Images Embed Images page to learn how to do it.

Of course, you should read the complete Terms and Conditions on the Getty Images website before you embed any of the images into your website or blog. Here is a portion of the agreement with some details about embedded images:

Embedded Viewer: Where enabled, you may embed Getty Images Content on a website, blog or social media platform using the embedded viewer (the “Embedded Viewer”). Not all Getty Images Content will be available for embedded use, and availability may change without notice. Getty Images reserves the right in its sole discretion to remove Getty Images Content from the Embedded Viewer. Upon request, you agree to take prompt action to stop using the Embedded Viewer and/or Getty Images Content. You may only use embedded Getty Images Content for editorial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest). Embedded Getty Images Content may not be used: (a) for any commercial purpose (for example, in advertising, promotions or merchandising) or to suggest endorsement or sponsorship; (b) in violation of any stated restriction; (c) in a defamatory, pornographic or otherwise unlawful manner; or (d) outside of the context of the Embedded Viewer.

Getty Images (or third parties acting on its behalf) may collect data related to use of the Embedded Viewer and embedded Getty Images Content, and reserves the right to place advertisements in the Embedded Viewer or otherwise monetize its use without any compensation to you.”

Content publishers should be aware that the Embedded Viewer is for non-commercial use. Although the Terms and Conditions only refer to commercial use as ads, promotions, and merchandising, it is possible that blog posts on a company blog could be considered commercial use based on past Getty Images behaviors.

Getty Images has earned a reputation for its copyright trolling behaviors, particularly since it acquired PicScout a few years ago. Just Google “Getty Extortion Letter” or “Getty Settlement Demand Letter” and you’ll see how widespread and abusive it is (ExtortionLetterInfo.com is a great place to learn more), and you don’t want to be caught in that mess. Copyright laws are being overhauled in Washington to help fix some of these problems, but until clearer laws that are appropriate for 2014 are defined, proceed cautiously.

Also, note that the Terms and Conditions says image availability might change without notice. That means an image you embed using the Getty Images embed tool today, might not show up in your blog post tomorrow, next month, or next year if Getty decides to pull it from the embed library. That could negatively affect the user experience on your blog or website in the future.

One more thing, did you notice the last line in the Embedded Viewer section of the Terms and Conditions copied above? Getty Images (or third parties) might collect data related to the use of the Embedded View and the embedded images. Furthermore, Getty Images might place ads in the Embedded Viewer on your blog or wherever you use it, or Getty Images might implement other monetization initiatives through the Embedded Viewer with no money going to you from those ads or monetization initiatives.

TechCrunch reports that the free Embedded Viewer isn’t expected to be completely “free” to use in the future. Ingrid Lunden writes, “Getty says it will evaluate how to develop the embedding tool. Some of the options for what it could do include adding advertising overlays, paid features, sharing limits and extending it to video.”

Bottom-line, it’s a step in the right direction, but it has a long way to go to be truly useful while effectively protecting copyrights (and ensuring Getty makes a profit). Be careful.

Image: Abdulaziz Almansour