Getty & Google Struck a Deal, People are Not Happy


Hot on the heels of Instagram’s ToS debacle, Getty Images has decided to start one of their own, and it’s a doozy. According to the Google Drive Blog they have announced that “5,000 new photos of nature, weather, animals, sports, food, education, technology, music and 8 other categories are now available for your use in Docs, Sheets, and Slides.” What does this mean for the photographers who own these images? Read on to find out what we know so far.

On the blog post by Google there was no mention made as to where the majority of the images came from, who they belonged to or how they were licensed. They basically just stated that if you have a Google Drive account, you have access to these images and are free to use them in your documents however you choose. If you read through the comments on that post you will notice that there are progressively more and more upset responses from the readers as they began to understand more of the situation. In a forum post on dated Jan. 10, 2013 a user named “sjlocke” there uncovered what was really going on.

Someone sent me a link to this page, wherein Google describes acquiring 5,000 images for use in their Google Drive program. I don’t use Google apps, so I thought I would check it out.

Basically, you go to and create a new document. Then you “insert” and select “image”. Then in the dialog, you pick “Search” and “Stock Photo”. I type in “student”…

The first image that comes up is mine.

Once I select it, it puts it into my document at 1,066 x 1,600. No attribution. No meta-data. No license. No link.

WTF. I’m serious. Their link about copyright says “When using the Google Image Search feature in Google Docs, your results will be filtered to include images labeled with a license that allows you to copy the image for commercial purposes and modify it in ways specified in the license.”. Now the search is titled “stock images” which makes me think these were acquired directly from iStock.

Some more searching, and some of my tailgate images are there, damn it. BTW, these are all Vetta images!!!

Another for “exam room”.

Anyone want to tell me what is going on?

That thread accumulated 537 responses before being locked by the administrators, clearly people are concerned and rightly so. In an attempt to clarify the situation, another post titled  “Google Drive + Update is submitted by mr_erin who appears to work for istockphoto with the following information:

  • This is a license deal arranged with Google through Getty Images, this is not a promotional arrangement like the 2007 MS deal also being discussed here recently.
  • There was an initial pool of several thousand images licensed from Getty and iStock RF collections that are on the Getty Images platform.
  • No RM content was included in this pool or deal.
  • Royalties for these images were paid through Getty Images and were processed in October and November of 2012.
    Of images licensed, just under 700 are from a group of about 490 iStock contributors.
  • Just under 100 of those contributors have multiple files within the pool, the rest have a single file.
  • There may eventually be additional content added to this pool/agreement, but at the moment there are no concrete plans

That thread accumulated 656 responses before being locked, and now another followup post has been submitted again by mr_erin stating:

“We’ve heard you, and we’ve met with Google and are working with them to refine the implementation which we believe will address some of the concerns raised over the past several days–including copyright ownership.”

To me it sounds like the wildfire response from so many online communities has not entirely fallen on deaf ears and they are going to hopefully restructure the agreement to be in everyone’s best interest. We will be keeping a close eye on the development of this issue, and as we find more information we will update you all.

Via A Photo Editor

Update (1/18/13): It appears that the image count has grown from 5000 to over 7000 and is continuing to grow. 

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