While many news reports are (rightly) touting this as a major new resource for online publishing, publishers should take care to read the fine print before cutting and pasting any images. It’s important to remember that “free” doesn’t mean “no strings attached.”
Most importantly, Getty Images is not permitting cutting and pasting at all. Instead, it will require that its images be embedded using a tool that provides credit and a link back to the source. This could give Getty Images the opportunity to include ads or collect data relating to usage, much like video and music sharing sites do now when allowing others to embed their content.
In addition, the license only permits use for editorial purposes. As stated in Getty Images’ Embedded Viewer Terms and Conditions:
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.
Other digital media companies have found embedded viewers to be a strong revenue source. With the limited license governing the embedded viewers, Getty appears to be seeking to improve revenue from an area (social media) that had been very difficult to monetize without except through substantial enforcement efforts.