Getty Images Buys stock.XCHNG

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In an newsletter sent to its members, stock.XCHNG, better known as either “SXC” or its domain, sxc.hu, announced that it had been purchased by Getty Images, one of the largest stock photography agencies. This is the latest in a long string of purchases for Getty Images, which has included budget stock photo site iStockPhoto and more recently Jupiter Images.

Stock.XCHNG is best known as one of the world’s largest and most popular free stock photo libraries, with over 400,000 images that are free for download and use (with some licensing restrictions in some cases). According to the announcement, this will not change. However, stock.XCHNG will be offering users the chance to purchase photos from Getty’s iStockPhoto service on the stock.XCHNG site.

However, not everyone is happy about this purchase. I was alerted to the buyout by users of stock.XCHNG that fear both a change to the site, especially over the long term, and Getty’s notoriously aggressive copyright enforcement.

Getty, which routinely sends out invoice demands to alleged infringers, has earned a reputation for being extremely zealous in its enforcement and that has made some uncomfortable using even legally licensed Getty photos on their sites. This has also sparked a backlash from those affected and at least one lawyer has offered assistance with Getty cases at a fraction of their normal rate.

Stock.XCHNG is a site that I’ve used repeatedly on PT, recommended highly on the site, in presentations and in private to friends. Though it seems highly unlikely that Getty would expand its litigation tactics to stock.XCHNG images, which were freely licensed to begin with, almost immediately after the announcement I received several emails asking about alternatives.

Though, to be clear, I don’t think that anyone who has used or uses stock.XCHNG images on their site will be at any risk not only is the use completely legal (so long as the restrictions are followed), but it doesn’t appear, looking at the terms of use, that Getty would have the ability to take such action. Stock.XCHNG is a non-exclusive where Getty, on its own site, owns all of the rights to the images it sells.

Still, if anyone wishes to consider an alternative. I highly recommend PhotoDropper for WordPress for those who use that platform. For those who don’t, CC-licensed images are probably still a very good way to go for free, legal images to use on your site.

In the end, I will likely continue to use stock.XCHNG, though my uses will continue to be very limited. I already favor capturing my own images, usually via screenshots, and PhotoDropper to stock.XCHNG due to sizing and licensing issues.

However, I, along with other users, will have to monitor this and see if and how the site does change over the long term.

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